Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The High Tech Huxtables

Image courtesy of digitalart 
Here’s a 21st century Norman Rockwell moment for you: I was sitting on the couch in between my parents: me with an iPhone, my Mom with an iPad, and my Dad with an iPod.  How I wish I’d gotten a picture of this. What a holiday card that would’ve made. We looked like the high-tech Huxtables. What had happened was…

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Avid readers that we are, my Mom and I actually haven’t read a book in years. We prefer to listen to unabridged audio books. Whenever my book club chooses its next selection I immediately check the library’s website to find the book on CD. Yes, I know. I can just download the audio file. That works for me but sucks for my Mom who still owns and uses a CD player. Don’t act like you don’t have somebody in your family who does the same thing. I daresay if we do some digging we might find one of your kith and kin still clinging to their Sony WalkMan.

Over the last year it’s been getting harder to find physical CDs of audio books. Publishers seem to be going straight to digital. So my Mom has missed out on a few of our book club discussions. This isn’t the worst thing in the world. As the name Chat, Chew & Sip Book Club implies, we are a group of women who gather to talk shit, eat chicken, and drink wine; and not necessarily in that order. Sometimes we start with the wine. (Okay, most times we start with the wine.) Oh yeah, and we read books too.
(Note: Our club is not women only. In fact it’s rumored that a man did come to a meeting once many years ago. Poor thing, I don’t know what became of him.)

We’re a fun and informal group. So much so that actually reading the book is nice but not necessary. Our book club founder and president almost never gets past the dust jacket. And the rare times she does its cause for applause, hugs, and high fives. And then one of us (and by one of us I mean, me) is compelled to ask: “Who are you and what have you done with our president?”
It’s still fun for those of us who have read the latest book to talk about it, and I feel bad that my Mom hasn’t been able to. I’ve bought her MP3 players in the past, so I can share audio book downloads with her but it just hasn’t worked out. The devices were either too small, too complicated, or both. It doesn’t get simpler than an iPod, but I still worried that size would be an issue. Then I got the bright idea to turn my old iPad1 into a giant iPod.

I completely un-pimped it. There’re only two icons on the home screen: photos and music. I even locked the screen so it won’t rotate. There’s no internet connection, no password, no apps. You could say I made it idiot proof, but it’s more accurate to say I tried to make it frustration proof.

My Mom is not an idiot, but she’s not in the least bit techie. She’s never used a computer. I’ll repeat that: she’s never used a computer. So we’ve been having mini tech tutorials. I try to go slow remembering that what’s intuitive to me is not to her. The end game, after all, is to listen to audio books not tweak the trajectory of in-orbit satellites.

My Dad is also trying to help. With his iPod Touch he’s already familiar with the platform but he’s not an expert. For example, he asked me if he could use his iPod to read the boxes he sees in the newspaper. I figured out that he meant the increasingly ubiquitous QR codes that stores use to promote special deals. My Dad is all about the deal. So I said, “Sure. You just need an app.” And then my parents both said in unison, “What’s an app?” Oh dear.

You see, my Dad is techie but not Apple techie.  He’s a windows guy. He knows how to get to the “C” prompt (C:\>), on purpose. He knows how to clean up a system registry and what the term “MSconfig sys” means. He was on the Geek Squad before there was a Geek Squad. He’s accustomed to computers being difficult and disappointing, so he is sometimes baffled by Apple’s simplicity. Well, I think he gets it. He just doesn’t trust it. Thank you, Windows Vista.

And so that’s how we ended up on the couch like Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear having our iNegro moment.  As my Mom continued getting comfy with the iPad (it’s very slow going), my Dad and I spent the next hour figuring out his Apple ID and password. Then we (and by, we, I mean me) had to find, download, and test a QR reader that he liked.

Avid readers though we may be I’m glad it didn’t take too much convincing to talk my Dad out of reading Apple’s new and improved, 56-page Terms of Service Agreement. I don’t mean to prejudge but it looks like a snoozer. Besides, it’s probably better to wait until it comes out on audio. 

Thanks for reading The Urban Erma. You can subscribe to the blogcast (yes, I made up this word) FREE on iTunes. And, in case you were wondering, in addition to blogging I am also an amazing stand-up comedian. I do "Thinking Cap Comedy." Basically, if comedy were music, I'd be Jazz. Want to see a show? Check out my schedule at @

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