Lum: Going cold turkey

I lead a quiet kind of life. Now that I’m retired from the ad job at The Aspen Times, I get out of bed whenever I feel like it, read the e-Editions of the daily papers online, listen to my current book on CD, watch a little TV, play a game of Shanghai or the Gardenscapes game my friend Hilary put on my new computer, check my email, work on a writing project that I’ve got going, get back in bed with the dachshunds and the electric mattress warmer, play or watch bridge games on the bridge site, putter around or — big deal — go to the market (hearing aids, oxygen, boots, dogs farting around in the alley instead of getting in the car, forgetting my list and never remembering to take my damn bags into the store), ho, hum, yawn.

On Christmas Day I was playing one last round of the garden game before my family arrived when my computer went out. I mean out, dead, blank screen. No rebooting, no unplugging would help.

When my old computer died a few weeks ago, my friend Hilary loaned me her extra one. Except for not being able to play Shanghai, I was fine, and when my new one arrived, Hilary gave her extra computer to my daughter Hillery. Meanwhile, Hilary and my ex-boss Gunilla Asher had just given me a Kindle Fire HDX, which is kind of like an iPad and of which I didn’t know how to use at all, so I was not completely high and dry but definitely dripping on the clothesline when Sheldon Fingerman, my computer guru who was as distressed as I was, pronounced that a part was defective and the replacement would not arrive until Monday at the earliest.

OMG. I did not know what to do with myself for the next five days.

I tried to read the papers on the Kindle Fire, but I learned later, was not connected to the Internet. I was surprised to find all of the books from my old Kindle, which went missing a year ago, were still there — kind of scary.

Hilary got me connected and I found out that even an old dog could learn a new trick or two if you’re stuck on a desert island with only a foreign machine to play with.

I learned to connect, to swipe the screen, to find the hidden home icon.

When a keyboard popped up when I went to reply to an email, I learned that I didn’t have a clue where any of the letters were on the keyboard. I’ve been a two-finger typist since I was in seventh grade. My index fingers know where the letters are, but my brain doesn’t: I could not tell you even which quadrant of the board held the letter “E,” the most-used letter in the English language. But after a few tries of hunting and pecking with a stylus, I knew that, with a bit of practice, I could attain a modicum of speed.

I am far from adept enough to write this column that way, however. I wrote this on Hilary’s borrowed laptop, which she sweetly connected to my keyboard. She is probably sorely missing her Gardenscape game. I was astonished how much I missed that thing.

In the garden game, you earn money to fix up your garden by hunting for items in the rooms of the main house, each of which is chock full of stuff — some very well disguised. You click on the required umbrella, music stand, boomerang, fishing pole, deck of cards, etc., until ding-ding-ding, you’ve finished that round and can buy a fountain or maybe a doghouse (complete with a romping dog) and then off you go again to another room.

I knew I was going crazy when I started to look around the rooms of my house, thinking, “Table lamp, clock, phone, three ballpoint pens, radio.”

I missed Shanghai, I missed the full newspapers — no e-Editions on the Kindle, no comics, no Jumble puzzle — I sorely missed the bridge games, especially those that I play with my friends online. I missed my keyboard.

I did learn to Google on the Kindle, to play movies that I had streamed from Netflix (all there — yikes), to read Kindle books — though I have yet to successfully order any new ones — to receive and reply to emails. I tried to send my email address to a friend and, instead of it coming out, it said: in its good-natured attempt to guess what I wanted to write. That one had me screaming until Hilary pointed out the “settings” option and disabled all the helpful shortcuts.

My name is Su. I am a computerholic.

Su Lum is a longtime local who didn’t even know it. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at