Embracing Technology. Hugs!

Whenever you find yourself in a foreign land, you try to learn the customs, the language, perhaps just enough for basic communication. I’ve lived with Mom for a few months, now, and this is what I’ve learned. A “tape” is anything recorded onto any type of media. And more. A tape is a “tape”, a DVD is a “tape”, anything streaming is a, you got it, a “tape”. Anything electronic for personal use is a “facebook”. A smartphone is a “facebook”, a laptop is a “facebook”, my Dell with a docking station and two large monitors is a “facebook”. My iPad and Kindle are both “facebooks”. My TV, when streaming, morphs into a “facebook”. And, to confuse things more, any website or application you use on any of those “facebooks” are also “facebooks”.

My "tape" (DVD) collection. I'd have to make room for "Friends", that's why I want to buy it digitally.
My “tape” (DVD) collection. I’d have to make room for “Friends”, that’s why I want to buy it digitally.
Some of my favorite "facebooks".
Some of my favorite “facebooks”.

I had a discussion with Mom about the “Friends” series. I love “Friends”. I desperately want the series, I’ve wanted it for years. I thought I’d dropped enough hints to enough people over the past decade that perhaps, somewhere along the line, someone would’ve bought it for me as a gift for some gift-giving occasion. I am still “Friendless”. I’ve seen the whole series, multiple times, thank you NetFlix, for your patience, repeatedly sending me those disks (I mean “tapes”) over and over and over again. I’m about to buy the set but don’t want more DVD’s (I mean “tapes”) to store. Mom suggested I “tape” it from her TV each night. She doesn’t have TiVo or DVR, she actually meant VHS. Patiently, I told her no, I haven’t had VHS capability for ten years or so now. I explained that I’d really like to buy the series from iTunes, digitally, but had inadequate digital storage capacity and that the device I’d like costs $500. She gasped and said as soon as I bought that “facebook”, it would be outdated and she launched into a very long, overly detailed story, including details about what was for lunch that day and what people wore. She told of an old neighbor and his ill-fated choice between beta and VHS format, twenty-five years ago. Sigh.

I know we won’t be able to get everyone on the same paperless page, but we could try! How’s this? We don’t keep our 1920’s car simply because we don’t want to invest in a new car, yet, because they’re bound to keep getting better. This is extremely flawed logic, the trend for improvement and advancement is never going to taper off, in fact, it’s likely to continue at an ever-increasing pace. The technology will continue to improve, exponentially, and it’s best to retire the old jalopy and embrace the new, safer, more comfortable, economical and stylish model.  This philosophy applies to the ever-changing technology in the rest of our world, too. Embrace those changes, they’re going to keep happening.

We need to embrace technology, as it comes along, for two reasons; to remain relevant and for the quality of life technology can offer.

I consider myself fairly technologically adept. Especially for someone my vintage. I’m not a digital native, I’m a digital immigrant. Mom is a digital refugee. I’ve always been sort of a “gadget girl”. I was an early adopter of cellular technology. I had a “Go-Phone”, like, five minutes after they came out. It seemed so extravagant at the time, but, boy, the first time my car broke down on the side of the freeway exit ramp with two kids in car seats with me, it became so worth it. I called AAA for a tow and the daycare lady who came and retrieved the kids before anyone even stopped to ask if I needed assistance. The tow truck and the daycare lady showed up at precisely the same time. I followed the tow truck and broken car home, picked up the other car, and was only five minutes late to work. Luckily, I was able to call, them, too, and tell them I’d be just a little late.

My ex-husband embraced cellular technology, too. He had the first cell phone in the family. It had a large, black carrying case with a shoulder strap. He slung it over one shoulder and carried his “lunchbox” computer in his other hand. And that’s where he’d still like to be, with his 1920’s vintage car. He adopted early then evolved begrudgingly. And he was in the software business, until it outran him. He has always been out of control with the cell phone, he’d call me 47 times an hour, while I was at work. Gadget girl that I am, I ran out and got a digital pager and told him I wouldn’t answer my cell phone anymore. He could page me and if I thought it was warranted, that it was an emergency, I’d call him back. So then every page, 47 an hour, came through preceded by a “911”. I was also a very early adopter of screening calls!

I definitely embrace technology. And software. I once, out of sheer desperation, applied to a job where I needed to have software skills in several applications and operating systems I’d never used. This was in 1992; Windows, Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Project and some accounting software, too. To top it all off, I was four and a half months pregnant at the time, and kind of just let them think I was a chubby girl. Out of 250 applicants, somehow, I got the job. Okay, I worked my network. Okay, so, I name-dropped. That’s how it’s done. And in the first week, I had to master all that software well enough to keep up the illusion of proficiency and to be considered so indispensable that they wouldn’t even consider firing me when I was forced to tell them I was pregnant, not fat, because my suits simply wouldn’t zip all the way up anymore. That was the beginning of my accounting career, I stayed with that company for five years. And became the controller. And that’s when I discovered my knack for picking up software very quickly.

Now I teach software to accountants. If it weren’t for technology and software, I don’t know what I’d be doing. Writing, perhaps. Dammit. Maybe I did make a wrong turn. Truth be told, I started college as an accounting major. I hated it. This was well before computers were used in the industry. Those stupid ledger books and the double entry method. I changed my major and actually have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in political science. I worked in a doctor’s office for part of college and did the “bookkeeping” on a pegboard system (Google it). It was just a job and almost paid a bill or two. When the doctor computerized and I helped with the data migration (that’s not what we called it then), I saw, for the first time, the relationship and the intent of the double entry system and the whole accounting thing went “click”. I continued on in college for my accounting course work. It was technology that brought something as lifeless and dull as accounting to life. Well, for me, anyway.

I think technology adds a great deal of quality to life, if properly employed. For example, Mom has “bookwork” today. She spends days and days every month hovering over a spiral bound notebook writing down every receipt, bill, and check of all time. Given enough time, she can produce a gasoline receipt and the corresponding Standard Oil billing statement for a charge in June of 1967, I have no doubt. Mom “goes” to the bank, has never used an ATM before and still writes checks at the store, much to the dismay of everyone in line behind her. Her checkbook is in one wallet, with a rubber band around it, to hold the receipts in place. Her ID is in another wallet, and her grocery store discount/rewards card is in yet another wallet. The coupons are in an envelope, with a rubber band around it. She doesn’t use “duplicate” checks, so she writes the check, in cursive, which isn’t even taught anymore, then records it in the register, complete with the subtraction to determine the balance of her account. By now, the ice cream is melted and the bananas, purchased slightly green, have become bright yellow and speckled. I swear I’m going to be her age before we get the groceries to the car! Now, I got paid Friday morning at the stroke of midnight. My money landed in my account and when I awoke, I rolled over, grabbed my phone, tapped this tapped that, and the few bills I have that aren’t on autopay got paid. My “bookkeeping” software downloads the transactions, including when the payments clear, and all my accounts pretty much, self-balance. I only have to adjust the allocation of an expense here or there, if it really matters.  Zzzzz, yawn, blink, blink, tap, tap, “bookwork” done. Day equals mine.

Or so I thought. Until the mail arrived and I had a renewal notice from the DMV, with their system equally as antiquated Mom’s. Please, please, can we go paperless? And not email? Text me, or, better yet, is there an effective App for that? So I can deal with it, based on a meaningful and timely push notification from the convenience of my smart phone? No. They do have an App, with maps to their offices where you have to wait for hours and hours in line, or sit in those nasty, plastic chairs and wait for your number to be displayed on the museum quality monitors overhead. The App also has practice exams, not helpful. And DMV quality videos, (avoid at all costs). Their App is completely and totally useless. Their website is convoluted, but at least, once you figure it out, kind of almost helpful.

The worst thing about the arrival of the DMV renewal notice was the fact that it had been forwarded from my old address. I moved several months ago and when I did, I went online at dmv.ca.gov and changed my address. Oh, but I only changed it for my driver’s license. You have to change your car’s address, too. So, Meep (my car) gets mail, addressed to me, at my old address. Have we ever heard of relational databases? Match registered owner name with licensed driver name, send everything to newest address on file. Oh. It gets better. Enter the U.S. Postal Service. I had a forwarding order in place. My registration was due three weeks before I received the notice. I should have received it in, oh, May. I got it in, um, August. I don’t think I could be that inefficient if I tried. Really hard!

Mom told me I should write the U.S. Postal Service a letter of complaint. I asked her if I should mail it? Should I buy a stamp, funding their stubborn incompetence, adhere said stamp to an envelope and mail it to them? I was apoplectic.

But, Mom mails checks to everyone for payment. Piles and piles and piles of checks. Every week, after she does her “bookwork”, there’s a pile of several little envelopes, full of checks, with her tidy cursive writing in the return address area provided on the envelope. And stamps in the corner, funding the U.S.P.S. again! She can’t believe I pay everything electronically. How terrifying to just send it “out there”. Oh, I don’t know, I’m a pretty big fan of data encryption. It seems far more prudent versus mailing a check where you are sending a piece of paper that will pass through the hands of many many many people and it has your bank routing number, account number, your name, address, phone number, maybe even your driver’s license number, and a valid signature that will 100% match the signature card on file (electronically) at your bank. That doesn’t sound safe at all! I’ll take my chances with data encryption. Yes, my data has been compromised a time or two, my bank called me, emailed me and texted me multiple times within minutes to verify the activity, then took appropriate action. Because I took advantage of that technology. Without all those systems in place, fraudulent activity can go unnoticed for a time. And if it goes unnoticed for too long the bank can no longer do anything about it and it could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars each time. I’ll take my chances with electronic payment and data encryption.

The best part of the story. Do you know how my bank suspected fraudulent activity? There were purchases made, with my debit card number, from Wal Mart. My bank knows me that well! The chances of me spending money at Wal Mart are so infinitesimal, it’s about as likely as encrypted data becoming compromised!

Yes, I am “like this” with technology. It is my friend.

I just got a pop up notice on my MacBook that said “Shade’s iPhone4 seeking blue-tooth pairing.” I don’t know anyone named Shade. I clicked a button and denied the request. I heard voices in the street out front and glanced out the window. There were two tween-aged adolescents standing by the mailbox in front of my house, staring at their iPhones. From behind the lace curtain I shouted, “Hey, Shade! Is that you?” They nearly shit their pants as they took off down the street! I love technology! Totally made my day, especially since I have everything on my computer encrypted and pass worded. Nice try Shade. What a doofus, still has an iPhone4. At least they weren’t stealing Mom’s checks out of the mailbox.

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