Parents and Technology.

My daughter is stuck at home tonight with two parents who are not only technically challenged, but who also just switched from Androids to iPhones. She has had an iPhone for a year now. The conversation sounds a bit like this:

“Why is there no back button? My Android had a back button.”

“How do I sync my email?”

“Just a minute, I’m helping mom make the screen letters bigger.”

“You’ve been helping her for a half hour, it’s my turn. Where the heck is the internet?”

“It’s called Safari”

“Leave her alone she’s helping me”

“SAFARI? That’s stupid.”

For the first twenty minutes, she seems somewhat pleased that WE, the parents, are so dependent upon her to perform even the most basic of functions on our new smart phones. But as the night wears on, she becomes less amused at our ignorance.

“Where’s my contacts list? Why isn’t it right down here at the bottom like my other phone?”

“DAD, I’ve told you four times how to get to your contacts list! It hasn’t changed since that last time five minutes ago!”

“How do I get my songs on here from iTunes?”

“I want to turn my picture into a zombie like you did the other day. What was that app called?’

“Why does it keep saying that I need an Apple ID? That’s stupid!”

Unfortunately, all across the globe, scenarios like this are being played out in living rooms, night after night.

Like my wife and I, many parents our age did not grow up in a digital, computer dependent world full of smart phones, email addresses, and WIFI. These are all things we have had to learn and to adapt too. At times, our analog, pencil and paper geared minds can get overloaded. A new smart phone can be horrifying as opposed to the excitement my daughters would feel. I just barely learned how to operate all the functions on my old phone, and now you want me to throw it all out and start from scratch?

In our day, if you learned how to use the U.S. Postal Service, you could reasonably expect that the skill would carry you through the rest of your life without needing to alter how you use the Mail system’s OS (operating system, I just learned that one from my daughter). If you learned how to look up a number in the phone book and dial the telephone that hung on the wall, you were pretty much set. But then all this new stuff comes along and ruins everything.

Kids nowadays were born into this cyber world, and their brains are trained to think that way from day one. They adapt to changes in technology and operating systems so much faster than I can.

Gone are the days when a father could proudly teach his son or daughter the simple life skills they needed to be able to interact with the world around them. Most of the technical learning that goes on in our household is daughter teaching parent.

We recently switched from cable TV to satellite TV. This change required that I learn a whole new OS. This change was a creator of much stress for me. I felt like a turtle on my back. I couldn’t make a TV show even appear on the screen, let alone one I wanted to watch.

But I have learned to cope with my technological disabilities, and overcome them. When the new satellite box was fired up for the first time and I had spent the ten minutes required to determine that I had no idea how to operate it, I simply handed the remote to my daughter Hannah and left the room. This is known as step one.

After an hour I returned, and just as I suspected, she had mastered the system. She could perform any and every function available. In fact, she had already set up her own channel favorites list and had set the DVR that came with it to record her shows.

Step two is to have Hannah simply show me how to turn the channel box on and off.

Step three is an on-going step. Step three is to use Hannah like a voice controlled remote for the next month or two as I slowly learn each satellite TV skill one at a time.

“Hannah, make it go to The Discovery Channel.”

“Hannah, make it record Wildest Police Video episodes.”

“Hannah, make Netflix come up on the screen.”

This system has helped to eliminate much of the anxiety and fear that can be the result of trying to learn a new technology or OS. I’d like to think that over time, my ability to adapt to such changes would become easier and easier. But I’m beginning to realize that all the gains I make as far as becoming fluent in the computer-digital-cyber world, are being countered by my memory becoming duller, and perhaps a touch of senility setting in.

A Horrific Tale About Writer’s Block.

The urge to write something epic was over-powering. I needed to create a piece that was unique, but still containing all the time tested components of a classic. I could feel the creative genius building inside me like a pile of leaves that had been ignited with too much gasoline.

A novel! I’d write a novel that would put Melville’s silly fish story to shame. . . . . No, that would take too long and I know from experience, that these bursts of creative energy only last a few hours, or until something catches my eye on TV.

Maybe a poem . . . no, that’s an even more ridiculous notion. I haven’t the slightest idea how to meter, and I think I might be rhyme deaf.

So, I decided that I should stop wasting time deciding what form of literature my writing would be and just start writing. I could always decide later if it was a novel, or poem, or short story. I would just let the spirit take me wherever it wanted.

I sat down at the computer with my cup of coffee. I made myself comfortable, and prepared to unleash the epic-ness . . . I cracked my knuckles in preparation for the flurry of typing . . . here we go.

But nothing was coming out.

The keyboard keys were not clacking.

I thought for sure that this much inspiration was surely the precursor to an earth-shaking subject matter. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that I really had no ideas on deck. The desire to begin my masterpiece was unbearable, but there was nothing there!

I began to look around the room as if the dirty cereal bowl on the end table, or the floral print box of Kleenexes would suddenly jar a topic loose, but again, there was nothing.

I stood up and scratched my head. I looked out the window at the overgrown lawn, but all that came to mind was that the lawn mower blades needed sharpening. For a second, I pondered a novel about dull lawn mower blades, but it seemed to lack the potential for being the awesomeness that I was determined to create.

Picking up a women’s magazine from the coffee table, I began to leaf through it. I would write a story about . . . dish soap? No, that’s silly . . . how about “Sizzling Summer Fashion Ideas?” No, even the word fashion itself made me yawn . . . tampons? Good Lord, NO!

I simply had nothing to write about, and it was beginning to make me angry. I was getting angry at my brain. Stupid brain!

After another two hours of seeking ideas from magazines, two glasses of wine, watching the dog sleep, and both sides of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” album, I finally gave in to the fact that I had no idea what to write about, and all the ambition in the world was simply not going to change that fact.

In an act of desperation, I sat down and began writing about having writer’s block, the result of which you are reading now. It certainly isn’t the Pulitzer Prize winner that I was anticipating, but it did occupy me until a documentary about South African Crocodiles came on the television.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can get away with writing about having writer’s block more than once with any degree of success. I guess the next time I have writer’s block you will be stuck reading about a floral print box of Kleenexes.

They Don’t Understand.

Sometimes I wish that other things could hear and understand my frustration.

I tell the dog to stop shedding and slobbering all over the place. She wags her tail as if I just told her that Star Trek is on . . . . That is to say that she doesn’t understand.

I tell toilet to stop clogging because it grosses me out to plunge a poopy toilet, but it doesn’t listen. It clogs even more.

I tell the toaster to stop burning my toast, but it doesn’t understand.

I tell the ants to stop coming into my house uninvited, but they don’t understand.

I tell my daughters to clean up after themselves, but they don’t understandsta- . . . . Wait a minute. . . . . Yes they do. It just seems like they don’t. Sometimes I forget that they actually understand English.