A couple of days ago I spoke to my ninety-some-year-old grandfather on the phone--it was a duty call, as I don't terribly enjoy talking to him, one of the reasons being that he's always trying to push upon me various gadgets that he's come up with. He sent me some storage boxes with sliding doors a while ago that I palmed off on my roommate, and earlier this year he almost forced a new desk on me despite my repeated protestations that I already had quite a good one and absolutely no room for another. He apparently has this very strong need to feel useful; personally, I think he could make himself a lot more useful by using some of that money he's got sitting around to help finance my education instead of sending me such a plethora of physical objects, the overabundance of which in my life is already effectively driving my rent up. But there's really no tactful way of telling him that.
However, on this occasion an unexpected reversal of our usual pattern took place. One of his major kicks, besides discoursing at length on the psychology of tennis (he was both an avid tennis player and a professor of psychology in his younger days) and describing his visits with medical professionals in detail to anyone who will listen, is devising novel (or, to his mind, revolutionary) organizational systems. But this time, when he once again asked me how I was currently keeping things organized--preparatory, of course, to an attempt to sell me on some complicated piece of pen-and-paper gimmickry--I was able to tell him that I had me a nice little electronic gadget
to handle such things. And lo and behold, within minutes I
seemed to have sold him
on it. He told me he'd look into getting one.
This is rather mind-boggling to one who knows my granddad. I mean, this is a guy who I don't think has ever sent an email in his life--at least, judging from the fact that when he told me his accountant's email address (for some reason he wanted me as well as my aunt to have his lawyer's and accountant's information "in case something happened to him"), he read off the user name and then said with a large question mark in his voice, "um...after that there's this thing that looks kind of like an A in a circle...." So, as you can imagine, I'm a little worried about just how he's going to handle having an electronic organizer in his life. I thought at first that he might not actually go through with it--after all, he once spoke of getting one of those little web-access machines that you can only send email on and nothing else, and as far as I know he never got around to doing it. But today he called me again to let me know that he'd gone out and looked at both handhelds and laptops, and wasn't sure which he should get. I choked a little at this, and informed him gently but firmly that for his purposes he does not
need a laptop. Now I hold my breath in anticipation of his next few phone calls, which at this rate will no doubt be frantic (or the plodding ninety-year-old version of frantic) requests for tech support. I'm not sure I want to contemplate trying to explain the ins and outs of PalmOS to him over the phone
in a way he'll understand.
I remember my dad having to help his dad (my other grandfather) program his VCR during his declining years. I didn't think I'd be taking on a similar yet much more complex role before I hit thirty. Or hell, ever, given that my dad at sixty-one is at least tech-savvy enough to write simple programs in QBasic.
But more importantly, the very thought of my grandfather owning anything that has software on it seems to me like it must be a sign of the apocalypse.