In the late 90’s, the ones in the last century, I mentioned Google to a friend who had not yet heard the word. Google went on to become a household name and to this day my friend thinks I’m a technology genius as if I had something to do with that.
I’ve already mentioned my love of technology in previous posts, so it will come as no surprise that I’m a fan of Google.
While volunteering to help patrons at the public library with computer issues, I use Google to solve problems I’m unfamiliar with. Just typing “How can I” and the problem often gives me the answer I need, while making me look as if I know what I’m doing.
Searching for something good to watch during quarantine? Type “Best on Netflix now”, and lots of options appear.
Hours that a business is open? If a business is open? Google.
Want to settle a bet? Google. Trying to identify a rash? Google.
Wondering about the side effects of a medication? You know what to do.
Recently I ventured out to shop. These days, similar to many of us I’m sure, my wish is to get in, get out and get home, with as little interaction with others as possible.
After completing my shopping, I found myself in my car, wanting to drive home but unable to do so. For no apparent reason, the ignition was locked, something that had happened once before in the distant past.
I had a feeling turning the steering wheel would unlock the ignition, so I tried turning the wheel to the right. Nope. To the left. Didn’t work. The steering wheel itself was locked, and the key simply would not turn.
I sat back and thought about it. What was I missing?
Was I going to have to call AARP Road and Tow for this ridiculous reason?
No, I was not, because I was going to call Google.
I grabbed my phone and typed in “locked ignition rav4” and the answer came back immediately.
Turn the steering wheel to the right while at the same time turning the key in the ignition.
It worked instantly. The steering wheel and ignition unlocked smoothly and I was soon ready to be on my way.
Before I drove off, I decided to make a note of my experience in case I ever wanted to write about it. My phone was next to me on the seat, so I simply said “Hey Siri” and dictated what I wanted the note to say. When I was done, Siri confirmed my request. Almost automatically, I thanked Siri, who said, “You’re welcome, Terri”.
I LOL'd, because just for a moment, Google and Siri and I seemed almost like friends, working together, solving problems, getting things done, no social distancing necessary.
And then I shook my head and drove home.
We’ve already had an end of a decade in the current century and I don’t remember it being much of a thing, but now we have another new decade starting in a couple of days and it has me thinking.
What do I appreciate more now than I did 10 years ago?
Well, coffee, for one. Ever since I learned that dark roast coffee beans have less caffeine (thank you Costa Rican coffee tour) I have left my caffeine worries behind along with dreadful decaffeinated coffee. I also appreciate coffee shops. Being partially retired, I have time to while away the hours every so often at our friendly and comfortable neighborhood coffee shop, where maybe not everybody but at least a few people know my name (mostly because they write it on my cup).
And yoga. Practicing and teaching yoga has brought me comfort, more flexible joints, a stronger core, better balance and the ability to look inward and find peace in trying times. I also appreciate the opportunity to be creative that yoga gives me each week as I plan the content of my classes.
I certainly appreciate walking. I’m pretty sure I took walking for granted before, but in this decade I have not. A left hip tear (it healed after many months) and a falling apart right knee (replaced earlier this year) made me very aware of how complicated and disheartening it is to walk with pain and how appreciated and freeing pain-free walking can be.
Grandchildren. Oh, I so appreciate grandchildren. It’s no secret that I adore our son, and I like other children quite a bit. Gaining grandchildren (one of each) during the past 10 years has enhanced my life immeasurably. As babies, they brought me back to my early days of motherhood, with all the positive and loving memories that entails. Now, as they reach each age and master new accomplishments, I enjoy everything along with them. Coloring? They think I’m Monet. Soccer, baseball, video games? I don’t play that well, but I’m a very good audience. Frozen (1 and 2), the Little Mermaid, what Barbie has been up to since I last spent time with her? It’s all there for me now.
I appreciate compassion. Navigating bumps in the road during the past decade has helped me appreciate receiving and giving compassion as never before. I like to think I’ve become less judgmental, and more forgiving, in the past ten years. I hope so.
Technology is something I appreciate more now than in the past decade, maybe because I use it more all the time. Registering to vote online couldn’t be easier. An enormous number of books are readily available via library websites. Recipes for absolutely everything I want to cook are instantly found and if I don’t feel like cooking I can search restaurant menus or order delivery online. And, I appreciate the technology that gives me a map to practically any place on earth right on my phone, no re-folding necessary.
Last, but not least, texting. Texting wasn’t available in much of the previous decade, but I have really embraced an appreciation of it now. I have friends who don’t text, and that’s ok, but honestly, my friends who text make sharing information and planning around our busy schedules much more efficient. Sorry, friends who don’t text. I still love you, but could you maybe step it up in the next decade?
A nurse educator in the late 1980’s, I had the opportunity to become part of a new standard in patient documentation.
Everything nurses do and observe in regard to patients - condition, pain level, vital sign readings, interventions like medications and treatments - must be documented.
Our hospital was the first in the Milwaukee area to develop electronic documentation that would be accomplished on touch screens at the patient’s bedside. Rather than a generic product, information technology (IT) chose software and, together with nursing, built screens with information personalized to our hospital protocols.
My colleagues and I developed education for nurses, nursing assistants and unit secretaries based on the information they would be accessing and entering. Training classes were presented day and night in the computer lab to accommodate the needs of every staff member.
The new technology represented a huge change. Excitement was running high, along with anxiety.
That anxiety came along to the classroom with the staff, of course, because, really, who enjoys being pushed out of their comfort zone into the free fall blackness of the unknown abyss? At least, that's how some staff members seemed to feel at first.
While many were positive and happy to learn, others came to class angry and threatening to resign if they had to incorporate this change into their daily work. Some did actually resign, only to move to hospitals that eventually used similar systems.
Others felt care would be fragmented if they had to talk to patients and document patient responses at the same time.
Nursing assistants began to realize they were going to log on to a computer, read screens and type words. Some could not read well, and most had never used a typewriter, much less a touchscreen keyboard.
Some feared they couldn’t learn the new technology and would lose their jobs.
I remember a nurse in class one night who had difficulty using the tip of her finger to make selections on the touch screen. She instead stabbed at the screen with the tip of a nail file, and, in her anger and fear, punctured the thin, delicate screen.
As educators, we conveyed technical information, but also tried to injected humor, compassion and lots of reassurance into the classes.
IT was surprised when we asked for computer solitaire to be installed on the training computers, but solitaire was invaluable in teaching mouse skills. A computer scavenger hunt helped staff find information on various screens. We engaged in role play to encourage nurses to find ways to talk to patients and make eye contact while accessing the documentation screens smoothly and without distress or interruption.
The refrain I heard most at the start of a class was “I’ve never touched a computer in my life” a statement I enjoyed pointing out was no longer true by the end of class.
When training was complete and the system went “live”, we supported staff on the units around the clock, helping to solve problems and ease the transition, and, mostly, all went well.
I found that I loved every moment of teaching those classes and supporting staff on the units, even in the middle of the night, even when anger and fear bubbled over. I loved conveying information in a way that allowed staff members to gain confidence, let go of fear and move forward with new and better processes.
What we did then seems primitive and naive now, but that’s ok. We were, after all, pioneers, and we did our best with what was available. And, except for that punctured screen, we all survived.
My first computer wasn’t actually mine, but was the first computer I ever saw in person. While touring a surgical unit at Milwaukee County General Hospital in the late 1960’s, our instructor opened a door that was labeled “Computer Room” and we peered in.
The refrigerated room was aptly named, since it was almost completely filled by a computer. Blue, green and red lights blinked from every surface. It looked like something NASA could use to launch a spaceship. Cool. Nothing to do with me, though.
I slowly began to be aware of computers being used in business and industry, and in the mid-1980’s, personal computers (Macintosh, Commodore 64), along with video games (Atari!), began to show up in homes. Even our home had an Amiga computer. It had no color, no graphics and no practical use that I could imagine. So, nothing to do with me.
In 1989 I accepted a position at a large community hospital as a nurse educator in orientation and staff development for the department of surgical services. As part of my job, I began developing lesson plans, lectures, multi-part presentations and posters.
Our department of 12 educators had little secretarial support and one beat-up electric typewriter that was in constant demand. It was heavy and hard to move and I usually typed standing at a counter in the room where it was stored, white-out nearby for the errors I inevitably made. It was tedious.
One day, in a quiet area of the hospital, passing a room labeled “Computer Room”, I stopped and peered in. A woman was working at a desktop computer, her eyes on a screen, no white-out in sight. This was Pam, a kind and generous person I’ll never forget, who offered to help me learn something called word processing in a program called Word Perfect. I sat down in front of a computer near her desk and began to work.
I would type, get stuck, and then Pam would help me get unstuck. This was repeated over days, then weeks. I had limited time to get to the computer room, but Pam was there, ready to help, when I did. I eventually, and gloriously, used that computer for all of my typing needs.
After conquering word processing, something even bigger was around the corner and down the hall.
Our Surgical Services director asked me to contact our professional organization with a question about surgical protocol. My usual process was to make a phone call regarding my question and eventually get a response from the organization in the form of a journal article, on paper, by mail, a week or two later.
On that day (how I wish I could remember the date), I instead marched to the hospital library, to the only computer I knew of in the building that had something called internet access. With the librarian’s help, I logged on and found the organization’s primitive website. I searched, I printed.
An hour after her request, I handed the pertinent article to our director. She was startled, then horrified. She questioned me. This came from the internet? Yes. Can we trust this information? Yes, I assured her.
And that’s how life changes. In an hour or a moment. On an anonymous day. Via something called the internet. Or the information highway. Or the web. I didn’t understand it all, but I did understand that I really liked it, and that it would have a lot to do with me.