March 9th, 2009

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01:12 pm - one day, this will be you
Recently, I ended up servicing some older folks' home computers. I don't really "do" residential service anymore, so this was more than a bit out of my normal routine.

Hoo-boy. Everybody knows that old people tend to get kind of disconnected with reality. What we tend to forget is that old people also maintain their own version of reality... especially now that they have the internet helping them stay connected to as many of their peers as possible.

Let me tell you something, old people fucking LOVE powerpoint. My wife pointed out that "it's great that at least they use it", but then again, they use it like a New Guinea tribesman uses a rifle - hold it by the barrel and club the living shit out of anything that moves. Also like the tribesman, they think that shit is GREAT, it is the best club EVER, and they want to SHARE how fucking great it is with you. They are like, holy fuck did you see how I beat the shit out of that pig? You wonder why the fuck you put a scope on the rifle the last time you visited. (So does he.)

Another thing about old people is that they have friends with names like "Blobby" or "Gan-gan" or "Wee-waw". At some point, it has ceased to seem odd to them that a person might choose to replace their own fucking name with an unflattering adjective, or a random collection of syllables. They might not do that themselves, but it no longer seems WEIRD to them that they know people who do. At some point, in their view, it has become perfectly reasonable to insist that the entire world mimic an infant when addressing you, because that shit is FUCKING ADORABLE.

So here you are, installing a powerpoint viewer so that the emails that "Lumpy" or whoever sent are again openable. You open one, to make sure that everything works properly, and you are treated to utterly unremarkable stock photos of puppies and kittens, lifted from magazines or maybe an ad agency catalog. Every slide has "DO NOT CLICK!!!!!" stamped on it in several random locations, with the occasional "NE CLICQUEZ PAS ICI!!! :) :) :)" to break up the monotony and display how fucking erudite the author is. A MIDI file plays in the background. It is Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and it is rendered using the default sample banks on the motherboard's built-in audio chipset. It makes you yearn to go back in time and kill Mozart. The possibility of causality loops and/or rifts in the space-time continuum seems, frankly, worth it.

You close the powerpoint quickly, and let the old person know "it works now." Nice try, but no dice - you must now watch at least five of these in the presence of the old person, because they don't get the logic of "these are powerpoints, powerpoint viewer has been installed, these will now work." What if one of them doesn't?

The next one is an illustration of a space shuttle, apparently lifted from a 1980s science textbook or Popular Science article. It is the only slide, and it is not animated. A low-fi copy of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" plays in the background. While you are reluctantly watching this, there will be a brief conversation about how "Glompy" or whoever "just sends the funniest emails, all day long!" Old-people eyes will likely be shining while you are told this.


OK, OK, you get the point: "old people, lol". But you have to realize, at the pace that technology moves, one day that is going to be you. Now imagine what that "old people lol" scene is going to look like for you. What are you into right now? What seems a little odd and new right now? What is, perhaps, just a little bit beyond you right at this moment, but you think you've about got the hang of it? No seriously, imagine it:

"Boy, why aren't you following my Twitter? Don't you want to know what your old Granddad is up to?"
"Granddad, nobody uses Twitter anym -"
"And why haven't you friended me to your Myspace? Is there something you don't want your old Granddad to see?"
"Myspace? You think I use Myspace? Seriously, Granddad, nobody's on that!"
"You don't give me any of your lip, young man! Now friend me so I can see what you've been writing. And have you been to They have the best graphics!"

"Help me out with this, son. Your old Dad's a mite pissed at this website; I'm firing up the old Low Orbit Ion Cannon."
"Oh god, Dad, not again... For the millionth time, that doesn't WORK anymore. We don't even use TCP/IP anymore! All that old 'internet' stuff is just emulated on the Cloud!"
"Yeah yeah yeah, you just help your old man and keep your 'Cloud' crap to yourself. Now why won't it work? Do I need to install the Visual Basic file again?"
"Oh, Dad... jeez. I give up."

"Honeybunch, help me out will you? I need to get this running and it says I'm out of space. I don't know what that means, I've deleted everything off my hard drive and..."
"Um, it's talking about your cloud space Granddad. You have plenty of local storage, but the app needs more room in your... oh good lord, what's with all these freaking cats?"
"Those are LOLcats honey! Oh, I have some funny ones, let me show you..."
"Um... yeah, I know they're LOLcats Granddad. I just... ugh. You just... listen, just don't save them to your cloudspace, save them to... oh, nevermind. Here, let me move those for you, ok... ok... all right, you can install your app now."
"Look at this one! It's an anteater! 'Fuck you, I'm an anteater!' Ha ha ha ha. Sorry honey, the old man's sense of humor is a little vulgar sometimes."

"Heh heh heh, did you get that video I linked to on your Facebook boy?"
"Faceboo... oh, you mean that old 'website' thing you made me sign up for? You know I don't really use that stuff Gran... oh JEEZ Granddad, 2girls1cup AGAIN? Seriously?"
"Heh heh... no, keep watching boy! It's not what you think. They're gonna do something else in a minute!"
"Granddad, I KNOW. EVERYBODY knows. Just... look, just stop with this stuff, okay?"

Maybe you won't be that kind of old person. (Yes, you will.) But even if you aren't (and really, you will be), they will be your peers. You will relate to them. You will understand them, and you will appreciate what they think is funny, and it will seem completely fucking normal.

You don't have to believe me... all you have to do is wait.


(12 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture] From: staringgoldfish
Date: March 9th, 2009 - 07:51 pm
I've already decided the kind of old man I'm going to be; the one that wears purple camo pants, a thin vest with about eight dozen badges on it, ZZ Top beard, walker with a bicycle horn and rear view mirror, and a t-shirt that says, "If you're not Dutch, you're not much," even though I'm Norwegian/Irish/Chippewa Indian.

I haven't settled on the shoes yet, but the hat will be festooned with badges as well.

[User Picture] From: clme
Date: March 10th, 2009 - 06:57 am
Oh my... if I don't turn into a classic dirty old man this will probably be a close second.

My wife is dutch... I already have that shirt somewhere in the house.
I'm also Norwegian and Indian. Somewhere in the sordid past there was an Irish guy. Also a Scot, but that could have been 'scotch' imported with the Irish guy. (ha) But yeah, Grandma isn't too clear on that.

However, instead of purple camo pants I'll have to do the track pants that are never tied tight enough so my ass crack is always showing. The vest will be some olive drab affair with a dozen pockets. The walker will have a bicycle basket on it in which I keep things that I never actually use. The bicycle horn would be optional, but the rearview mirror is a definite yes.

Maybe I'd stick a few of those flashing 'bicyclist riding at night' flashers on there too, only I'd have it on during the day, or in theaters. :-)

This is too much fun. I shouldn't take joy in imagining myself as an old bastard that doesn't care what people think.

[User Picture] From: staringgoldfish
Date: March 11th, 2009 - 06:57 am
It's the dream, is what it is.

[User Picture] From: ravenword
Date: March 9th, 2009 - 07:52 pm
This has already happened to me with text messaging, at the ripe age of 24. My wireless plan doesn't include texts (or internet! just... you know... phone calls), and I cannot comprehend why people can't call me on the phone anymore. It takes 10 times as long to have a simple exchange of information by texting as it would to just dial my number and say "Hey, we're going to the Corner Tavern." "The one in Midtown?" "No, the one in Little Five Points." "Oh okay, what time?" "9:00." I guess with texting you can be having that exact conversation with like a dozen people at once, but still. When I actually call people on my cell phone I am made to feel like a lame old geezer.

[User Picture] From: pantsnotneeded
Date: March 9th, 2009 - 08:13 pm
This looses so much in text. The audio version was awesome.

[User Picture] From: pantsnotneeded
Date: March 9th, 2009 - 08:15 pm
Also, I read it in your child and granddad voice which I think adds a lot to it.

[User Picture] From: jimbojones
Date: March 9th, 2009 - 08:16 pm
The pained "oh, Granddad..." voice with the facepalm is pretty key, yeah.

It also loses something if the audience isn't familiar with Twitter, /b/, etc.

[User Picture] From: lindapendant
Date: March 9th, 2009 - 08:36 pm
Just yesterday I was telling Robert about how I'd think 'Oh my god I'll never wear that/say that/do that' - ten and twenty years ago, and now I'm wearing that/saying that/doing that and how horrified I am every time I realize that I'm wearing/saying/doing something I'd 'oh my god NEVER do'

Last summer we spent hours and hours walking around the city and my fashionable shoes were killing me and I said,'I'm going to have to find some comforta....oh my GOD!!!'

I am so terrified to be eighty because absofuckingLUTELY I am going to be saying, 'Justin can you come over and show me how to turn on the new TV?'

[User Picture] From: clme
Date: March 10th, 2009 - 02:21 am
Whenever a member of my family tries to get me into doing residential work anymore I actually direct them to my grandfather.

He may install two antivirus programs and a pirated copy of XP, but damnit I don't have to deal with them. On the bright side, since he just reinstalls everyone instead of troubleshooting anymore I don't get very many escalations from him anymore. When he calls me up with an issue half the time its simple shit like he just forgot that Vista keeps data in the 'users' folder instead of 'documents and settings' or that he needs to power cycle the cable modem after he hooks up something with a new MAC address.

I still help out the occasional person. I try not to work on his personal computers though. I get enough of his racist/political/dirty emails that I certainly dont want to know what he keeps for himself.

But yes... he loves the fucking PowerPoints. Especially the ones containing political cartoons with an "Obama the magic negro" background, or the 5 meg one containing 'our troops suffer in Iraq' pictures that is somehow supposed to make me actually support the Iraq invasion.

Part of why I stopped working on the family computers was their disbelief that I wouldn't give them free copies of MS Office (for teh PowerPoint) anymore. Half the time they wanted me to somehow shit out free hardware that was better than what they were using. *sigh* I'm willing to work on the shit for free, but the parts and software need to be legit now.

OH yes... and all my elderly relatives send the occasional text messages now. It takes them a half hour to type one out, but they do it. Occasionally I get something like "R U coming to xmas lol?" What was the LOL for? I hate it when people use LOL and mean it, but what the fuck? GAAAAAAAH.

[User Picture] From: clme
Date: March 10th, 2009 - 02:41 am
This is what I imagine... a former techie guy trying to deal with stuff that changed faster than he did. Like Amateur radio guys from the 70's trying to deal with things now, or MCSE's from the 1990s trying to use Vista.

"Grandpa, why are you still using Windows 9? Why haven't you loaded Microsoft Cloud on your palmgarminipod?"
"I need something that will read all my old DVDs"
"No one uses DVDs anymore grandpa. Hey, wait, what are you doing?"
"I'm trying to plug in my USB key into this watchamacallit so that you can listen to the MP3 that your great uncle sent me of his dog farting"
"Thats not a USB port Grandpa. Thats a holographic projector"
"Damnit. Why doesn't this phone have a USB port?"
"Yeah yeah, just reboot it so we can play the mp3"
"Graaaandpa. You just dont get it"

[User Picture] From: discogravy
Date: March 10th, 2009 - 03:22 am
I am thinking that your conversation is going to be along the lines of

"I used to like the Microsoft, you know. But then I got smart, I learned The Linux."
"yeah grampa jimmy whatever, I just installed microsoft linux on your eyeball-controller servo, try not to look at any viruses until next week at least OK?"

[User Picture] From: clme
Date: March 10th, 2009 - 06:36 am
'The Microsoft'
'The Linux'

Oh damn. I completely forgot about the old people prefacing things inappropriately with 'the' aspect of it.

"Grandpa, what are you doing?"
"I'm uninstalling the Symantec from your computer and installing the Google antivirus"
"Grandpa, thats the toaster"
"L.O.L. you're right... the toaster runs the Linux, doesn't it".

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