Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's a generational thing

I have tried to teach my Pops how to use a computer roughly 4,000 times.  Given that he's a smart man, I can only conclude that his total resistance to using a computer unless a supervisor under the age of 30 is within shouting distance is due to a mental block.

I've noticed that older people (not all older people, but certainly a majority of people born during FDR's administration or earlier) do not like to fiddle with technology.  No matter how many times you tell them, "You won't break it!", they remain convinced that one wrong push of a button will lead to nuclear Armageddon.

I give you a dramatization:

Dad: What will happen if I click here?

Me: It will print.

Dad: (suspiciously) Are you sure?  

Me: Yes.

Dad: And it won't print the whole screen I'm looking at?  It will know I only want the page printed?

Me: Yes.

Dad: (Having clicked.)  It didn't print!  (Glares at me accusingly.)  A little box popped up!

Me: (Rubbing my eyes.)  That's because you right-clicked.

The thing is, we all need a certain level of familiarity before we're genuinely comfortable doing something, and unfortunately, I don't think my dad is ever going to achieve that level of comfort with computers, iPods, or CD players.  (He and the BluRay, however, have finally achieved detente.) 

But before you assume I've put on my smugpants, let me share another story.

The couple who owned The Casa before me painted all the windows shut from the inside and outside.  I was led to believe that this is an easy fix -- but as I stared at antique glass set into a Craftsman-style window sill, I knew it was going to be anything but. (Especially after contractor D informed me that it took him 20 minutes of careful work to free one window from its paint prison.)

Ensue hand-wringing.  If it took a PROFESSIONAL CONTRACTOR twenty minutes to fix one window, however would I manage to fix the other nine?

I consulted with others.  Do you think we should scrape the paint off the hinges first?  Will that make it easier?  Should I try to protect the glass somehow?  If I duct taped a bunch of sponges over it, would that help?  What if they were really, really thick sponges? 

And then yesterday my dad came over, took one look at a window, whipped a knife out of his pocket, sliced through the paint, and then hit the window with his gloved hand until it popped open -- unbroken.

He didn't say a word after he glanced over at me, eyebrows raised, but I imagine he was thinking something along the lines of, "You couldn't have figured that one out, counselor?"

Well played, sir.  Well played.


  1. My father has the same computer phobia. It's so frustrating because I remember going through this with him when call-waiting was all the rage and it took a good five years for him to be able to figure out THAT technology. I can only imagine how long the computer phase will last. For now, I just try not to make eye contact when I see him sitting near a computer.

  2. Oh man, I love this post. My parents don't have a computer. They claim they don't "need" one. I think they are just afraid and overwhelmed. I've been toying with the idea of introducing them to an iPad. I think it would be easier to use but am not sure.

  3. My dad refused to learn to use a digital camera until we forced him, after his 15+ year old film camera died on a family trip. His excuse for not wanting to learn? "Well what if I delete all the pictures?" "You won't. You'd have to go through about 5 steps to do that." "But what if? Just let mom use it. I'll learn some other time."

  4. I can't tell you how many times I have had to mentally hold the hand of a red-neck(I mean that a term of affection for my southern Utah roots) and assure them they are not too stupid to operate cell phone.

    I also had to fax something to someone last week because they didn't have an email account. This resulted in a blank stare on my part and asking my secretary where the fax machine is, because I have worked her for six months and had no idea.