Durham County

Who has time for a new watch? — Neil Offen

I used to have a watch that told me the time. I now have a watch that tells me my heart rate, how many miles I’ve run, how many laps I’ve swum, how many steps I’ve taken, how many calories I’ve expended, how many hours I’m sleeping — or not sleeping — and whether I should be doing some laundry.

This is part of a worrisome trend. Devices never used to be multi-taskers. A scissors cut, it didn’t play music. A stapler stapled, it didn’t send messages. A refrigerator cooled things, it didn’t give you directions.

Devices used to be simple single-taskers. And so you didn’t need 97-page online manuals to figure out how to use the scissors, unless, of course, you’re a lefty, like me, and it’s a right-handed scissors. You didn’t need a series of diagrams to decipher where in the refrigerator to put the vegetables and where to put the fruits, unless you were confused about the status of the tomato, which is truly a fruit parading around as a non-conforming vegetable.

Whatever device they are explaining, the 97-page online manuals all have something in common: they are, of course, incomprehensible. Take mine, about my new watch, for instance.

When you use your watch, the manual begins, you start from the clock screen, which is the screen with numbers that tell you what time it is. The larger number is the hour, while the smaller number is the minutes, unless you are in reverse mode, which means you are wearing the watch on the wrong wrist.

The very small number, in the right corner just above the call letters for your nearest FM radio station, is the number for the seconds.

The hour number, you will notice, is shown slightly dimmed and the minutes are shown brighter while the seconds are show in Sanskrit, so you can see the precise time more clearly and not think this is the middle of the night in New Delhi and you should be sleeping. The clock screen also shows the date and the month, so you don’t think you are sleeping in December, when it gets dark early.

You can use the buttons alongside the clock screen to go to other screens on your watch. To open the tracking screen, press down, which opens the settings menu, then press right, which opens the activities menu, then press left, which opens the luncheon menu. If you would just prefer to have a salad, press up.

While wearing the watch, remember that the GPS receiver should always face upwards. To find which direction is upwards, press down. Wait until the compass icon is visible, then stop looking down at your watch because you’re about to get dizzy and may develop a headache.

Whatever option you choose, remember that your watch will remember what you highlighted. Which is more than we can say for you.

Neil Offen can be reached at theneiloffencolumn@yahoo.com. Past columns can be found at www.theneiloffencolumn.wordpress.com.