I have two older people in my life. For the purposes of this column, I’ll refer to them as M and D.
This is not so much to protect their identities, but more so I can maintain my regular supply chain of freshly baked muffins, scones and chocolate-chip cookies from M, and the occasional car wash and yard work from D.
Being a bit older, the pair came late to the technology party. M could never be bothered with having a computer (“takes up too much room”), and years of watching Oprah frightened her into thinking just turning one on could bring hundreds of child molesters to her door.
When my kids were little, I was forever receiving warnings about letting them use the computer, lest they be snatched away in the night. Or, heaven forbid, I would have my identity stolen by some computer hacker. Why anyone would want to break into my bank account is a mystery in itself.
Why M, being well over 60, worried about child molesters affecting her is a good question too.
D was a different story. He would use the computer, but is a tidy sort and would be forever getting himself into trouble by deleting programs, or portions thereof, because “there’s too many folders.” Trying to explain that if you just put them all into one and try to forget about them unfortunately didn’t stop the flow of phone calls complaining, “I can’t open PDFs,” or “Why doesn’t my Word program work anymore?” A quick look usually revealed that the programs had been deleted in an effort to “get rid of some junk.”
Now, I am no computer genius, but years of working in small newspaper offices without the advantage of on-the-spot tech help has led me to the school of hard knocks as far as computer troubleshooting goes. I have developed pretty good skills for figuring out how to fix relatively simple problems, and as such, I have become the family techie.
Last year, M decided to get an iPad (“so small, it takes up no room”). Setting it up and getting it running wasn’t too much trouble. And she was eager to learn how to use email to keep in touch with friends who apparently weren’t avid Oprah viewers. She now enjoys the simple pleasures of tracking ships at sea and planes in the sky from the comfort of the living room couch – without one assault from a molester.
She completely took me by surprise when she purchased an e-reader just a few months later. Her most frequent complaint is, “I don’t have enough bars. It won’t work.” This, in relation to the WiFi connection. Getting her to understand that once the book is downloaded, the “bars” make no difference seems to fall on deaf ears. It often looks as though she is re-enacting a scene from the Lion King as she wanders through the house and holds aloft her iPad or e-reader, in an attempt to “get more bars.”
D also went from a computer to an iPad and an iPhone at the same time. Instead of making his life easier, it just seems to have doubled his frustration factor. It must be a male thing to want to understand how something works.
Guys enjoy getting under the hood of a car and learning the mechanics of how it works. But with a computer, I feel the less you know, the better. The why and how a program works is much less important than whether it works at all. I understand that a plane can fly – I don’t need to know why.
D, on the other hand, is always trying to understand how a program works, and trying to determine if there’s one that is better, faster or easier to use.
One thing that works to my advantage is that M can use her gadgets to look up new and interesting recipes. And D, when he gets frustrated with technology, usually slaps the offending item down on the coffee table and announces, “I’m going to go wash the car.”
Laura Lavin is the editor of the Oak Bay News.