Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hide the women and children -- Mom now has email

Today marks the 41st anniversary of the first moon walk, or, for you nut jobs, the 41st anniversary of the day Neil Armstrong pretended to walk on the moon in a New Mexico sound stage.

It was highly appropriate, then, that today I watched my 77-year-old mother send her first-ever email, because I honestly thought I would pilot a rocket ship to Mars before this ever happened.

Some senior citizens embrace technology. Not at my parents' house. My mom and dad welcomed new technology like the clap. I had to buy their first CD player. If you visit my old room you can touch an actual working eight-track player. All my old tapes are still there, too. I guess my mom assumes I'll someday have an urge to listen to "Funktion at the Junction" again.

Anyway, there is this wonderful device called the Mailbug, which is sold by a South Bay company. It's a simple electronic device whose sole purpose is sending and delivery emails. It has a full keyboard, a small LED screen and a dial-up modem that connects to your phone. One recent morning, while I was drunk, I decided Mom should have a Mailbug, mainly so she could communicate with her grandchildren. They, of course, can respond through their iPod Touches or the laptops that their private school required my sister to buy.

It was a magnanimous gift on my part, for now I've provided Mom another medium she can use to complain how infrequently I call her.

I set it up today and showed her how to use this fairly foolproof device. There is no button on the Mailbug that can cause a hard drive to self-immolate, or worse, send my embarrassing baby photos to a distribution list of thousands. You can write an email, read an email and send an email, no pictures, just words.

I discovered a problem almost immediately. My mother has 2-inch fingernails, because you never know when you'll have to gouge the eyes out of a felon who barges into Edna's Hair Salon on Santa Monica Boulevard and demand that each septuagenarian hand over her lottery scratcher money.

Mom is as hunt-and-peck typist, and with her nails each peck sounded like a shotgun retort. That's not something I'll have to worry about much because, as she will tell you, I won't visit her enough to be bothered by her typing anyway.

She'll get the hang off it. She's a smart woman, though so technologically behind I imagine in the near future I will spend hours reminding her how to send an email that would take you or I 2 minutes to write. The bigger issue is what I have unleashed. All those complaints about her sore legs and indigestion and how she had to wait 40 minutes for the doctor and how it really might be a good idea if she took up driving again (God help us) now will be converted into binary zeroes and ones and sent through the ether, dropping into my and my sisters' inboxes as daily, or even hourly, nagmail.

Don't get me wrong. We love Mom, and ever since Dad passed 2 years ago she has gotten very lonely. We know we are all she has. I'd even love to set up a personal computer with a camera in her living room so she could enjoy video conferences with her grandchildren, but she'd be Miss Jane Pittman's age before she understood how to operate it.

Now that Mom has email, I can't wait for her to start getting spam. She'll be aghast the first time she pops open an email titled, "Enlarge your penis." She'll phone me and ask why somebody would send that to her. I'd explain the concept of spam. Then she'd hang up and forward it to me with a note asking if it was something I might be interested in.

God bless the Mailbug -- I think.


  1. This is a great story ... and the nice thing about Mailbug is, you can write it here on your blog and she'll never see it!

  2. Sometimes the best lines are the ones borne of sheer simplicity. Hence, "...while I was drunk..."

  3. Well, bless her. Since 77 is the new 65, she's got lots of time to rise on the technological curve. She'll be rockin' an iPad by 84. Of course, *we* all will be composing holograms with nothing but our thoughts.

    Great stuff, Henry.