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
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 myspacebling.com? 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