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Madeleine Begun Kane,
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Madeleine Begun Kane


Maybe I was getting a bit cocky about my Internet prowess. Perhaps I bragged one time too many about my overnight-conversion from high-tech dummy to web-savvy woman. From someone who couldn't program my VCR, to a gal who built a web site nearly as cool as the home page launched by my neighbor's nine year old.

That's the only thing I can think of to explain my wholesale stupidity last week, when I attempted to install a simple phone call recording device.

No, I'm not planning to pull a "Linda Tripp." Everyone I record will be a consenting adult. I promise. In fact, I'm doing it all for you: I'll be interviewing inspiring women for my new "Success Stories" column. Don't panic -- that doesn't portend the end of this humor slot. My Raising Kane will continue here ... and at home.

Back to my stupidity. I already had a cassette recorder, but didn't know how to make it capture the golden words flowing through my phone. And the state of my bank account precluded me from buying state of the art equipment. But after consulting some fellow writers, I knew exactly what I had to do -- buy truckloads of Radio Shack stock. Unfortunately,'s server was down, so I decided to buy a Radio Shack Telephone Recording Control instead.

Having been warned about compatibility problems (no, not that kind of compatibility), I took my phone manual and cassette machine with me to Radio Shack. I wanted to bring my neighbor's nine year old along too to translate, but she was busy networking her parent's computers.

So I was on my own, but I felt reasonably confident. My dummy days are over, I thought. Surely I can follow instructions as well as the next recovering technophobe. Besides, I'd just sweet-talk a salesman into giving me detailed instructions. The real challenge would be to trap his explanation inside my brain long enough for me to make the ten minute trip home.

To be safe, I took copious notes and made the salesman connect one end of the recording control unit to my recorder, and the other end to some gizmo he said split my telephone jack in two. The poor fellow looked at me like I had a two digit IQ, but did as I asked -- anything to get me out of his shop.

In theory, all I'd have to do was unplug my phone from the jack, attach it to the recording control unit, and plug the jack-splitting gizmo into the jack. Simple, huh?

Except, it didn't work. I tried everything -- including a new tape, fresh batteries and, in a sudden attack of religious fervor, prayers. In desperation, I even reversed the salesman's settings, hoping he'd turn out to be the high-tech dummy. No such luck.

In between fruitless fiddling, I made a pest of myself calling friends to test my phone ... after asking permission to record them. Talk about optimism.

It was only when I noticed my AOL connection was dead, that I realized where I'd gone astray. I'd been using the wrong phone line, having hooked my recording equipment into my modem jack. Why? Probably because that was the one I could reach. And because I was so busy trying to remember the installation instructions, I forgot that lurking behind an immovable bed is the jack that controls my phone. And because hidden behind this no longer so cocky woman still lurks the soul of a technophobe.

Still, it could have been worse. At least I didn't have to consult any nine year olds.

© 1999 Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
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