A Stone's throw: Time warp

August 31, 2013 11:49:42 PM

Betty Stone -


I am in a time warp, and I am not happy. Here is what happened: 


One of the things on by bucket list is someday to go to Spain. But whether I get to go or not, I thought it might be fun to brush up on my bit of high school Spanish, just in case. In my youth I enjoyed languages, so I thought auditing a course at Mississippi University for Women for at least a semester might be a neat thing to do. 


I experienced a frisson of warning when I realized I had to register via computer. (Alert! Alert! I think things have developed so that you can no longer hope to get to heaven without a computer.) I am computer literate only to the extent of e-mailing, Googling and filing this column. I had to get help registering by going to the computer office on the campus. No big deal. That part was really easier than standing in long lines as we once had to do, way back when my world was young. 


Then I thought I had better check out the parking situation, be sure there was handicapped parking accessible within a short walking distance of my classroom. Better cover all exigencies, right?  


Even so, I was a little bit apprehensive because this was not a continuing education course where there might be others of my ancient generation present, but a class filled with smart young minds. 


Here, "filled" is the operative word. I had never before been in a language class that did not have several vacancies. Spanish 101 was full, however. I was instructed to get special permission to audit the class, which I did, thinking I might have to carry a lawn chair with me if "filled" meant "really filled." Thank goodness I did not have to resort to that. 


I did have to jump through one hoop. I had to be verified as a "life-long learner" to qualify to register. Then, dumb bunny that I am, I had to get the technological help I needed to register. Finally, when all was in order and I had reconnoitered my approach, I was ready to attend my assigned class. I was as nervous and excited as any first-grader. I thought I was arriving early, but I barely got there in time to get my coveted back-row seat, where I hoped to sit inconspicuously and soak up the language. 






The first shock came when I learned the text book was priced at $275. This is the first year it has been used, so there was no hope of shopping around for a used book. It does cover four semesters, however; but I had only thought to attend one semester of "review." I knew I needed more, but I optimistically thought, "Well, one semester would be better than nothing." As an ancient alumna, I did not even have to pay for that, so maybe I could splurge on the textbook after all. 


The real shocker, the painful body blow, came when we were marched down to the language lab and sat down at an array of computers. Why had I been so dumb as not to see this coming? I should have known you can hardly inhale and exhale in today's world without The Computer. (Caps intended. It is Almighty.) 


I sat there looking at a screen, black except for the order, "log in." I had no idea how to log in. Did I need a password? I knew I needed coaching. I punched the power icon. Nothing happened no matter how often I punched. 


I am ashamed to say, I gave up then. I just sat and looked at the screen which did nothing but insist that I log in. Stalemate. 


After class the kind professor suggested I bring my laptop, so that she could fix it for me to use at home. Then I would not have to go to the computer room. I intend to take her up on that. ( I was actually amazed at remembering any high school Spanish, but I was defeated before I started by the Age of Technology.) 


At home that night I slept fitfully, dreaming -- actually having nightmares -- about trying to learn, not Spanish, but how to deal with something that is supposed to make life so much easier. 


I am not going to give up just yet, though. I am going to try to adjust, even if it seems I have lived beyond my time. It may be painfully true that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but I am at least going to growl at it a little longer. In Spanish, I hope.

Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.