By Hannah Reich Berman
Most folks face at least one challenge in life, and an unfortunate few are challenged in more than one way. Sadly, I fall into that category.
There has never been a set of directions that I have been able to follow. When I have to put something together, my heart begins to pound just as soon as I unfold the enclosed directions. If it involves construction, I cannot set it up correctly. What needs to be put together might be anything from a freestanding set of shelves (which I recently purchased at Bed Bath & Beyond) to a set of holders for the water bottles supplied to me by Poland Spring. The holders are meant to snugly hold the bottles and prevent them from being strewn all over the floor.
With a great deal of pride I am able to report that I was eventually able to figure out how to set up those shelves. But the holders were a no-go. So I called one of my grandchildren for help, and he came over and put the holder together (in less than ten minutes, I should add). If he thought I was lame-brained, he was kind enough not to say so–at least not to my face.
Aside from my lack of mechanical skills, I am also incapable of dealing with anything electronic. Recently it occurred to me that I no longer am able to listen to a great deal of my Hebrew music, or many of my classical musical pieces, since I have them on those little audio cassettes that are now all but obsolete. I used to listen to them on a cassette player, but that floated away with Hurricane Sandy, and I decided that it was foolish to replace it–if I could even find one these days.
It also occurred to me that even if I were able to locate a cassette player, the cassettes are so old that the tapes will probably dry out or disintegrate sometime soon. I considered investing the money to replace all of this music by purchasing CDs, but I was informed that that is not the way to go. CDs, too, are now becoming obsolete. It seems everyone listens to music on an iPod, a computer, or an iPhone. Who knew?
My go-to person is my son. So I called to tell him about this latest conundrum of mine. After a deep sigh, which he took no pains to keep me from hearing, he told me about something called an MP3 player and that all I had to do was get a converter and a flash drive and I would be good to go. Hah! He said that all I had to do was place a cassette into the converter, insert a flash drive into the converter, press a few buttons, and voilà–I would get the music onto the flash drive, which I could then remove and insert into the USB port on my computer.
I have no idea what USB stands for. I am lucky I know what a port is. My heart began to hammer and I broke out in a sweat at his mention of the words “converter,” “flash drive,” and “USB.” I thanked sonny boy for the information, none of which would do me any good, and proceeded to make a call to my local go-to person, my friend Lester Katz.
My son lives 6,000 miles away, in Israel, and chances are he is delighted that he does not have to deal with my inadequacies on a regular basis. Lester is another story. He told me where to purchase the converter and the flash drive, and then, probably based on past conversations with me, he did not even bother trying to explain to me what any of it meant. Relief flooded through me as I realized that Lester would come over and take care of everything.
But I did not realize that this would have to be accomplished one cassette at a time and that, unless Lester was willing to leave his family and take up residence in my house, I would have to be doing this on my own. And it did not occur to me that once the music was actually on my computer, I would need to learn to navigate in order to find it and listen to it. It also did not occur to me that I would need to rename each musical piece, since each one would appear on my computer screen with crazy numbers and letters such as “FV001mp,” none of which would mean anything to me.
There is so much more, but I will stop here. Suffice it to say that I am not sure who was more challenged–me, because of what I would have to learn to do, or Lester, who would have to teach me. After an association of several years, Lester remains blissfully unaware that there are some things I am simply incapable of doing. And who can blame him? It is hard to believe.
Life would be grand if the above were my only challenges. Unfortunately they are not. At my age, I have no choice but to acknowledge that I am also navigationally challenged. Whoever coined the phrase about one not being able to find his way out of a paper bag must have had me in mind. Years ago, I would ask someone for directions and write them down, and still I would get lost. Eventually I graduated to printing directions from MapQuest and taking them along with me. Still, I often managed to mess up. Then, along came the GPS, which has pretty much been everybody’s savior.
It usually helps me, but nothing is perfect, so now and then I still find myself on the wrong road. This happens when I miss my turn and then the dame on the GPS has to reconnoiter and send me in a circle to get me back to where I should be. This might be my imagination, but a few weeks ago, I thought I heard her say, “I give up! This genius is never going to get to her destination.”
When I have to travel to a new location, with or without the GPS, I get that old familiar sensation of a hammering heart, and then the shvitzing starts. Many moons ago, when I started in the real-estate business, I learned how to get from my office to any house I wished to show to a customer, but what I could never figure out was how to get from the first house to the second and then to the third, etc. So, with my customer in the car, I would drive from the office to the first house, then double back to the office and start out all over again for the second house on my list. I did that for every house I wanted to show.
As a result, what should have been a one-hour appointment usually took three hours. If nothing else, I provided a great deal of mirth and merriment to my coworkers when they learned what I had done. Even my boss had to laugh. Hubby–my late husband, Arnie–used to say, “Hannah, we will never have to separate or divorce; all I will have to do is put you in your car, and tell you to follow me. If I lead you three blocks from the house and then I speed away, we will never see one another again.” It was a standing joke, but it was true then and it is true today. With directionally challenged souls, that’s just 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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