I watched as she timidly touched the screen. The letter F appeared and her shoulders shrugged. “That’s OK. Touch the arrow with the x on it to take it away. Then try again. Try touching the screen a little higher to touch the T and not the F,” I instructed. I was talking with my mom, who next month will be 83. Today felt like a heroic move…she had just signed up to get the “bundle” from Verizon and also to retire her flip phone and pay $8 a month to have a Samsung Smart Phone.
Now that it was in her hand, we sat at the Verizon store. I wanted to ensure she could call me and text me before leaving the store. I suggested that she try typing a text message to me. Something like: Thank you for helping me get a new phone.
She kept trying. Soon the T was on the screen . But then a U, instead of an H. She was getting good at using the X arrow key to take away mistyped letters. Then THM was on the screen and another shoulder shrug. Soon, after lots and lots of tries and errors, she sent me this 3-lined text message:
Thanks for y
our time today. I. Love
My afternoon with my mom reminded me how hard it is to learn something new, especially when it is so different from what you are used to. My mom was born in 1935 and grew up at a time when messages were spoken from one person to another when both were usually in the same room. She also recalls lifting the receiver to make a phone call but listening first to hear if the “party line” was free and then dial. She recalls phone numbers like the Glenn Miller song line, “PA6 – 5000” (spoken as Pennsylvania 6, 5000).
Now she carries her phone in her purse and hears it ring when someone is calling her or dings when someone sends her a text – a message without even needing to speak aloud. Yet, today, for a 1953 graduate of the Washington School for Secretaries, this touch screen mini-keyboard was providing a new challenge for her. Using just thumbs or her index finger, she persisted to type out her message.
The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” As I watched my mom patiently try over and over again to send me and grandkids messages and try to call me using this new smart phone, I so agree with him.
After an hour, we left the Verizon store, making plans to meet on Friday for another tutor session. On our list: How to take a photo? How to send a photo? and we will review, How to answer the phone and how to send a text. I’m realizing many sessions are probably in my future as I think about How to use Google Maps? How to read gmail on the phone? How to reply to gmail? How to add emoji? So, so much!
I drive home, I’m proud of my mom. I’m also comforted in knowing that if she needs help before our next session, she can still call me on her landline phone.