The ‘insert’ button. Useful?

Dark forces are at work here

Computers hate me. They are hard-wired to hate me. When Steve Jobs first built the Apple Macintosh computer, he installed a programme to shut down all systems when I so much as brush past a Qwerty keyboard. Bill Gates hates me too. PC stands for ‘Past Caring’ as far as I’m concerned.

Pretty much every day I call IT. We have such a tight relationship now that we have exchanged vows and rings. I have honed this relationship over the years and it’s all because of numerous breakdowns prompted by an innocuous action like typing my own name on a Word document. And I still haven’t worked out what ‘failover’ means. Is that an Australian who’s taken a tumble?

At home I have no broadband, and there’s a good reason. If I had, it would burn my house down. I have considered purchasing a dongle, but that sounds too much like a penis-based joke. I could never admit to having a two-inch dongle.  

But in spite of all this computer-based woe that regularly blights my life there is still nothing worse in the technology world, in my experience, than the so-called ‘insert’ button.

Who invented this? Someone needs to hunt them down and place them on a restraining order that means they can never go near a personal computer again.

The ‘insert’ button has never been useful. It’s a completely rogue piece of technology and if you have taken the trouble to learn how to touch-type you’ll know the demon possession of this tantalisingly awkward function. And what’s ruddy point of it? I bet that if you carried out a poll in your organisation, you’ll get a 100% glaze-over response when asked about the validity of the ‘insert’ button. Not even the computer geeks know.

So you can forget the villainy of ‘Control C’ and ‘V’ , the insert button’s come to town and it wants to delete all your finely crafted words. You can be typing away, you’ll look away at the TV to see whether the Deal or No Dealer’s gone for broke and all the while, the cheeky little insert button has decided to have some fun with you.

Within a nanosecond you will have deleted 1,500 words. You’ll scrabble around trying to retrieve your prose from the depths of your laptop, knowing full well the text is now locked in the computer’s vault and unable to fashion an escape.

Arguably, the only thing more useless than the insert button on a standard PC keyboard is the ‘num lk’ button though. If you are not familiar with this nasty little shortcut, you’ll recoil in horror when you notice that half your keyboard has started to replace letters with numbers. Then you’ll be convinced there’s been a glitch and you’ll have to replace your laptop. You’ll trade it in, spend near on a grand for shiny new one and the second-hand laptop dealer who acquired your kit will have made a killing knowing full well that he’ll need no more than a prod on the ‘num lk’ button to sell your perfectly decent piece of technology on for an over-inflated price.

I bloody hate computers. The world should have stuck fast at the abacus and started reining the techno bods in when they dreamed up the slide rule. At that point Pandora’s box was, forgive me, well and truly open. Now society is full of ‘insert’ and ‘num lk’ victims rocking uncontrollably in mental institutions and they have my sympathy, because I know, and so do you, that they’ll never find their happy place ever again.

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Restrooms, bathrooms…

'Rest' in peace

Over this very tumultous weekend I discussed with colleagues the correct terms for meal times as well as the right word for toilet, all of which sounds weird (I live a dull life) but it can be fascinating…

Stay with me.

How you refer to either is interesting because it establishes where you are in the class system. Poor people and Northerners (which are pretty much the same) refer to the eating schedule as Breakfast, Dinner and Tea, which is patently ridiculous because dinner is a full-scale affair that happens in the evening. Tea, however, is something you drink with milk and sugar. It’s merely a beverage, Geordie boy.

Then there’s the posh: Breakfast, Lunch and ‘Supper’, which is totally proposterous because supper, let’s face it, is a kebab.

No, the correct schedule is ‘Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner’. Any other description is wrong.

Then there’s the word for the toilet.

Now, this where things get extraodinarily complicated especially when you factor in Americans. As you know Americans can’t handle the truth – just ask Tom Cruise - and the reason we know this is because they choose to refer to places where we carry out our most vulnerable act with such delicacy.

In normal circumstances you go to the toilet to do one of two things: to urinate or to pass a turd. At some point society referred the toilet as the WC – water closet – which is clearly nonsense because if you open the door to a real water closet you’ll get wet.

Thankfully that didn’t last long.

If you’re posh you’ll probably call the place to dispense with your oversized cigar as a ‘lavatory’, but if you are not you’ll call it the ‘toilet’ – the proper term. If you want to be cuddly, you might even call it a ‘loo’. That’s forgiveable.

Americans, though, are a strange bunch. They’ll happily waterboard innocents in Guantanamo Bay but they’ll baulk at the word ‘toilet’. You might as well ask them where the shithouse is.

So in a bid to lovely it up the Yanks have dispensed with straightforward English, insteading opting for ‘Bathroom’ or the even more ridiculous, ‘Restroom’.

I have problems with both. If you wanted to go to a bathroom it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect, well, a bath. I’ve never understood the logic behind this and it’s little fun for first-time visitors to the US who can find toilet-calling etiquette an unforgiving conundrum. Within weeks, or even days, you’ll realise that calling a toilet a ‘toilet’ during a short trip across the pond is a no-no. It’s like saying: ‘I need to take a shit, where can I do this?’

The ‘Restroom’ is entirely misleading. I think that if you choose to visit a ‘restroom’ you would expect to be confronted by a wing-backed chair, a couple of trashy magazines and a nice cup of tea, not a small cubicle with toilet bowl.

I lived in America for six months and found this language barrier an entirely frustrating business. An American confronted by the word ‘toilet’ will recoil with horror like he or she has been played a close-up video of what you are about to do. They’ll expect a retraction, maybe even a full apology, and implore you to refer to the place where ladies powder their nose with something less direct. You’ll try ‘lavatory’ and they’ll lean sideways from what they regard as another verbal broadside. In a desperate attempt to diffuse any more embarrassment they’ll point to the sign saying ‘Restroom’, but if you haven’t fully immersed yourself into the culture you’ll then tell them that, for their information, you don’t want a ‘rest’, you merely want to use a facility where you can park your lunch with some privacy. At this point deportation will become a distinct possibility

Sooner or later you’ll get the hang of this as you travel around the US but then again, if you do want to have some fun and enjoy the sight of an uncomfortable Yank, use the word toilet with gay abandon. Then move on to Dump-Cauldron. Yes, they’ll never let you back in but that’ll surely learn ’em for invading Iraq without a proper UN mandate.

So, let’s tell it like it is: you eat Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and if you want to lay a cable, you’ll do it in a toilet.

I hope that’s clear.

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BT ‘helpline’

Time to purchase a small firearm

I recently moved into a new flat, which is boring and I won’t subject you to a hoover-based story, but even more boring is the pride-swallowing, time-gorging process that you are obliged to go through to the bitter end when you want your utilities/phone/general stuff connected.

First, my TV aerial doesn’t chuffing well work, which in this modern-day society is akin to not having a flushing toilet. Televisions and aerials have been around for a long time so I ask you, was I naive in thinking that a simple plugging-in of a wire into a wall socket was all that was required to get my daily dose of Jeremy Kyle horrificness? And what’s all that male-to-female questioning about when you go to an electrical shop? I want my outrageously sized Toshiba flatscreen to work correctly with the help of a decent cable not an inappropriate probing about gender differences, thank you very much.

So, in a bid to get Jezza up and running I bought a £35 ‘indoor’ aerial, which was a monumentally stupid idea in view of the quality of the reception. I might as well have purchased a Dalek.

So, it’s a bad state of affairs in London N4, but nevertheless the ongoing TV meltdown is nothing compared to the own-face-punching, hair-rending frustration experience I have endured when attempts were made to get so-called Broadband installed into my newly rented lovepad.

It’s not been easy but I should have expected all this. Past knowledge of doing business with BT suggests a familiar pattern that goes something like this:

You move in, and almost straightaway you’ll begin the process of getting a landline connected. Dutifully you have made arrangements to welcome the arrival of a BT engineer, who, like a badger on Springwatch, fails to show up. Then, as the system dictates, you make further arrangements, for another ‘technician’, who’s also notable for his absence.

So you’ll phone the helpline – an aural brick wall. Having negotiated the myriad options list from the woman who’s made a successful career leap from the talking clock, you get through to a real-live adviser who has just completed his or her Intensive Obduracy Course at BT HQ.

A typical conversation goes like this:

You: ‘Well now, I want a BT landline so I can enjoy the benefits of unlimited broadband, but I have waited in three times for your engineer to come to my home to get it fitted.’

BT advisor: ‘Okey dokey sir, we’ll get that sorted for you in a jiffy.’

Three weeks later, no landline, but a bill for £100 arrives.

You: ‘I want a refund for the £100 landline fitting bill because the BT engineer still hasn’t come around to fit my landline yet. I don’t want to pay for something I haven’t got yet.’

BT advisor: ‘Sorry sir, I can’t help you.’

You: ‘Why not? I’ve paid for a service that I haven’t received yet.’

BT advisor: ‘I’m sorry sir, that’s not how it works.’

You: ‘Yes, but…’

BT advisor: ‘We’ll arrange for someone else to come around and fit the landline in the next few days.’

Click, burrr.

Fast forward to the next few days. The landline is fitted but you’ve waited a total of three times for the BT engineer to fit the landline and have taken three more half-days off work to allow this to happen.

You phone BT again and, after another navigating your way through another laborious option labyrinth, you come through to another friendly ‘adviser’.

You: ‘I want my £100 landline fitting charge refunded because I waited in three times for a BT engineer and one never came. So, for my loss of earnings, I want my money back.

BT advisor, short pause, … ‘I’m sorry sir, that’s not how it works…’

Purchase firearm, load ammunition, aim at temple.

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