Friday, May 7, 2010

Neil Diamond and Tequila

What do you see here? Oh yes ... it's just another hp laptop. But there is a story here.

A couple of years ago my aging father decided that he wanted to buy a computer and learn how to use it. He was 85 at that point, but hale and hearty, and there was no good reason why he should not, like so many senior citizens, make good use of the many possibilities of the internet. My sister and I encouraged him, my mother deplored it. She is a gardener and not too fond of technical stuff, to put it mildly.
We don't live close together, as you know from earlier posts, my parents, my sister and I.
So when my father called me one early Saturday evening to announce proudly that he had bought a laptop, I had no idea what was in store for me.
He: "I bought a laptop!"
Me:"That's great, Papa! So is it running?"
He: "No, there is a problem. It does not open."
Me: "What do mean, it does not open?"
He: "What I said, it does not open. There are two buttons, and they can't be pushed."
Me: "Uhu.... there should be only one, and it should move to the side or something...."
Growing impatience on the other side. Until we found out that he was trying to push the hinges and not the opening mechanism. Then it opened. The laptop.
"Ok, Papa. now turn it on."
"Turn it on? Where?" Confusion.
"There is a button, Papa. Upper left corner."
"You mean the one that says "esc"?"
"No, Papa, that is the escape button. Above that. ABOVE the keyboard."
"Right. What's the keyboard? Oh, ok, I found it. Wait a moment!"
While we were waiting for the thing to boot, my father said (ALL on the phone, mind you!!!): "Listen, I'll tell you what I want with the computer. I don't want to do a lot, only email, use the internet, talk to you and your sister vie webcam, and a homepage."
Yes, Papa, and I want a Porsche.  Did not say that out loud, though. I said, "One thing after the other, Papa."
Answer: "Don't use that tone with me!" (I'm nearly 54, btw)
Next, he tells me, "It says, "willkommen"! And to accept the license."
Me: "Ok, then do it."
He: "Ok." Pause. "How?"
Me: "Uhm, there should be a little square that you can click."
He: "I can what?"
Me: "Click. You need to put the cursor there and click."
He: "Ok." Another pause. My blood pressure rising. "What's a cursor?"
Longish explanation of how to click. Then: "But there is no square."
This time, I did not say, "You need to scroll." but started the explanation right away.
He: "I found the square."
Me: "Ok, then now you need to click on it. Put the cursor in the little square and then click on the left...."
Interruption: "Listen, I don't want all this, all I want is to use the internet and set up a homepage!"
Here was when the

comes in, and high time too.

"Yes, Papa, but first we have to set up the computer itself, you know."
"Uhu. Ok. It asks for a language here now. I'll take Arabic."
Sulk. "Then I'll take German."
Deep breath, and it was time for another shot of

With a couple of drinks under my belt, I was getting into the swing of the thing.
"Take English, Papa. You know English best, and we will get along with that, too. Set the computer to English."
Obstinacy. "No, then I'll choose German. That way, I can learn German at the same time."
"Papa, this is NOT the right place to learn more German. Please. You need to understand what the machine is telling you."
"No, I want German. It is now set to German."
"So how do I get a homepage now?"
Erm. "Not today,  Papa. I'll come down and visit you next month, and then we can start something for you. You have to get the wifi working first."
"The WHAT?"

A few days later my sister went to visit my parents and installed the wifi, set up and internet connection and an email account with their provider, telecom. Wrote everything down for my father, explained again, and left for home.
A few hours later, he called me.
"The email is not working."
"But since we are on the subject, how many emails can I send? And how many accounts can I have? And does an email to the US cost more than one to Saudi Arabia?"
Time for some

Longer explanation.
"Ok, and what about the homepage? Tell me what to do! I want it now!"
Sweat prickling on the back of my neck.
"Papa, listen, I can't do that on the phone. I need to be on your computer."
Grumbling acceptance, then: "Ok but I want a google mail account."

And here began my nervous breakdown.
"Ok, you have a google icon. Click on it."
This was not a problem anymore, and we made it to the sign-in page for googlemail.
"You need to fill out that form, Papa."
This worked, until we came to "password".
"You need to choose a password to secure your account. Any word that has a meaning to you and you can remember."
Here, my mother comes in.
A heated discussion among them erupted about the password, and which one to pick. In the meanwhile, I opened iTunes on MY computer and clicked on this

to soothe my fraying nerves.
"What are you listening to? What' that in the background?"
"Neil Diamond, Papa."
"Do you remember, I used to have his poster in my room when I was 15."
"Oh. Yes. I have a password now."
"Good! then fill in the form."
Which he did.
"It says, "repeat the password!"
"Well, then do it, Papa."
"But I forgot it."
"Did you not write it down?"
"What? No."

And it was time for some

I'm stopping now.
There were a lot more sessions and occasions for

but my father never had enough patience to sit down with his laptop and learn about it. In the end, he gave it to my son. My mother was pleased, he was disappointed, and I was finally sober again.


  1. BWAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH! OMG, I have these conversations with my Dad, too! At least he knows the basics, though. I write tutorials for him to scan files, then attach them to an email. Once I showed him how to copy a CD - "Dad, you did get software with your computer, right? Did you install it?" This last visit I showed him how to Copy & Paste a link from an AOL email into a browser. Then I made him a document so her could remember and not have to call me.

    He tries, though!

    I'm kinda sorry your Dad didn't take a little more time to learn how to use the laptop. It could have been a good drunk for you! :-)

  2. Hah, so very funny! Reminds me of my own father, but without the venom and hatred and viciousness. Just the abject befuddlement.

  3. OMG thank goodness my parents had no interest in computers - I can barely run one myself. The booze will be a good idea, though, for the next time my boyfriend asks me for help. Funny story.

  4. *lol*

    I still remember the day when my father (who was about 60 by that time) proudly proclaimed - after we had tried to teach him the basics of computers and internet and he had succesfully mastered them - "I don't need the internet anymore. I have a girlfriend now."

  5. Nice one, Mariam. Your posts are always a pleasure to read.

  6. Interesting that Neil Diamond helped your frayed nerves; one reason I like Neil Diamond so much is that his voice is calming and comforting - maybe because it is so familiar after 40 years. :) Have you heard the pared down albums of the past few years, 12 Songs and Home Before Dark?

    This song, Oh Mary, is like a lullaby.

    Of course, the old man (69!)can still rock out too. Here are two old guys, Neil and Brian Wilson (Beach Boys):

  7. Joy: Neil has always helped my frayed nerves, ever since 71. And yes, I do own his records, also the latest two, and I saw him in concert in 2008. He ain't that old..... only on paper. ;)

  8. OMG...My 87 year old mum has Skype and we go through the EXACT same thing daily...LOL
    Love this story..I want to meet your dad...LOL

  9. Yep. And we just started the next round, my dear. I WILL get them to Skype and Twitter! You just wait and see!

  10. Yep that's how it goes in our house. But it is my son on the phone trying to explain things to me.
    (hangs head in shame) I'll be happy if I can remember my password so I can post this commenet.

  11. I think your dad should be admired for buying a laptop at his age, just showing that anyone no matter how old can learn.
    But I bet your son's secretly pleased he didn't!!

    CJ xx

  12. Wow, Mariam, lucky gal to have seen him in person so recently. I only hope I'm as young and creative as Neil is when I get to be his age.

  13. That is TOO funny!

    (Also, thank you for the sweet comment on my blog- you're too kind!)

  14. Oh dear! It's really not possible to explain that type of thing down a phone line, is it? We finally took a laptop and a digital camera down to show my 93-year-old Gran so she knew what they looked like, but you have to remember not to use words that have entered the everyday lexicon, like, 'download' and 'software'.

    But I am impressed with your father's enthusiasm. That's what keeps people young.

  15. I'm glad my parents gave up the idea of internet and decided it wasn't worth the trouble. (my trouble:)
    This was very funny–but of course when you are living it–not so much!

  16. Just read this. By the time it got to "I'll take Arabic", I was laughing out loud, much to the cat's surprise.

  17. I loved this. I was at the AGM of one of the companies in which I own shares. They do Nanotechnology for cosmetics and skincare. I had some highly intelligent conversations with various company directors about their products, marketing, profit centres and outsourcing. They complimented me. Fast forward ten hours.
    My Dad, 93, explains to me he doesn't think I know how to read an electric light bill when I tell him our solar panels are generating enough power to cover the cost of our usage and they owe me money. They owe me money on my Mum's bill too
    We debate whether I am that smart or that dumb.
    I go to bed in a sulk. I don't like Tequila.

  18. LOL!!! My mother at least knows not to ask me; she simply asks when Larry will be available.