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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....

Two Mac Success Stories From Real-Life
August 18th

I am not a morning person. It's not that I don't like morning. It is a lovely time of the day. I just prefer that it go on without me. I am one of those people who become more efficient as the day goes on. Unfortunately for me, I have an eight to five job so mornings are routinely a part of my life. For that reason I have three rules for getting to work on time. I need these rules to allow me to hit the snooze button at least 3 times and still make it. The first is to make sure I have gas in the car the night before. The second is to get clothes out the night before. (What the heck, I am up anyway.) The third is to never drive to work in the right hand lane because busses will hold me up. I am very glad that we have a public transportation system. If my car breaks down I can get a bus within a block of my house and that is nice to know. However, I don't want to sit behind one for 5 minutes, breathing in fumes, when I am on my way to work. Last night I was working on some Christmas presents that I am making and before I knew it, it was midnight. Whereupon I violated the second rule. I forgot to get out my clothes out. Then, this morning I forgot to stay in the left lane. Need I say more?

I was reminded of all this by an acquaintance who overheard my excuses for arriving at work late and used the bus analogy to explain a real-life situation that faced her. Her name is Grace and she pointed out that there was a big difference between getting "stuck behind the bus" on the way to work, and having the same thing happen when you need to catch a plane. Your job will still be there when you get stuck behind the bus, but the plane will leave without you, and that is almost what happened to Grace. However, the Macintosh made the difference in her life between being late and missing the plane.

For more than twenty years Grace worked for a small, family owned, dirt and rock company. She did books, sent out bills, arranged schedules, handled the phones, and all the other things related to a one-person office. It was a pleasant place to work, close to home, and she liked her boss. Several months ago he retired and his small company was purchased by a bigger organization. Grace was in her mid 40's and out of a job. She had good experience and good skills, but she had never touched a computer. She was, in fact, quite frightened of them. She had to work and she needed insurance for herself and a child still at home. She tried several places, but without computer skills she wasn't considered. The more she was told she needed them, the more frightening the whole idea became to her. After 60 days her severance package ran out and she took a job in a fast food restaurant. In that setting she had to use a computerized cash register. She wasn't able to use it fast enough to meet the requirements of the company, though all the teenagers she worked with handled it with no problems. This did not help her self-confidence! Next she tried working for a temp agency, but the only thing she could do for them was basic reception or filing jobs and there were not many of them. Finally, a helpful employee of the temp agency suggested that she take a class in computer use. She decided she would have to do that if she were ever going to have a real job again. On the advice of friends, she went to a class that utilized Macintosh computers.

You know that old story of the person who, when told to pick up the mouse, looked on the floor to see where it was? That was Grace. However, by the end of three days her whole life had changed. She was amazed at what she could do and how user friendly the Mac turned out to be. Of course, she had never heard the term "user friendly" before either, but she quickly learned it. Typing speed wasn't a problem for her and that helped her confidence level as well. Now, here is the crux of this story. When Grace got a job working for the state she went into an environment where PCs were the only computers allowed. She discovered though that her experience on the Mac could easily transfer to the PC's. When she asked me why, I told her that that was possible because Microsoft had stolen all of their good stuff from the Mac. And then she uttered my favorite line – "but it still takes 3 steps to do anything that you can do on a Mac in 1!"

This second success story is about a young woman who I will call Jane. Jane has worked for our agency for several years and, for the last 4, I have supervised her. Jane has mental retardation accompanied by a seizure disorder and color blindness, but she is able to do a great number of things. Jane was originally hired three-quarter time to deliver and sort mail. That was still her job when she was transferred to my section. She could read printing and she had good calendar and time skills. She could remember three part directions and could repeat any task that she had successfully done once. Her "work behavior skills" were not up to par and she was constantly seeking attention, sometimes in inappropriate ways. She would interpret conversations, push her way through any group that happened to be in her way, seek out coworkers and stroke their hair, and use inappropriate language. No one expected Jane to change either her skill level or her work behaviors because they judged her by her disabilities. While she was able to handle repetitive tasks such as sorting mail with ease, she was actually bored a great deal of the time, thus the attention seeking behaviors.

I decided that Jane could learn to use a computer. This was back before the PC Dragon Stole Our Happy Mac Kingdom and we still had Macs. Over the next 6 months Jane learned to effectively use the Mac. She used word processing programs to write notes to people (her handwriting was poor because of physical limitations), she learned to send and receive e-mail, and set up and maintain a database to monitor certified letters, staff birthdays and an internal phone listing. From there she moved to full-time employment status. This change in skills brought about a change in how others perceived Jane. Other divisions assumed that they could trust her and sometimes asked her to help with special projects. She learned how to help put out large mailings that went to hundreds of people. Most people stopped accepting her attention seeking behaviors and with monitoring and mentoring, those behaviors have greatly improved, though they will never completely disappear. When the Mac's were taken away and replaced with PC's she was able to make the transition. Today she has a workstation close to our front door. She greets visitors, takes packages, and provides directions for our large building in addition to all her other tasks. Perhaps most important for her own personal growth, she has recently moved out of a supervised living situation and into her very own home. Her home was purchased for her by her parents who have determined that she has gained the maturity and confidence to live independently. Without the Macintosh she might never have learned to type or to use a computer to communicate with others. If we had tried to teach her computer skills using a PC her frustration level would have held her back. (Heck, I still get frustrated with that thing.)

Would Grace and Jane have survived without ever using a Mac? Of course they would. Would their life have changed for the better without ever using a Mac? I don't think so. The Mac is there to meet our needs, we don't have to adjust to its, and that makes all the difference.

Do you have a great Mac success story? Send it to me so that I can share your thoughts with other readers.

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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