By Hannah Reich Berman

For years, my late husband, Arnie, and I lived in our house without benefit of a burglar alarm. Why we did so is a mystery, but for some reason neither one of us felt motivated to have one installed. Even after Hubby passed away, I didn’t bother to get an alarm system. Being a creature of habit, I had become accustomed to not having one. But as months and years passed, I began to feel differently about the concept. That was primarily because my family and friends kept telling me that I was crazy and that a burglar alarm is a must for everyone, and even more of a necessity for someone living alone. Eventually the concept sank in, but it took time. I had other things to attend to.

My first priority was the purchase of one of those doohickeys that a person uses when she (or he) has a fall. I never remember the name of any of them. I don’t even remember the name of the one I have. I simply refer to it as the “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” thingy. After acquiring one of those, I realized that I did feel more secure. That was when I stepped up to the plate and decided to go full speed ahead. I put in a burglar alarm. But all I did was to have it put in. As I’ve admitted to people, for one full year I did not once set that alarm. I was afraid I would accidentally set it off.

A close friend, whose home was recently burglarized and who has yet to fully recover from the experience, convinced me that I was making a big mistake. Her description of what she went through and is still going through was vivid enough to snap me out of my self-induced stupor. I paid attention to what she was telling me and I now set my alarm every day.

But my fears, about either of my alarms, were not totally unfounded. Now and then I accidentally press the button on my “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” pendant. Fortunately, when that happens, there is no ear-splitting sound–just a loud voice emanating from the base that says “Emergency! Emergency!” and all I need to do is to wait for someone to ask me if I’m OK. At that point I tell the person who is speaking to me that I pressed the button by accident and that I’m fine. Then she wishes me a pleasant day and I go about my business. No fuss, no muss, and my neighbors don’t hear a thing and have no idea what I did.

Unfortunately, now and then I do the same with my burglar alarm. And that the neighbors do hear! Twice last week I forgot that it was on. Once, I ignored the plugs and opened a window. The second time, I opened the back door to set out my empty water bottles. On both occasions I heard that familiar sound that no one wants to hear. I raced to the alarm pad, turned it off, and waited for the inevitable phone call.

The problem was that when the call came, I had a brain freeze and couldn’t remember my password. Fortunately, the lady on the other end of the line was a kind and patient soul. I gave her every bit of pertinent information I could think of. My name, my Social, my height–everything but my weight! But when I still couldn’t come up with the correct password, she prompted me until I remembered it. “Come on now, Hannah, think! Is it someone’s birthday? Yours? Is it the birth year of one of your children? Is it your maiden name or your mother’s maiden name?” She went on for a few minutes, but it never came to me.

So, I asked her to hold on while I searched for it. Apparently, my cerebrum, or whatever part of the brain it is that controls memory, had begun to defrost, because although I didn’t remember my password, I did remember where I had written it down. Once I found it, I read it back to her and we said our goodbyes.

Hubby must be splitting his sides in laughter. Nothing that I did ever surprised him. I can hear him. He’s saying, “All you need to do is hope and pray that if anyone does break into the house and picks up the ringing phone, the same sweet woman doesn’t take the call and be just as helpful to the person who broke in.”

That had not occurred to me. But now I am thinking that it’s no wonder it took me three years to get the burglar alarm and then took me a full year to start using it. I know myself and I know what kind of trouble I can get into. Since then, however, things have been relatively quiet. Relatively!

I’m just not geared for these times. Some people are born into the wrong century, and there is little doubt that I am one of them. Everything confuses and ultimately frustrates me. When my son visited last month, he spent some time on my computer and decided that it was too slow. He didn’t tell me, nor did he ask me, but he ordered a new computer for me and, unbeknownst to me, he called my savvy computer helper, Lester Katz, to set things up. I knew nothing about it at the time, because only after he left here did Sonny Boy call to tell me what he had done. He said that when the new computer arrived I should call Lester.

I did as I was instructed. As soon as it was delivered, I called Lester to set up an appointment. Lester disconnected my old one, set up the new one, and then spent 20 minutes trying to show me the difference between what I had before (Windows XP) and this new one, which has Windows 8. While Lester was here, I knew it cold. Three minutes after he left, I was in trouble. I called him back the following day and once again he came to help me. It didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. The problem is not with the teacher but with the student. It is doubtful that Lester, until he met me, had ever encountered anyone who has so much trouble learning these things. To his credit, he remains polite and patient with me. And I repay this kindness by trying not to call him every five minutes.

I am currently in my third week of learning how to navigate with Windows 8, and I have come to the conclusion that if I ever find the sadist at Microsoft who came up with it I will clobber him (or her) and willingly do prison time for assault.

Windows 8 is simply not user-friendly. Unfortunately, I am a user who needs as much friendliness as I can get. I am not alone here, however. Microsoft has received so many complaints about Windows 8 that they are already at work on Windows 8.1 and they report that it should be ready by September. Until then, I will double up on my blood-pressure pills. But, with any luck, I may be familiar with it by September. After all, I mastered all the alarms in my life and have stopped accidentally setting them off. But this Windows 8 is a whole other ball game.

That’s the way it is. v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.

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