On Jan. 1, we ushered in not only a new year but a new decade.
For some of us seniors, things seem to be moving faster and faster in the world of technology as we witness what once were only storylines for films and books become realities. Some have adapted; others, like me, are hesitant about these new devices.
I was absolutely amazed when visiting a friend and she said, “Siri, turn off the TV” and the television clicked off. I looked around, but I didn’t see anyone. I must have had a puzzled look on my face because my friend pointed to a little box on an end table and said “That is Siri. It is the latest technological device. She does everything for you.”
I soon adapted to seeing friends tell this woman in a box to turn on/off/lower their lights, to call people and numerous other activities. To my amazement, even toddlers who can hardly talk walk up to those little boxes and tell them to change the TV channel to their favorite channel or to read them a story or to call grandma.
Telephones also have undergone amazing changes. Years ago, I was offered “voice commands” to dial people on the cell phone I was using. It worked most of the time, but I think my Southern accent threw off that “operator in the phone,” and you wouldn’t believe some of the people I got on the line. I finally gave up and got rid of that phone.
For several years I resisted getting a cell phone. To be quite honest, I think cell phones are great, but they are ruining personal communication abilities — especially with the younger generation. Nothing is more irritating than sitting down to eat with friends and having several pull out their phones and start texting. (My fingers are too stubby to accomplish messages this way. I end up with gibberish.) I have stood in line in stores waiting irritably as a clerk tried to tell the customer the amount but the customer was too busy talking to insert her bank card and complete the transaction. Or, even more irritating, the customer held up a finger, indicating the clerk — and all us customers behind him/her — should wait until the call was finished.
I clung to my little flip cell phone until about a year ago when a friend told me if I would get a new one, she would pay for it. I did and I am still trying to figure out what all those little icons mean.
I like the fact I can take pictures with it, and use it to keep up with my emails, but I still struggle. I just can’t remember how to do all those things. Often, I threaten to throw it out — or through — a window. I take it with me when I am out and about because if I have car problems or get lost, I might figure out how to dial it and get some help. Not long ago, a friend installed the GPS on it for me. Honestly? I haven’t used it yet.
Of course, during the 30 days I have been visiting my daughter in New Mexico, I have learned to use my phone a little better. I dialed a new number today and tried to enter it in my contact list but didn’t succeed. One of my grandchildren will have to do that for me.
Which brings me to computers. I love working on computers now and wonder how I survived all those years in the news business without one.
My first experience with one was in the 1980s when I went to work at The Reidsville Review. I was completely ignorant of a computer but, with patience on the part of my co-workers, I soon learned how to write stories on them. Eventually, I was able to lay out the pages on a daily basis. I soon broke down and purchased one for my home. I remember not being able to get my mouse to work one day, and my grandson Joseph, who was four at the time, walked over and calmly turned it around since I was holding it backward.
I love that now most spelling and grammatical corrections are made as I go and I can instantly pull up a thesaurus to find a word to substitute for one. I have dumped that huge dictionary and thesaurus I kept on my desk for so long.
For years, I looked up materials, historical facts, etc. using encyclopedias or calling the library and asking them to check facts in my stories. Today, I just type in a word and “Voila!” There’s the information I need within seconds. To me, that has been one of the greatest achievements in the technical world, especially for writers.
One night, I heard a song on TV and wondered what it was and who was singing it. My granddaughter Skylar walked over to the TV, held her phone up to it, and then answered my questions. I still haven’t figured out that one.
My first experience and several other subsequent ones with a GPS were negative, which may be why I am hesitant about using that.
My friend Priscilla had one and we were in Greensboro headed for Friendly Center. I knew the way but she wanted to try out her GPS. For about 30 minutes we were circling a two- or three-block area downtown around Market Street. I kept pointing out Friendly Road to her and she finally turned the way I suggested and we got to the shopping center. Several similar incidents of being sent the wrong or long way with other users added to my initial frustration. I avoid GPS, generally, although I sometimes look up directions on the computer.
In restaurants, servers now take orders on tablets and they go directly to the chef in the kitchen. Then, when it’s time to check out, diners have the choice of paying the old way — taking the check to register and using cash — or sliding their debit card into a kiosk on the table. Fast and easy? Yes!
Granddaughter Jasmine got a ukelele for Christmas. She already is playing it — thanks to some app she accessed. As I listen to her plunk away, I think about all those cold early mornings before school started when I took piano lessons from “Miss Effie” Chilton at Lawsonville Avenue School as a child.
Apparently, all the latest innovations have not quite caught up as quickly. For the past three years, I have done at-home editing for a national Atlanta-based company. They pay via e-checks. When I received my first one, I took it to my bank, going to the drive-through to deposit it. I saw the teller walk away from the window. In a few minutes, she returned with the bank manager, who had the check in his hand. He asked me where I had gotten it. Not even thinking, I replied, “Oh, I just printed it out a few minutes before I left home.” He got a funny expression on his face, but he left the window. Several other customers were assisted in the other lane before the manager came back and told me they were depositing the check but would put a hold on it for a few days. It cleared with no problems.
However, from then on, I made sure I got that same teller and she and I often joked about my “having just printed it.” Several times when she was not working, I had to wait for the teller(s) to confer and then get the check cleared by the manager.
While visiting my daughter Anna in Santa Fe in December, I received a check and printed it. Thinking that Santa Fe is a much larger city than Eden, Anna and I took it to her credit union to deposit it in her account. I left the check on the bottom of the page that gave details about it and how to handle it. The manager must have looked at the check and questioned me about it for at least five minutes before handing it back and telling me they couldn’t cash it. As a result, I mailed the check back home to a friend who took it to my bank and got it deposited into my account.
Granted, all these new technologies have made everything from typing, reading, entertainment, education, etc. faster, but this old mind, like the rest of my body, is slow in catching up with it.
By the time I learn how to use something, a new innovation is ushered in and I have to start all over. I’ll probably go to my grave trying to figure out a new gadget.
Meantime, I am heading out to the shopping center. Now, where’s that phone and is it charged? Maybe it’s in a drawer or at the bottom of my purse? Check the refrigerator! Jasmine dials my number and there it is — right in front of me.
Have a prosperous and happy New Year, and be prepared to learn about all those fast-arriving new technologies.