The last few years of my dad’s life, he would often say, “I don’t want to learn anything new.”
He was serious.
I would show him something new on a cell phone, or the latest item that was all the rage, and he wasn’t impressed.
“That’s nice son, but I don’t want to learn anything new,” he would say.
How could you not want to learn anything new, regardless of your age? Well, I’m starting to see things his way.
I was dragged, kicking and screaming into the world of social media. It was Christmas Eve 2008, and two coworkers and myself were the only ones in the office. My coworkers were ladies in their 20s, and they, of course, were devouring anything new, just as I had done in my 20s.
“I don’t need one more thing on my plate,” I replied. Whatever this Facebook thing was, it had to be more work.
“You could connect with people you went to school with a long time ago,” the other said, as if the 70s were really that long ago.
“I’ve stayed connected with lots of people,” I said. “I call them whenever I want.”
They proceeded to explain to me that if I were on Facebook I could see pictures of my friends and their kids, where they lived, and could catch up with people in a way a phone call never could.
What I discovered was that all of what they said was true, but mostly I would see pictures taken of my friends inside of their car, and of what they were eating.
Since I joined Facebook, I’ve learned the value of social media as a marketing tool. I share this column and new books I’ve written there. It helps me generate business. Mostly though, I see pictures of what people are eating and photos they’ve taken of themselves in their car.
I have no idea why humanity feels it necessary to share a pic of a taco combination platter or a selfie taken in their SUV, but they do. I’m sure that a shrink could explain this. But, maybe we don’t want to know the reason.
Way before Facebook, a new product hit the market that I thought was amazing. The VCR.
The idea that you could record TV shows and movies and watch them again whenever you wanted was truly groundbreaking in home entertainment. So, for Christmas in 1982, I paid $800 for the latest VCR as a gift for my parents. It had all of the bells and whistles, including a remote control. The remote connected to the unit with a really long wire, but it had a remote control.
I studied the manual, set the time, programmed the unit, and had it hooked up when my parents came home for Christmas. They were very appreciative. I had included a copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was a fairly new movie, and my dad’s favorite at the time.
All was good until I got a call shortly after the New Year.
“John, this thing keeps flashing 12:00 o’clock. How do you set the time?” my mom asked.
If you’ve ever tried to provide tech support over the phone for a parent, you know how it went next. I attempted to help her set the clock, but I wound up driving back to their house to set it.
Soon after, other family members also got a VCR. Once the word got out that I could do magic and set the time on the VCR whenever the power went out, you guessed it; I became the traveling tech support guy.
Lots of new technology has come to be since the days of VCRs, and I’ve pretty much stayed up with most of it. But recently, I find myself getting further behind on things that are developing.
TV is a prime example.
When I hooked up that first VCR, it was easy. There were three channels you picked up from an antenna. Today, there are thousands of choices when it comes to shows and movies. And it requires between two and seven pieces of hardware, an equal number of remote controls, and a TV set that can pick up transmissions from the International Space Station.
It seems that every time we upgrade to a newer TV, it’s harder and harder to tune in Wheel of Fortune.
I find that I don’t have the desire to learn the new TVs and related equipment that I used to. Maybe I’m becoming my dad. Maybe that’s OK.
Maybe I just need to get one of my kids over here. While they’re finding Pat and Vanna, I can tell them all about the good old days when the biggest problem the grown folk had was the clock flashing 12:00.
John’s new book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.