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A tale of dueling monitors
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A new computer has been placed on my desk at The Covington News. Let me correct that, a new-to-me computer.

This one has dueling monitors. When I first looked at those two screens arrayed in front of me, I said I'll never use both of them. I wasn't being stubborn; I was just admitting that I am not as computer literate as my oh-so-much younger coworkers.

I am not afraid of computers and have one at home; albeit a very old (in terms of computer life-spans) one. The monitor and keyboard are at least 12 years old and the hard drive at least 6 and runs on Windows XP. The original hard drive died.

I am not totally computer illiterate either. I use my home computer to research stuff online, usually something I want to purchase (translate that into shoes for my husband). And I have managed to make a few purchases online. Usually I punch in stuff and punch in stuff and punch in stuff and the computer keeps telling me something new until I yell at and sometimes curse my computer. I then call the 1-800 number which is always listed somewhere in very small print on the page (businesses would rather you do your business online and not talk to them) and order the item from the operator while looking at it on the computer screen. Those operators are unfailingly polite and sympathetic when I tell them my problems with ordering by computer. I always mention my age as an excuse for not being able to follow the computer's instructions. Everyone has to be nice to little old ladies.

I also use my home computer for email. But I think I delete more junk email than anything I get that I actually read. My daughters send me pictures of the grandchildren. My ladies' bridge club has within the last few months begun to send emails about the next meeting. I can't tell you how much of an improvement that is. No more calling seven people and leaving messages on answering machines and waiting for return calls. Send out one email to all and everyone replies. So much easier and less time consuming.

But I have to admit I play a lot of solitaire and solve jigsaw puzzles on my computer at home.

I also use a computer and specific program when I am directing a duplicate bridge game. There are certain formulas you have to follow to set up a game, enter players' names, enter players' American Contract Bridge League numbers, enter scores, correct scores, print recap sheets, download information to a flash drive and later upload to ACBL where players can see the game scores online. I sometimes find myself mumbling in front of the computer the steps in the formula as I enter all the information required by the program: F11, LRECA, OK, HTML, OK, L, open, save, OK, OK will download information to the flash drive. I have no idea of the science behind what I am doing which is why I have to mumble the formula as I follow it.

My new computer at work is an upgrade. And I have had to get used to several new ways to complete an operation. I talk to it as well, but usually just mumbles. But for the last two weeks, that dratted computer has been dinging at me and giving me text messages, some of which I understand and some of which I don't. When I don't, I have to go find the computer guru Tyler to fix or explain whatever the computer is complaining about.

I finally got so exasperated last week that I told the computer in a loud and stern teachery voice, "Stop talking to me." I scared about half the people in the office as they thought I was talking to them.

But I say with triumph that I have learned to use the dueling screens, and they make typing entries into the calendar so much easier. I can have the email folder open on one screen and the calendar page on the other. I don't have to open one, copy and then open the other and paste.

Now if I could just stop talking to the computer.

Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at