On June 17, 2016, while in New York visiting my parents, The Mother lost her iPod and mobile phone. This was quite a tragedy given that she only recently learned how to use the darn things. I mean, it took four years before she figured out how to listen to voicemails without assistance and about as long before she ever played a single song on the iPod.
And, it was at that same time when—after nearly setting her hair on fire while igniting a tray of magnesium powder to flash a family photo op—she resolved to get a new camera. And so, to my regret and dismay, I took The Mother to Best Buy to purchase an iPhone.
On January 9, 2007 Apple announced the release of the first multi-use, touch screen device which combined a phone, an iPod and a camera into a hand-held gizmo called the iPhone.
"It is a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone," Steve Jobs famously bragged, then added "...and 50 years ahead of Mrs. Decker's ability to use it."
See, The Mother—a former schoolteacher, union president and certified grammar Nazi—has all the technological savvy of a stir-crazy hamster staring blankly at the latch on its cage door. I mean, this is a woman who until only recently thought that when my voicemail picked up a call, I was on the other end listening: "Eddie? It's Mom. Are you there? Eddie? Pick up, pick up—pick up!"
Her most recent email to me was a computer question. "Hi Eddie, I got a pop-up message saying to close my open programs because I'm low on memory. What is meant by 'open programs' and how do I close them?"
Just sit back for a moment and think about what that means. It means Mom has never closed a program before—not on purpose anyway. Keep in mind, she didn't just get a computer last week. She's been using Windows for a decade. And Mom is not a stupid woman. Nor is she suffering from dementia. I think the reason The Mother doesn't close programs is because she's terrified of doing something irreversible, as if she might accidentally delete Jesus if the wrong button is pressed.
Somewhere in China an unknown factory worker assembled a processor that came from Japan, an accelerometer from Germany, a French gyroscope, an American chipset, a Taiwanese semiconductor and an Indonesian battery into a chassis from South Korea and shipped it to a Best Buy in Monroe, New York. It was there where The Little iPhone That Could patiently waited for someone to take it home and discover all the wonderful things they could do together: Googling valuable facts and stats, mapping the planet's greatest landmarks, setting calendar reminders for meetings in which you will be solving the world's biggest problems, and taking prize-winning photos of history as it is happening! Instead, however, The Little iPhone That Could was purchased by The Mother—and something inside it died that day.
On the drive home from Best Buy, The Mother is freaking out. "I hate this thing!" she snorts as she repeatedly jabs at the display like she is poking the chest of a student who can't stop dangling his modifiers. I tell Mom to slow down and focus her aim but she won't listen and gives up. She then retrieves the old iPod cord from the dashboard charger.
"Should I keep this?" Mom asks.
"Nah, it won't work with the iPhone," I say, as I gently try to remove the cord from her grasp. But she doesn't let go. And now it is a tug of war, which I lose. Largely because, well, The Mother is a coarder (a cord hoarder). She's got drawers-full of random cords from devices she hasn't owned since the telegraph was a gleam in Samuel Morse's eye.
"But it's got the same plug as the iPhone cord," she says, referring to the USB end of the cord. I explain to her—knowing full well she will not retain a shred of this information—that the other end is what connects to the phone and it doesn't match. Nonetheless, she holds onto the cord in case—you know—Armageddon comes and there's a shortage of rope.
Once home, I teach her how to text. After an hour of tutorials, this is what she sends me: "lyes! it came on again so I don't have to put this then. but I thought if you get anything get you need to send it."
Note to Self: put texting lessons on hold for now.
Later that night I hear a commotion coming from the computer room. I enter to see The Mother furiously stabbing the old, incorrect iPod cord into her new iPhone. "I hate this thing!" she shouts.
On June 28, 2016, my parents drop me off at Newark Airport to catch a return flight to San Diego. When I land, I power up my phone and see that I have 21 voicemails from—The Mother.
Upon seeing them, I panic. Is everyone all right? Did somebody die? But of course, you know what happened. It was 21 inadvertent dials from jabbing at some other app she was trying to open.
On the cab ride home, for entertainment, I listen to the first few voicemails. "I hate this thing!" she says to The Father. You and me both, Mom.
You and me both.