Too Old To Care

After a lot of thought I have come to realise the point of young people is they’re who I/we turn to when we can’t fathom how to master the simplest high tech, internet call it what you like electrical thingamajig. I came to this conclusion after repeatedly being asked by neighbours to perform the sort of digital task most ten year olds do in their sleep, between buying Bitcoin and watching streamed pornography films on their phone (nobody does video anymore). We’re not talking advanced cybernetic algorithms or tracking viral DNA code here. The assistance I’ve been able to provide to people even older than me is – accessing their bank account online, and buying a airline tickets. I printed an online map for another who needed to get to a hospital miles away and who was so thrilled I thought he’d hug me to death.  Yes I know they’re the easiest things any any primate with a tablet can accomplish but believe me when you’ve spent your life opening the mail (anyone?) and popping down the bank (remember them) the new other way of doing things is, well – off putting to say the least. 

Infact I came to this realisation much earlier, some time in the 90s while struggling with another Baby Boomer to programme a VHS recorder (you know – a box that was plugged into the television  to record programmes and used large plastic boxed video tapes and was controlled by a timer); a sort of forerunner of the DVD recorder. Anyway neither of us could make head nor tail of the instructions and were only able to record yours truly on an island in the Pacific Ocean for the BBC thanks to the deft ability of my friend’s six year old Millennial son who I seem to recall completed the operation single handed while simultaneously channel hopping with the remote control.  

Two of my neighbours have mobile phones reminiscent of those old fashioned pocket calculators; about the size of a packet of fags with screens the size of matchboxes. They’re called dumb phones by the modern generation despite the fact that they are anything but dumb; people, usually older,  sometimes talk on them. I only mention them because on more than one occasion both phones have erupted with deafening ring tones striking up like exuberant cabaret dance bands. Upon asking each how they did that both confessed (with pride) it was their grandchildren who configured their phones to be so annoying. 

Another has a smart speaker in the dining room that yells “gin and tonic o’clock” every day at 5.30pm. A useful reminder programmed not by her but her Generation Y daughter.

I bought a new old car three years ago and it’s taken me that long to figure out how the music system works. It does accept compact discs, but who buys them anymore? Link it to your phone advised my mechanic. Fine if I’d figured out how to download music on to my not so smart as some phone. As I understand it there aren’t CD players in the newest vehicles which by my reckoning will translate into a lot of head scratching or employment opportunities for Generation Alphas. (Look it up).  I sat in a Tesla recently and listened to the owner ask the car to run the windscreen wipers and switch on the radio.

Ironically the smarter phones become the less people speak on them. Anybody, everybody, persons who can’t write a sentence for toffee, haven’t written a letter since being forced to pen Christmas and birthday thank you letters as a child, would rather text, email or What’sUp than talk. My friends always answer with a hi Johnny whereupon  when I inquire how they know it’s me their reply is you’re the only person who calls. So that’s nearly £1000 for an iPhone you don’t talk on.

Infact I need a new phone and I’m shopping around for a Generation Z-er to advise me. My current one the Vodafone salesperson said was ideal for me, his mother has the same model. The model he pulled out his jeans made me gasp. I’ve had drinks and au d’oeuvres served to me on smaller things. 

I’ll admit I’m not comfortable with the demise of high street banks, post offices, shops, anything useful being replaced by online or call centre communications. Barclaycard texts me with payment reminders that begin hi or heads up. Heads up? It’s a bank and we’re talking money (infact, that’s the issue – we’re not talking). I’m that person who doesn’t speak when spoken to by a digital voice prompt. I’ll press keys on command but I draw the line at having a conversation with it. I ignore them when in tech speak they suggest that I say things like, resisting the temptation to shout bollocks. I always wait and eventually someone in a living room in a different time zone picks up. We’ll finish our conversation with them suggesting an app or a bot or a chat, or all three. I say I would never do that as they’d be out of a job.

All this digital malarky is so convenient. That’s what the pretty young thing at a wedding I attended said referring to an online retailer – whose name I can’t bring myself to mention -that gets to know the sort of tunes she likes to hear online and suggesting others. Because it’s convenient. When people use the ‘c’ word I automatically think of public lavatories and nerds. I associate it with salad rinsers, electric trousers presses, Roladex filing systems and electric hair dryer stands

Yes, I know I can have an app (!) for all essential services on my not so smart as some phone. Both my regular supermarkets encourage me to have theirs and we all know people who use apps to check-in for flights and trains. That said the three recent and longest hold-ups I’ve experienced at a supermarket check-out was when customers, again, even older than me, attempted to app pay for their groceries. All three failed and needed the sales assistant (much younger, probably early Generation Z-ers) to do whatever it takes to help people who ought to know better to join the 21st century. 

In a few short years whatever it is that Generation Zs and Alphas are doing faster and better than me will be struggling to keep up with what’s coming down the line. Because what’s so new today will be gone tomorrow. Floppy or laser discs anyone? Four track tapes and mini discs, or those Apple spectacles with computer screens on the insides? History is full of redundant break throughs. Encyclopedias? No, Wikipedia and Google are so much more convenient, especially at pub quizzes.  And what about the typewriter; I recently bought to avoid distraction from the convenient internet? Somehow in the course of a conversation with a young woman at my opticians she confessed she didn’t know what a typewriter is? Which is funny because they and vinyl records and books are all making admittedly limited comebacks. 

If I were e of those Z-ers wearing ear pods with my phone glued to my hand at all times I’d think seriously about moving to Norfolk. According to an article in The Guardian there are more over 65 year olds there than in any other county in the UK. And why not, it’s the centre of the universe if you want tea rooms and flat easy walking. Sounds good, and the beer is tasty too. I’ll bet digital trauma is a pandemic there with thousands of bald heads being scratched daily until they bleed. Maybe a new frontier for career minded young people who think the cheque book is travel guide from from eastern Europe. 

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