Dr. John Bertalan is Getting Older and Smarter

As I approach “old age” and complete a teaching career that has spanned almost four decades, I thought it was about time to relax, get senile and settle into retirement. After a mere four days at home re-arranging my fossil collection, my wife decided that I needed to get out of the house and find a job. Luckily, I was offered a wonderful teaching opportunity at the University of Tampa as a Visiting Associate Professor of Education for the fall 2006 term. Additionally, I remain an adjunct instructor at my previous institution of higher learning.

As much as I would like to relax and enjoy my new surroundings, I’m not “allowed” to get senile in this electronic age, in fact, my brain is getting exercised numerically more than it ever has been in the past. I can not even consider letting the left hemisphere of my brain take a small nap.

I’d like to give the reader a few examples of my plight and see if we share some common ground with this electronically imposed dilemma that I find myself in the mist of.

Below are just three examples of this relatively recent numerical predicament. My phones lines, office doors and computers are all working against me.

In my earlier days, (like in first grade), I had to memorize my phone number and recite it back to the teacher. If I succeeded at this arduous task, I reached an acceptable societal and educational benchmark. Now, I have to know not only my phone number and extension, but a four digit access code to locate my messages and another four digit password to retrieve the same messages.

If I am successful in locating my messages, there are a designated series of prompts to play the messages, delete the messages, create a new password, save the messages, forward the messages, change my greeting, etc. These somewhat extensive automated phone directions should be multiplied by four in the course of my daily operational duties since I have a home phone, a cell phone and another office phone. All of these require numerical access codes and passwords.

I clearly stated that this could be multiplied by four, but it is only multiplied by three phone lines since I have not yet mastered these codes on the cell phone that I have had for the last six years. What is even worse, now if I do something wrong with any of my fully automated phone lines, instead of a human being on the other end of the phone line that I can attempt to reason with and who might actually help me in my pitiful plight, there is a voice robot telling me that I made a mistake and if I do it two more times I will be disconnected.

In addition to the memorization of the codes to my four phones, my wife and each of my four children have their own cell phones with accompanying numbers that I must commit to memory. I have been told by others that I don’t have to memorize their individual numbers I can just store and identify each of their numbers in my cell phone. However, as mentioned earlier, I have not yet mastered the complexities of my analog cell phone, hence, I must commit those numbers to my aging memory as well.

Plight number two. I was given a key to my new office and another one to my new classroom. Both keys look identical so I cleverly put a sticker on one so I could distinguish them. The door at my adjunct office is shared with several other colleagues and it also has a key. How does one acquire that key? Well, there is a lock box on the door that requires yet another four digit code to open the box; if the correct code is entered the key simply pops right out.

As it turns out, you also have to punch that access code back onto the box to put the key back in place once you lock the door. The access code number to the door lockbox is tied to the dean’s office phone number, so once you also add her phone number to your enlarging memory, you will always have access to the adjunct faculty office door. Can I store her phone number in my cell phone?

I was informed that my inter-office mail was located in a special mail room. I tried to walk right into that room to get my mail but instead of a normal door handle there is another key pad. This door also requires a four digit password to unlock the handle to gain entrance.

The best part of this faculty workroom is that the faculty and staff duplicating machine is handily located right in this special mail room. Once you punch in your four digit code to get in the mailroom, you only need one other five digit code to give yourself access to the duplicating machine. I follow a similar procedure at my second institution as well. However, there I need to punch in a four digit code into the parking lot entrance gate and then the code to the office door lockbox and then the code to the duplicating machine – pretty simple stuff, right?

EDITOR’S NOTE: To be concluded in the next issue.

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