Teaching Tech to a (Baby) Boomer
by Meghan_Hill
 Meghan's Musings
February 13, 2012 10:30 AM | 1180 views | 1 1 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I'm no technological prodigy, but I do know enough to be dangerous. This has always been a problem for me in that I end up becoming the de facto help desk to everyone I know from people at work to my grandmother's neighbor (God bless my grandma who thinks I really CAN do anything). But my biggest consumer of technological knowledge is my mother.

When I began this blog, I had an agreement with my family that I would never blog about them specifically, I'd never mention them by name, and I'd never poke fun at them. After spending a couple of hours with my Mom peeking over my shoulder while I updated her printer drivers, she gave me special dispensation to write this. At least Mom has a sense of humor about it!

One thing you first have to understand is that Mom puts every other type A personality I've ever met to shame. Why do something now when it could have been done five minutes ago? Nothing ever goes broken in my parents' house for long and projects, chores, and everything else has to be done or written down the very minute Mom thinks of it. Admirable quality, really, especially since I could be classified as the exact opposite-- a person who can totally ignore chores and ends up racing the trash to the curb in my pajamas at 6 in the morning before the garbage truck makes the turn in the cul du sac .

All this is to say that when something goes wrong that Mom can't immediately fix, it is usually something technology related and she usually has to call her ultra laid back (not to be confused with lazy) daughter to fix it.

One of my first memories of acting as "Help Desk Meg" was back in the fall of '96. I was at Georgia on a sunny Saturday and my pager started buzzing it's fool head off. It was a 911 page from my parents. In a panic, I grab the phone and start dialing while scanning the room to get a visual on my keys because someone is obviously in the hospital or dead.

"You have to come home, Meg."

"What's wrong Mom?"

"The TV is broken and Dad can't watch football!"


(Yep, even transplanted Yankees get the SEC football bug.)

Relieved and just slightly annoyed, I toss the keys on the desk. "What happened?"

"Well, the batteries died in the remote. . . " Everything after that sounded like the teacher from the Peanuts.

I sat down on the bed as graceful as a dropped sack of potatoes and began walking Mom through the process of reprogramming the remote. These days, universal remotes “keep” the codes for each individual entertainment center components, but in those days, most every time you changed the batteries in the remote, you had to reprogram it.

“Why do I have to do this, Meg? Why doesn’t the remote just work for everything?”

So I begin to explain that the remote speaks lots of languages but has to be told what language each component speaks because the components only speak one language. THAT went over well (not).

Over the years, I’ve written post-its, crib-sheets, notebooks, and all manner of "mini-manuals" to facilitate the use of items like the clock on the intercom, the DVD player, the stereo, the printer, the proper way to shut down the computer, how to cut & paste. Oh and they aren't written for Mom they're written for ME because it is easier to refer Mom to the sheet that says "How To Watch a DVD" than to drop everything and run over there because everything on TV is a rerun and there's an armful of new $5 DVDs from Target.

I always know to expect a call every time we “Spring Forward” or “Fall Back”. I’m known as something of a “Clock whisperer” in the family as it seems I am the only one who can change the time on my Dad’s favorite watch, or the intercom. Luckily, VCRs have been replaced by DVDs and cable boxes with keep their own time (literally).

I’ve learned to ask Mom to define things because I learned (the hard way, of course) that my (and the universally accepted) definition of a technological term and Mom’s definition don’t always jive. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked how to “copy” something “to the printer”. To be fair, Mom has a printer/scanner/copier, so “copy” in itself wasn’t puzzling--but the “to the printer” part was. I began to explain and demonstrate that she need only place the paper face down on the glass and press the copy button...but was interrupted by the question “But what if I don’t have the paper?” When I asked why she wouldn’t have the paper she wants to copy, Mom replied “Because it is still in the computer,” in a tone that was code for “duh, Meghan”.

“Mom, define copy.”

This was followed by a vocabulary lesson on copy/print/scan (copy is printer only, print is computer to printer, and scan is printer to computer). Sadly, I didn’t think to put all this down on paper in a Venn Diagram so I have no doubt that the same conversation will occur next week in a curious game of déjà vu.

God bless Mom, though. She really wants to learn this stuff. Which can be interesting because, really, not everything has to be learned. For example, think back to the event that precipitated this blog entry. Updating printer drivers. Now that is not something Mom necessarily needs to learn how to do. I'd prefer not to waste my capacity to teach on something that is so infrequently needed, and would rather spend my instructional capital on something more worthy, like how to permanently delete the deleted files in the email program or all the fun, time-saving tricks that are hidden in the mysterious world that is known as the "left click", or conduct "drag & drop" drills. Nevertheless, here I was with Mom looking anxiously over my shoulder while I downloaded and installed printer drivers when behind me I hear "Why is it asking about a Gateway? My computer is a Toshiba."

Somehow, Dad seems to dodge every single one of these questions. . . some of which I'm certain he could answer. I can only assume he finds us so entertaining, he just does not want to interfere.


Because I was uncomfortable to publish this without Mom giving her stamp of approval, I called Mom and read the blog to her before sending it to be published. While Mom gave her blessings, the reading did not go without Mom interrupting to remind me that her scanner still doesn’t work and she “already forgot how to do that drag & drop s***”.

I didn’t have the heart to ask her to define “scanner”.


Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 27, 2012
Glad I wasn't drinking anything while reading this...

I once had a life in retail - selling computers no less - and spent about two hours helping a customer load his printer drivers (back in the Windows and DOS days). Nothing seemd to work.

Only to determine he didn't have his printer plugged in...
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