Sometimes I look around me at all the techno paraphernalia we carry everywhere and wonder what in the world happened to all those old rotary phones. It feels like I've seen mountains of change in my 3 1/2 measly decades.
Then my father comes into the kitchen and starts throwing around stories about the old foot bridge on the farm, and the year they got electricity. My favorite is when he references his childhood wardrobe with "two pairs of pants and two shirts because that's really all anybody ever needs."
Judging by my laundry pile I think they were onto something.
My dad is very possibly one of the smartest people I know. He's good at business, great with people and a lover of all things trivia. At almost 80 he can still kick my trash at Boggle and make his way through the European subway system, alone, without ending up in Tibet.
I can't think of anything smarter than my dad. Well almost anything. He has finally met his match, his nemesis, his kryptonite.
We call it the computer, my mother calls it the computer, the children call it the computer. My dad? He only refers to it as The Thing, This Thing, This Darn Thing or What A Stupid Thing.
"Diane!" he yells every morning when he sits down at the laptop and prepares to battle his email. (For the record, my dad rarely yells at her about anything.)
"I don't know what This Thing is doing..."
"Rex," she says looking over his shoulder, "You have to log out of my account. There, that button. No, not that one. Look up in the corner, the same one we use at home."
"I don't think I can even get my email over here," he mumbles looking warily outside at the German countryside. He finally clicks the right button and waits for the page to load.
It comes up in German.
"Diane!" he yells putting both hands in the air, "Now look what it's done, This Thing is all in German! I just can't do anything with This Thing..."
And the battle wages on.
"Diane!" he yells, once he's got his account open and is finally accessing the 47,000 requests for money from African royalty and his daily dose of political forwards.
"Go get Jason, I want him to look at This Thing."
"Rex, just forward it to him!" she says, once again coming to supervise over his shoulder.
"I can't get This Thing to forward anything, I don't think I even have that button anymore!"
She clicks here and points there. His account was recently hijacked by some online hacker and he is still suffering from a slight case of PTSD. This is a shame since he's barely recovered from the Crash of 2004 where they lost all sorts of horribly important forwards.
"Just go to your address book," she says.
"I don't have an address book anymore! They took it! They wiped it out!"
I feel for the guy, I'm terrible at computers. It's especially bad when Harrison starts showing me shortcuts. He's 9 years old.
We borrowed an old van last weekend to take my folks down to Bavaria. Harrison and Grandpa were sitting together in the backseat and Harry was complaining about the heat.
"Just turn it down, there's a dial right next to you," I said.
He looked at the old manual heating dial with the hot/cold sliding tab. He looked at me. He looked back at the knobs and tabs. "How?"
Grandpa reached across, old school like, and showed him how it was done. "Ohhh," Harrison said as soon as he saw how to manipulate non-digital. "Thanks Grandpa!"
He's still got a few good tricks up his sleeve.
Annie Valentine is a wife, mother and columnist. Readers can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog at regardingannie.wordpress.com.