I’m always tired when they call. It’s usually around 10 PM or later and I’ve finally gotten the baby down to sleep. The tone in their voices screams of urgency and panic. My father has accidentally posted what he thought was a private message to someone’s Facebook wall. My mother is positive she deleted all of the pictures on her cell phone while trying to transfer them to the computer. Neither can understand that I am not in charge of the “Interweb” nor do I have any means to fix it when it goes down. It took about 6 months to explain the concept of “WiFi” and that they could be in the basement playing ping pong in their underwear and still check email on a freestanding laptop computer with no wires attached.
My patience has regrettably worn thin on more than one occasion. Certainly, I have tried my parents’ own patience multiple times a day for the last 30-something years. How could I not oblige them a few questions per week about modern technology? Shouldn’t I be applauding and even encouraging the efforts of my mother, who is in her late 60s, and father, who is in his early 70s, at wanting to comment on my blog, use an iPhone and have a Facebook account? Still, I feel tested, aggravated and exhausted after dealing with each of their questions. Too quickly, I refer them to the IT Department, otherwise known as my husband. This always results in my husband, who is far more patient and polite than I am, getting involved in a 45-minute phone call with them.
Although my parents’ questions have made me feel like a technological goddess, I know that I have much to learn. Still, some of the questions have the tendency to get repeated, so I figured they were worth sharing. Here are the top 10 technology questions that I get on a regular basis:
1. “What is my password?”
While I agree that there are an obscene amount of websites requiring user names and passwords and that all of these websites warn against using the same password for multiple websites or writing them down, I am not the administrator for these websites. That means that I do not know what my parents’ passwords are (unless they have told me) nor do I have the capability of resetting them. My father once called to say that he had forgotten his AOL email password about 20 minutes after he called to say he couldn’t remember his “Facetime” password. When I asked whether he meant “Facebook,” he said he thought so, but that he had also tried to open a “Tweet” account, also with a separate password, and he couldn’t remember that one either. I had to walk him through how to reset each of these. Once we had finally gotten him back into his accounts, my mother called to say she couldn’t remember her Apple ID and was locked out of her own computer. A few days later, my father had mixed up his passwords all over again and needed to reset them. I told him that there were websites that could store his passwords but he was too frustrated to figure out how to use such a tool.
2. “How do I record Judge Judy?”
Instructions on utilizing a digital recorder are a common request from my parents. I set up some regular taping of their favorites shows when they converted to a digital box a few years ago. They were beyond impressed with the “On Demand” functionality and that they could watch every episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm all at once or the previous night’s episode of Judge Judy without a VHS tape. The ability to pause, fast forward and rewind a previously recorded show was another major milestone in my parents’ house.
3. “Why is it so difficult to type on the iPhone?”
It might be the iPhone’s electronic keyboard that’s kept my father using a vintage flip phone he purchased almost 10 years ago. The numbers on his phone’s keypad have faded, there are crumbs and grains of sand wedged into its buttons and he’s had to replace its earpiece more than a dozen times, but if it doesn’t disintegrate or explode, he will likely use this phone for another 10 years. He once purchased a smartphone at Radioshack that he used for exactly 3 hours before returning to the store and demanding his old flip phone back. Any time he’s tried to send an email using my mother’s iPhone or on an iPad, he curses and declares such devices “unusable” because “the keyboard sucks.” We’ve shown him how to make the keyboard larger by tilting the screen 180 degrees, but he can’t seem to consistently tap the letters he wants at the speed he wants to, so ends up engaged in an auto-correct war. At this point, he’d rather not have the ability to send an email on his cell phone than be forced to use the iPhone keyboard. I’d introduce him to a Blackberry, but that would be even more confusing and completely reset the learning curve.
4. “Why won’t my printer work?”
Sometimes the power button is off. Other times the plastic film of the newly installed ink cartridge has not been removed. It could be the wrong ink cartridge entirely, placement of the ink cartridge into the wrong area of the printer or on one occasion, the printer not being plugged into the wall. 100% of the time, I am not located near the malfunctioning printer to investigate these possibilities so it’s like I’ve been forced to join a troubleshooting treasure hunt of joy.
5. “Why don’t you answer your phone?”
Whenever I am unable to grab an incoming call, which is pretty often these days with a newborn to take care of, my father leaves a lengthy voicemail message. It’s usually along the lines of the following:
Hi, Stacey. This is your father. It’s 4:52 PM on Monday, July 17th. I’m not sure where you are, but please pick up if you’re there….(Pause)…. Hellooooo? It’s your father. Pick up… Pick up. Did I mention that your mother is pregnant? Helloooooo? Ok, I guess you’re ignoring me. Call us back, please. On my cell phone because that’s what I’m calling you on.
I’ve explained to my father on multiple occasions that my cell phone (and most cell phones these days, including his) already identifies the person making the call and the number they are calling from. I’ve told him that my voicemail also displays the date and time of each incoming call and that once I’ve missed the call, I can’t hear his message until he has completed leaving it and it shows up on my visual voicemail. It’s not like a machine where I can simply answer the phone mid-message and still catch him. Once I’ve missed the call, it’s DONE. Still, he loves to identify himself and all of the details surrounding the date and time of his calls. I’m pretty sure he’s insulted when I still don’t pick up the phone despite leaving me the longest voicemail messages of all time in the hope that I will pick up midway through.
6. “Where is my charger / Where is my cell phone? / Where is my iPad?”
I’m not sure these questions are limited to my parents as I have often been guilty of misplacing these things too. No matter where we are, however, there is always a charger, cell phone or iPad missing several times a day and it is always a crisis. The last family vacation we took, my parents left multiple chargers in their hotel room’s safe as if the housekeeping staff or some sort of thief might break in and want to charge something. If we do not immediately find the charger, cell phone or iPad on the loose, its whereabouts will be questioned repeatedly until resolved. I’ve learned that it’s better to put everything down and find that item unless I want my parents using my electronic devices.
7. “We want a new television, but it’s all so confusing. Will we need to get another Netflix account?”
That my parents use Netflix makes me proud. But the fact that they watched Judge Judy on an old television for multiple years that took 15 minutes to turn on and then flashed seizure inducing patterns across the screen upset me. It motivated me to refer them to my IT Department Husband who researched which flat screen made sense for them to buy. My parents get intimidated with words like “Plasma” versus “LED” and what the heck 1080p resolution means. They feel stupid buying a “smart” television and the thought of having to learn the ins and outs of another remote control makes their head spin. My husband guided them through this process and explained that an additional Netflix account wasn’t needed, just their username and password to allow the installation team to set up their account on the new television. Luckily they had already dug up their Netflix login credentials in advance of the new television’s delivery date so they could feel confidently prepared for its arrival. At last check, the TV installation team was coming back as they still couldn’t figure out how to use Netflix.
8. “I may have accidentally sent a friend request to your ex-boyfriend on Facebook. Can I take it back?”
Questions like this send me into tailspin of terror and require all non-urgent tasks to be immediately disbanded in favor or rectifying such a situation. My father has a habit of commenting on all of my friends’ Facebook status updates and “liking” most of their comments on anything that I post. I suppose he just wants to be involved and included in the conversation, but it’s likely against Facebook etiquette and may, at best, come off as “odd” for friends that may not know him well.
9. “I just wrote out a very long, detailed email and the whole thing got erased. What do I do?”
The “Edit / Undo” command has saved my parents countless times. So has the “Unsend” functionality that AOL email used to offer. My father is almost capable of forwarding an email to another person on his own without calling me in a panic that he accidentally forgot to delete some part of it. It’s a work in progress.
10. “I want to Facebook with your sister and the kids, but the camera’s not working.”
My mother is really talking about Facetime, but I don’t correct her. They want to know what the purpose of “Twitting” is when you can just say what you want on “the” Facetime (they mean Facebook). Thank goodness they haven’t discovered Pinterest or Etsy yet, or we’d need to reserve another 10 hours of lessons. I’ve successfully diverted the casual LinkedIn and Instagram questions but it’s only a matter of time before they start up again.
My parents have shown improvement over the last several years, or at least they’ve learned tolerance limitations and when to go straight to my husband with a technology crisis. The good news, however, is that they will still need assistance to learn how to leave a comment on this article defending themselves. I am sure that I will be just as challenged 30 years from now when we travel by teleport and post our Facebook status by utilizing a chip installed in our brains. Here’s hoping that my kids inherit my husband’s patience genes.