Let Yourself Go, Part 2

My father began to contemplate retirement in the early 1980s, and thought computers might be a suitable focus for his newly acquired free time.  When Nick spotted a computer seminar, we thought that this would be the perfect introduction.  As the speaker tried to explain the difference between RAM and ROM, I could see that he was rapidly losing his older audience – eyes were glazing over.  Then one older gentleman raised his hand and asked a simple question about spread sheets, “Who types in all the information into the computer?”  The speaker was visibly nonplussed by this question, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Why you do of course.”  I could see all of my father’s age group absolutely shut down, and the speaker totally lost his audience.  My father’s working life came equipped with a secretary, and I don’t think he knew how to type.  The only vague sense that he had of computers was that they were supposed to make his life easier.  This clearly was not going to happen if he not only had to learn how to type, but also know what to type in if he wanted to use the computer to prepare a spreadsheet. 

From that point on, my father just new technology go.  Occasionally, he would ask, “What is this cyberspace?”  Nick emerged from some family event exulting that he had finally explained cyberspace to my father, but multiple other family members chimed in that they had provided the same explanation.  Basically, Dad really wasn’t that interested and just used cyberspace as a conversation device.  He had decided that it wasn’t worth it to keep up with technology and that he was old enough to manage without it.  After he retired, he developed two hobbies that probably had not changed since Ooga MaGook invented the wheel.  He would spend hours in his wood shop with sandpaper, a screwdriver, hammer, rags and other simple tools.  At his hobby farm, he could be found in the barn in his fancy cable knit sweater shoveling manure or lifting hay bales onto a cart.   This strategy worked for about 20 years, but as technology evolved at a dizzying pace, he suddenly found himself totally out of touch with technologies that had now been woven into every day life – microwaves, cell phones and the internet.

One day I spent a great deal of time trying to explain to Dad the difference between a microwave and an oven.  Of course, adding to the challenge was the fact that my father was a traditional husband who had never cooked anything, and probably didn’t want to learn.  I painstakingly explained that while you could put tinfoil in the oven, you could not put it in a microwave, and while you could put Saran wrap in the microwave you could not put it into the oven.  The next day I arrived and was horrified to see that he was heating up a Styrofoam cup in the oven.  Although I considered the difference between a microwave and oven pathetically obvious, I also realized that this type of distinction might be difficult to keep straight if I was starting from square one, as my father was.  Another time he was at our house and spotted a bicycle cable that was tightly coiled and had a fancy looking lock holding the coil in place.  “Is that a new kind of computer?” he asked.  I initially thought I might be in the same realm as the psychiatrist who had written the book, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” Then I realized that my father had no concept of what a computer might look like and had probably only heard how computers were getting smaller and turning into “lap tops.”

We have a basic strategy for whenever my father comes for dinner involving the good scotch, shrimp with cocktail sauce, no vegetables, and after dinner some sort of internet demonstration.  He has been particularly interested in Google earth, where we were able to show him an aerial view of his own back yard, his child hood home and the boarding school he absolutely detested.  Iron ore ships on the Great Lakes or antique cars are another abiding interest.  But even as he was looking at the amazing technology of the internet, his basic question had not changed in 25 years. “Who types in all of this stuff?” he asked.

I tell this story not to poke fun at a lovely older man, but to wonder if I am unwittingly making similar decisions that will come back to haunt me.  Without at least a toe hold on a virtually vertical learning curve, in several years I could be as befuddled as my father.  Maybe I have already made this fateful error.  I have never really needed a cell phone, as most of my work is done from home with minimal travel demands.  Additionally, I felt that I was making a noble (if wrongheaded statement) about the folly of instant access.  One time on a business trip I was supposed to be picked up at the airport by a car service.  When there was no sign of a ride, I realized the folly of eschewing a cell phone.  It was late at night and there were few stores open, so I had to wander around looking for change for the pay phone.  Ten minutes later I was again wandering around looking for a pay phone.  When I finally called the car service number, the phone rang in the pocket of the slovenly person sitting next to the phone eating a greasy hamburger.  My ride had been sitting right next to me.

Now I get extremely anxious if we are driving in a car and Nick hands me his cell phone to make a call.  While the first generation of cell phones resembled real phones, twenty years later and umpteen successive generations of blending cell phones with computers and hifis, this cell phone bears no relationship to what I would consider a phone, in fact it looks like a miniaturized airline cockpit.  Nick would get exasperated as he once again tried to guide me through the steps, which involved double clicking, scrolling and negotiating a miniscule key board.  In one instance, I hesitated and held one key down too long and the “phone” interpreted this as a signal to call the last number received and I ended up calling myself.  

 Clickers now dominant our lives.  As a child I was amazed that my parents grew up without TV.  Now my children are amazed that I grew up watching TV without a clicker.  A profusion of household appliances now come with clickers, including a floor fan where one of the clicker selections is “breeze,” which translates to a random selection of fan speeds to simulate the real outdoors.  We stayed in a ski condo once where the table in the living room had 6 clickers artfully arranged in a fan shape.  I knew there was no way that I could decipher this array and actually was looking forward to a weekend of cards and board games.  However, the teenager in our midst got both the DVD and TV up and running in no time.  I have tenuous control over our own TV clicker, but often call on Nick for more problematic issues.  One time the dog rolled over on the clicker and the TV went black; the situation was only resolved by a phone call to India.  As part of Nick’s job, he often visits his clients in their home.  One of his value added services is to coordinate clickers, if needed.

So what do I keep, and what do I let go?  I will think about it this afternoon as I seek refuge in digging weeds with a shovel.  

The missing words in the following poem are anagrams (i.e. share the same letters like spot, stop and post) and the asterisks indicate the number of letters.  Oneo f the missing words will rhyme with the previous or following lines.  Your job is to solve the missing words based on the above rules or the context of the poem.  Scroll down for more answers.

 Technology advances every day as the earth ——-

 With new innovations that the human mind creates.

 Ancient Egyptians were probably puzzled by the ——- stone,

Now, millennia later, I am just as flummoxed by a cellular phone.

 If keeping up with technologies is something you dread,

 Watch out, soon your ——- will need a clicker to pop up your bread.









Answers;  rotates, Rosetta, toaster

Posted in

Leave a Comment