Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Vieille Chose

My mom turned 94 this year.  She not only still has all her marbles,she has more of them than I do!  She’s active and alert, is in remarkably good health (touch wood!) and is in better shape than a lot of people 30 years younger than she. (For that, we are all extremely thankful!)  She was born in 1924 and the mind boggles at the changes that have happened in the world during her lifetime.  However, and not surprisingly, technology has gone off and left her in the dust, and there are times when trying to help her remain connected to the modern world is like being in the movie “Back to the Future.”  Case in point:

We have finally converted my dyed-in-the-wool, write-checks-for-everything Mom to the ease and convenience of credit cards with bonus points (she got one through her bank after my dad died, because their only credit card was in his name, and that was the only way she could get one in her name).  Now she charges practically everything on it, writes one check to pay the credit card bill in full every month (she could pay it on line, but we won’t go there!), redeems her bonus points for gift cards to local restaurants and she is a happy camper.  So, this afternoon, she calls me and says that “since Charles changed her email program to Windows 7” (momspeak to English translation:  Windows Live Mail decided to stop playing nice with everything else and Charles, her computer guy, took it off and loaded Mozilla Thunderbird in its place),  when she tries to check her credit card bonus points on her bank’s website, she can’t because it wants her to upgrade her browser before it will let her.  So I went over to get to the bottom of it and see if I could get things sorted out.

Upgrading the browser had no effect and I ended up having to call her bank’s help desk.  Turned out the program her bank uses to track bonus points doesn’t like Firefox and insists you use either Google Chrome or Internet Explorer to access it.  She uses Firefox for everything else and it works just fine.  Now she has to load a separate browser to look at this one website so she can check her credit card points, which is stupid, but that’s the internet for you. (The poor schlimazel at the help desk had no clue why this was even a big deal.)  Naturally, I had to walk her through how you do that so she could write down all the steps (What Internet Explorer calls a “favorite” is really a bookmark, mom.  No, I don’t know why they have to call it something different.)

When I used the phone on her computer desk to call about the credit card website, the sound quality (the phone is 15 years old, if it’s a day) was so horrible I could barely understand the guy I talked to (and I have normal hearing). (You want surreal? I was trying to interpret between a millennial who I could barely understand on the phone and my mom, who is literally 4 years older than sliced bread.)  When she gets a phone call when she’s sitting at her computer desk, sitting right next to this phone, she gets up and goes into another room to another phone to answer it because the sound quality on this phone is so horrible (and she’s so hearing impaired), she can’t understand what people are saying.  Why doesn’t she get a new phone?  Because this phone is hooked up to a caller ID box from the 1980’s that she knows how to operate (so she can see who called her and didn’t leave a message!), and she’s afraid that the new phone won’t work with this caller ID box. Never mind that her cordless phone handsets have a caller ID function which she (a) didn’t know they had, and when I showed it to her, (b) she thinks is too complicated and/or too much trouble to use.

I don’t know why this surprises me.  There are only two modern phone jacks in the whole house.  The rest of them are all still the original phone jacks from when her house was built in 1962, the kind that require a phone cord with prongs.   I’m assuming the “new” one in the computer room had to have been put in by the AT&T guy so he could install their DSL when they first got a computer in the 1990’s, and the one in the kitchen was probably put in by another AT&T guy when prongs became obsolete and that phone quit working. If it wasn’t for the cordless phone system I got her (the base unit is plugged into the kitchen jack, with handsets by her chair in the den and in her bedroom) (which don’t have to be plugged into a phone jack that is too expensive/too much trouble to update), she would only have one usable phone in the whole house.

Anyway, I found her a corded phone on Amazon with a caller ID function with a large display that only requires one button press to access, and has a volume control on the handset, so hopefully now she won’t have to get up to go into another room to answer the phone instead of using the one sitting right next to her.  (I bet I can get it to work with her old caller ID box, too.)

While I was sorting all this out, she started complaining about not being able to hear her doorbell. It’s one of those wireless gizmos that some friend from church installed for her when her other one quit working.  It only has one wall unit, and she has it plugged in a plug/point in the den.  When she’s in the den, she can barely hear it.  When she’s anywhere else in the house, she can’t hear it at all.   To make her case, while I was working on her computer, she went out and plonged it, and even I could barely hear it.  The plug-in unit doesn’t seem to have a volume control on it.  So I went on Amazon and found her one with three wall units so she can plug one in the den, one in the computer room and one in her bedroom.  It also has four volume settings and, hopefully, one of them is “dull roar”  so we can set it where she can hear it.  All this tech is due to arrive next Friday, at which point I get to go install it all and show her how to use it.  Stay tuned.

Her broker, who she has probably had longer than she’s had that phone,  gave her a 10-pound ham for Xmas.  She lives alone, so most of it went into the freezer.  Guess what happened to another big slab of it.  (My cardiologist says I’m not supposed to eat ham.  Too much salt and nitrates.  Let’s don’t tell him. )


Author: WOL

My burrow, "La Maison du Hibou Sous Terre" is located on the flatlands of West Texas where I live with my computer, my books, and a lot of yarn waiting to become something.

3 thoughts on “Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Vieille Chose”

  1. I still write checks for everything I can. In a few cases, direct debit and deposit have demanded their place in my world, so I’ve given in to that degree. It’s wonderful that your Mom even will approach a computer. Mine never would, and I have an older friend who absolutely refuses to have one in her house. Of course, she doesn’t drive, either — never has — and pretty much lives a little house in the hill country life, so there’s that. But she’s mostly happy, apart from a little arthritis and such, has a daughter nearby who takes her shopping and to doctors, so it works — especially since the daughter and neighbors aren’t at all resentful of doing so. They get paid in homemade bread, pies, and cookies. I’d make that trade in a minute!


  2. My dad had always wanted a computer but never did get one… and I’m very glad about that. If he were alive today, he’d be sending me stuff every few minutes and being a total pain.

    I ‘get’ the need to stick to things one knows, though… my brain’s getting worse and worse with adapting to new technology and I used to be really good at it. Glad you’ve fixed up your mom with some things that will help her.

    By the way, recently, I switched from Firefox to Opera – it’s much, much better than Firefox which I’d used for years. Maybe she could use that?


  3. 2 of my Great-grandmothers lived well into their 90s and both were equally full of life, energy and will to learn like your Mother! And both lived through some of the worst times possible, including 2 world wars (with some truly terrible events during WW2) and martial law time in Poland. I wish I had half of their strength even in my 60s!
    That your Mother learned to use a computer is just great, I love reading such stories. I wish a lot of health to her!


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