It’s been a while since we last visited the crazy, fucked-up world of America’s favorite music/tech gadfly. The truth is that Jeff Giles’ present of Lisa “Blair” Whelchel’s 1984 Contemporary Christian album deeply affected me. No, I didn’t swear off nastiness and turn my life over to Jesus. I went into a downward spiral of booze and hookers that would have felled lesser men. I’ll tell you friends, I was near rock-bottom. But Bob’s piece on Christmas Eve about how old people love technology shook me out of my bourbon-induced stupor just in time for one last column of 2011. And now I need another drink.

I know, I know, I’m overloading you. You’ve had enough crap from this self-centered Lefsetz, who does he think he is anyway?

I think you pegged it at “self-centered crap-peddler.”

But I just want to tell you this one story.


My mother has mellowed. That’s one great thing about age, you stop trying to change the future, you go along for the ride. Life is one big amusement park, you think you can get on the Autopia and steer but really there’s a rail in the middle preventing you from veering too far, life’s more akin to a roller coaster than a free form assault. And once you accept this, you’re so much happier.

So my mother sold the house and moved into an apartment building that’s akin to summer camp. If this is retirement, I want in. Everybody still standing from the area has a unit and my mom is so busy she throws me off the phone, there’s bridge and dinner and parties and movies…

Please. I’ve lived in Boca Raton. Yes, those places are great and help make the residents happy in their last years. The people who work there are saints. You know what else they have? Ambulances that wake you up in the middle of the night and take your friend that you played bridge with yesterday away for good. Summer camp, my ass. 

And my mother can barely walk, she finally acceded to using a walker, which makes us worry less on the west coast, but it’s impeded her not a bit. 

Spoken like a true Jewish mother. “Don’t mind me. You don’t have to visit me and take care of me. You stay out in warm, sunny California. I’m doing fine in my rest home with my walker in cold Connecticut.” How do you not know this at your age?

She still goes to the city for theatre, she flies cross-country… Hell, they put her in a wheelchair and escort her through security, it’s easier than it’s ever been.

I call bullshit. I’ve taken my dad taken through security in a wheelchair. While the TSA agents were wonderful and very sensitive to his condition, it’s a harrowing experience to witness.

You see in the late nineties all the Gray Panthers got online. Not that they did much. E-mailed at best. They all bought Windows machines, this was before the Apple renaissance, and you need a full time IT guy to make those work.

We’re at least 10 years into the “Apple renaissance.” If Windows was as awful as Apple cultists would lead us to believe, Windows would not still have a 92% market share after all this time.

And, for the record, I am writing this on my MacBook.

But in the upgrade cycle, all the octogenarians have switched to Apple.

Once again, Bob takes anecdotal evidence and applies it to everybody.  I counter his “all the octogenarians” with “My mother recently got upset because her new Windows 7 machine doesn’t support the IBM PC AT keyboard she’s had since the mid-1980s.” I am not kidding about this. No matter how many times she upgraded machined, she kept the same keyboard for over 20 years.And God forbid if a software upgrade changes the location of a feature in Word or Excel.

By the way, has Bob ever disclosed whether or not he’s an Apple stockholder? I don’t recall him ever mentioning it in any of his posts that praise Apple.

And when my mother gets flummoxed she calls me and I take over her screen via iChat and it’s a beautiful thing.

You can do that in Windows just as easily.

She’s got an iMac with a screen bigger than she is, as you age you shrink, a Time Capsule, an Apple TV, I’d be lying if I told you she knew how to work this stuff well, but she’s addicted to watching TV shows on her iPad and reads books on a Kindle.

I see Irving the Punctuation Monkey is in fine form.

But the questions are not complicated.

Where’d the icon go?

My mother is not mouse-savvy. She’s always dragging icons off the Dock.

And Netflix continues to confuse her. It’s the menu hierarchy. I try to teach her to intuit how these devices work, but she always wants to write the instructions down.

The nerve of an elderly woman in an assisted living facility wanting to write something down so that she can reference it whenever she needs it. It’s not like senior citizens have problems remembering things or something.

And she gets frustrated.

As if the device has a personal vendetta against her.

So Windows machines need a full-time IT person, but you’ve become your mother’s full-time IT person for her Apple products?

You see her brethren are getting iPhones.

That’s how it works. There’s a wave of acquisition, it sweeps through the building until everybody’s got one.

It’s the stomach flu of conspicuous consumption!

Not that they know how to use the device, but they’ve got one.

Old people can’t use simple technology!

It was fascinating to see them all get cell phones. First they declared them unnecessary. But then they became addicted. I think my mother’s generation depends on mobile phones more than we do, if for no other reason than they’re not that mobile.

That makes no sense.

So in our conversation tonight, my mother tells me a friend got an iPhone imitation.

It’s an iPhune. I bought it from the same guy on the street who sold me that Rolax watch.

I winced.

I know the feeling.

You’ve got to get the real thing. 

Are you sure she’s not just trying to hint that you don’t call her often enough?

Another friend got the iPhone 3GS. It was free with renewal. You see the older generation is value conscious. A fourteen year old thinks nothing of blowing $200 on a cell phone, but an oldster…just doesn’t see the merit.

Your point being?

So I told my mother if she can use an iPad, she can use an iPhone, they work the same way.

Except she can’t use the iPad. You said so yourself.

Although there is a learning curve.

But it works the same way.

And she’s got to switch to Verizon… Remember last year in Palm Springs when AT&T had no service?

Remember the three nationwide service outages Verizon has had this month alone?

And the thing about Apple is it’s the new Sony, the public trusts it.

Ping is going to overtake Facebook. Just give it time.

And there’s the Genius Bar.

“Mom. Stop calling me with your simple computer problems and talk to the strange tattooed hipster at the Apple Store.”

And I find it so funny that my mother wants to play.

How would she find time with all her bridge games and movie nights at her “summer camp?”

If you think about it, the entire entertainment business is about not playing, about trying to keep the customer in the dark, back in the twentieth century.

No, the entertainment business has always been about telling the customer that yesterday is worthless and tomorrow is where you need to be.

But when even eighty five year olds need the latest gadget you know that philosophy is doomed.

It was always doomed because it’s stupid.

You may think CDs are better than MP3s. That a physical book is better than a Kindle.

But try telling that to the people in my mom’s building. They’re completely wired and up to date. They want what we’ve got. And it puts a smile upon my face.

Just as long as they don’t all call you for tech support.


About the Author

Dave Lifton

The perpetually cranky Dave Lifton produces and co-hosts the Popdose Podcast and contributes an occasional column when he darn well feels like it. But mostly he eats Cheetos and yells at kids to get off his lawn, which is strange because he lives in an apartment. The guiding force behind LifStrong, he can be found on Twitter at @dslifton.

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