I’ve never been the type to embrace change with great enthusiasm, and from what I remember as a child, I come by this honestly.
For most of my younger years, my mother, who grew up on an Oklahoma farm, snubbed technology for a more simple way of life. She washed dishes by hand, dried clothes on a backyard line, and sewed my 1979 prom dress on a 1940 Singer.
When all the Farrell kids were grown and on our own, we’d call each other a few weeks before our mother’s birthday rolled around to try and reach a consensus about a gift idea. One year we all pitched in toward the purchase of a dryer, and though our mother often resorted to using the gift on cold winter days, come spring, the towels, bed sheets and boxer shorts would dry in the midday sun. “It’s better than Bounce,” she’d argue.
Several years ago, one of my older brothers gave our mother a new sewing machine with more buttons than a telephone switchboard. The machine was top-of-the-line, and for most modern-day seamstresses, would have surely made any sewing task a sheer joy. But as much as our mother appreciated the gift, after one attempt at reading the instructions, she packed the machine neatly in its box, called her generous son, thanked him profusely for his kindness, and explained she was too old to learn new ways. My brother’s wife now uses the new machine while my mother sits contentedly at her old Singer.
Like my mother, I don’t do well with new technology. I may know how to turn on a computer, but don’t start rattling on about bytes and ROM. I wish when warning lights came on in my car, I wouldn’t have to search through the owner’s manual just to find out I was low on windshield fluid or that one of my rear lights was out. Why can’t they just make things simple so that when you need to add windshield fluid, a light comes on that says “windshield fluid” or when your engine is about to blow, a light comes on that says, “need a new car.”
For Mother’s Day, my husband gave me a cordless phone. With the arrival of warm weather and dealing with an active 3-year-old, Glenn thought it would be nice if I could tote a phone from room to room as well as outdoors. I did, too, until I sat down with the owner’s manual and saw the front cover titled: “FT-90031FT-9003BK.”
I gulped and opened to the first page, an introduction to the phone’s features: selectable OGM, pitch-corrected quick play back, voice menu guidance, CPC on/off switch and VOX function, rapid access, programmable digital security codes, compandor noise reduction circuit and, this is the only one I understood, a long battery life.
My husband read through the manual, clearly understood the instructions and, one week after I attended Glenn’s two-hour seminar titled, “Phones for Dummies,” I now know how to push the red button labeled “TALK”, punch in a phone number, and, my proudest accomplishment, can now walk the entire length of the living room and talk at the same time.
Bring on the new millennium. I am primed and ready!
Mary Farrell Thomas writes a weekly column for the Daily Journal.