I’ve always been an old soul, I guess. Always been more than a few steps behind the rest of the world. But it’s never gotten in my way, nor bothered me; but oh, how it’s bothered others!
When I held steadfast to my old Royal manual typewriter while the rest of the world was oohing and aahing over their IBM Selectrics, friends couldn’t understand it. I type very fast, I have a heavy touch, I bang the keys, so when I tried to do that on that newfangled machine, it didn’t go well.
Eventually, the typewriter store in Cranston that serviced my machine gave up the ghost and retired, and I was forced to advance. By then the “modern” folks out there were doing their work on word processors, but I got a simple electric typewriter and continued banging away.
Then came computers, and no, no, no, I was absolutely not going there! I kept typing on my typewriter, kept looking up things at the library, kept pretending it was still the ‘50s. Then my friend Janie, who works in the IT world, grabbed a chunk of my money, bought my first computer, lugged it up the stairs to my office, set it up, assembled a computer table, and sat me down. She taught me the basics. The rest I have gleaned by that time honored method of trial and error. “You can’t break it,” one friend told me, “so go ahead and try things.” Believe me, there were times I yearned to break it, but throwing it out the window was not an option since I’m small, and it’s heavy. Suddenly I understood why golfers who hit a bad shot want to take their very expensive clubs and wrap them around trees. But that was years ago, and now the computer and I are virtually inseparable.
While I don’t play games, have Facebook friends, tweet, watch YouTube videos, or do spreadsheets, I find my computer is just fine for information seeking and retrieval, writing this column, and being a slave to email.
Then there are phones. I am just old enough to remember black rotary dial phones, I am tinged with gray enough to remember when I had a Princess phone in my bedroom, and I am young enough not to remember the annoyance of party lines and convoluted switchboards.
Then just when I was beginning to feel I might fit in, the cell phone came into popularity. I got one — a large sort of fellow — and thought myself very sophisticated to be able to make a call on a phone without wires from virtually anywhere in the country. Then they upgraded and went to flip phones. TV’s Colombo had a flip phone, so I was impressed. One day my large Kyocera went to that big phone graveyard in the sky, and when I went looking for the same thing, I was told I had to get a flip phone. I railed yet again over something “new,” but soon owned a flip phone …. except by then, most of the world was getting into smartphones. That’s where I drew the line!
Until two weeks ago when my husband’s flip phone broke; and upon going to that Den of Intimidation called “the phone store,” I found out our old models were obsolete. Time to get modern. So I bought two smartphones. The clerk, who was 12 (like they all are when it comes to selling devices), told me, “learning is easy. There’s a manual online.” She was right ... there’s a 169-page manual online! I quickly figured out why they’re called “devices,” since you’re left to your own devices to learn how to work the damn things!
Syracuse University awarded me two degrees, but apparently never realized I wasn’t smart enough to master a smartphone. For 10 days I fought with it. I could access an app to unlock my door, play video games, and get sports scores, but couldn’t figure out how to delete an email or answer a call.
I went back to the 12-year-old with head down, eyes sullen, and begged for another chance. We got the newest-model flip phones and a dose of intimidation in the process, but we’re happy. We can make a call, answer a call, even text, and take photos. But we’ll never, ever be able to turn on our lights from Providence.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.