Note: This column appears in the 2/25 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/26 issue of the Peoria Times
The evolution of our family –- namely of our parents –- as it relates to technology has been an adventure.
She’s going to kill me when she reads this, but the first time my mother-in-law used email, she sat at the keyboard, typed her message, and then walked away. Having never hit “send,” she had just assumed that the email had reached its destination, like a prayer. Now, after a lot of hard work and admirable dedication, she has a Gmail account and texts us using modern shorthand that even we don’t understand.
My father-in-law, on the other hand, has always embraced technology. It is rumored that he owned the first car phone in Brooklyn, which was actually just a phone booth in the passenger seat of his car. Because of his business and hectic lifestyle, he currently owns approximately eight cell phones – two of which are Blackberries (!) -- several of which he will frequently misplace, and which he’ll have to call with one of the other phones to find. Last month while here in AZ he walked into a restaurant wearing a headset while talking on a different phone and texting on another. When asked where he’d like to sit, the waitress was told, “the closing is set for Tuesday.”
My parents are a different story altogether. They always try, often in vain. Last year they purchased a Mac so they could more easily video chat with us from back east. Macs, as you may know, are famously user friendly and low maintenance. My parent’s Mac however, has managed to befuddle everyone at Apple for the better part of a year. Subsequently, our video chats with my parents typically involve us looking at their foreheads and the words “you’re breaking up.”
Whenever they travel my parents feel comforted by their GPS device even though a) they never update the software for it and b) the only feature they use is the estimated time of arrival, which my dad will constantly observe throughout the trip as proof that the GPS is working. (As a side note, contrary to my father-in-law’s affinity for technology, the GPS is his worst enemy. His directional instinct always wins out. He only owns one because it’s technology.)
Currently my mom is enjoying taking videos with her iPod. Nevermind that she doesn’t know how to upload them or send them out. And pictures? My mom isn’t really sure how to upload those either or how to categorize them. So about once a year we’ll get sent an album that will feature pictures from Christmas 2003 mixed in with shots of the cats licking themselves.
But whether they’ve always embraced it, recently mastered it, or are still a work in progress, the fact that our family is using technology is what allows us to stay in touch from thousands of miles away. Last weekend we video chatted with my in-laws, which was pretty much just them happily watching their hopefully-soon-to-be-granddaughter eating jar food. Even when our family can’t be here, they’re here.
When my parents’ Mac gets out of the shop, we’ll video chat with them again, too. In the meantime they’ve recently joined the texting community. My dad’s first text ever was sent to my mom while she was here in AZ. But my mom had left her phone upstairs, so when I happened to call my dad he explained that he had texted my mom and never heard back and thus didn’t know if it “went through.” I assured him that it did, like a prayer, and then I said one.