Clearly, I have been living an illusionary life for almost a year now. Last Christmas I downsized to a laptop and a wireless printer. My nephews and niece swooped in to mantle and dismantle my equipment, politely attempting to keep their aged aunt marginally connected with the cyberworld. With my Kindle by my side and my laptop frequently on the charger cord, I entered 2020 feeling sleek and updated.
I was on the brink of declaring the year that ends tomorrow a technological success with fifty-some Boomer Blog columns, correspondence via e-mail and social media, tutoring sessions by phone and computer – and I googled something about something every day. My confidence grew each time I headed off a minor glitch – a positive direction for a person whose natural inclinations do not include bytes and browsers. I know what I know, which suffices. Too much information might just upset the proverbial MacIntosh-cart!
And then the Great Christmas Card Caper came to pass. I decided to send holiday greeting cards to folks needing an extra boost in the long-term care facilities around town. Could I simply sign my name and perhaps add a cheery note? Absolutely not – with an entire side of each card staring blankly back at me? I found a background in shades of forest green, burgundy, and gold draped across a rustic wooden fence. I overlaid verses from favorite carols in burgundy, thereby creating a lovely effect – and spending way more time than I ever intended. Still, I was a happy Christmas camper, proud of the handiwork I looked forward to sharing.
Totally aghast, I viewed the images my printer eventually spewed out: garish, all-green facsimiles of the scene over which I had so labored. Desperate for a resolution to my problem, I scrounged in vain through my tried-and-true websites catering to Dummies-with-Computers.
Oh, I did manage to momentarily outsmart the color gremlins by replacing the background with an abstract design in green and similarly changing the lettering color. The finished cards looked fine in the end, but I felt my façade of virtual acuity crumbling.
By Christmas Day, with no pressing need to print anything in any color on a national holiday, I had rebounded. My sister, her husband, son, and I enjoyed a great meal that included slices of extra-scrumptious prime rib. Because my brother-in-law for some time now has been cooking meat and poultry with a variety of grills and pellet smokers, I was mildly surprised by his prime rib method: a simple bag in a regular oven. Even I, who possesses not one drop of kitchen-based DNA anywhere in my body, understood that method of meat preparation.
A random chat revealed that my sister that morning had received a toaster oven as a gift, one with air-fryer capabilities. As the conversation began to veer off into convection ovens and multifunction instant pots, I found my brain drifting. I recalled my mother’s pressure cooker exploding chicken and noodles all over the kitchen ceiling less than an hour before a family reunion. I remember how she loved her new electric skillet and then the crockpot and the microwave – Mother adopted and adapted to culinary advancement so well. I, on the other hand, can only envision my kitchen counter uselessly lined with the latest cooking vessels, whose buttons would remain forever unpressed. Cooking has been and will continue to consist of nuking everything for five minutes.
I am still reeling from the gift exchange later in the evening: I am now the nervous owner of a brand-new TV. A lovely, thoughtful gift with a screen large enough to properly display the tennis scores at Wimbledon and make legible the school delays and closings as they crawl across the bottom of my screen.
But I feel agitation roiling through my being. I need a new cable box, which will necessitate discussion with a Millennial at my cable company. There will be a new remote control, and I heard the word “Bluetooth” bandied about. I guess I will only “stream” if I choose to do so, and I will still be watching the same 50 channels of the 125 for which I monthly pay.
Still, I have not come to terms with the fact that I have yet another apparatus in my life with capabilities far beyond my rudimentary needs and abilities. I worry that should I have difficulties with my new entertainment device, I will lack adequate vocabulary to ask for help.
Life is not easy for someone with only a landline. I have not yet learned to purposely take a selfie with the camera in my Kindle, although I have inadvertently done so at least a dozen times. But then, I also have no earthly clue about how to save any photo – planned or otherwise – to my computer or post it on Facebook.
So here I am, a babe in the woods of a technologically-superior society. I suppose I will do what I have always done: depend on the kindness of strangers and children for advice, continue my search for websites written on a 72-year-old level, and hope for the best. Check in with me again next year. Perhaps I will have discovered answers to the questions I probably should be asking. And hopefully I will be holding my own against the confusion currently gathering at the edges of my brain…
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.