Thursday, September 06, 2018

You're never too old to be an idiot but if you are, my guess is you started a while back

RING!
RING!
Office phone lights up; Janet grabs receiver; abacus, octopus, and Rolodex section listing people who have swimming pools all go flying.

JR: (briskly) Janet Reid

Deluded fellow:  I'm trying to reach Janet Reid

JR: Yes?

Deluded fellow: I want to send her an email. I want to make sure I have the email address right. Is it http colon slice slice w w w...

JR: (interrupting) that's a website address. The email address is jreid at new leaf literary dot com

Deluded fellow:Janet Reid at New Leaf Literacy?

JR: Please listen carefully. Jreid at New Leaf Literary dot com

Deluded fellow: (laughing lightly)  I'm old. I don't know much about computers.

JR: Really? How old are you? (hoping caller is north of 147; envisioning book deals and Vogue interviews)

Deluded fellow: (rather proudly) I'm 80 years young!

JR: 80? Eighty? Oh please. Computers have been around for more than a third of your life, email for 25% percent of your life. Are you still trying to use subway tokens? Looking for payphones on street corners? Dialing 0 for the operator? Enraged that street corner hot dogs cost more than a dollar? Wait, Are you a cloistered monk by any chance?

Deluded fellow: (wondering if he's conversing with a crazy person) I have a book that is going to change the world. I'm sure she wants to know about it.

JR: (as dryly as possible) Is it called An Idiot's Guide to Email?



I swear every single word of this is true.

your takeaway: There are lots of things about publishing that are hard to figure out but how to use email is not one of them. This is textbook asshattery: sticking your head in the sand and hoping the modern world will go away just cause you want it to. I've tried. It won't.


44 comments:

Amy Johnson said...

I love this post's title! First laugh of the day.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...


I have a cellular mobile phone, a dot matrix printer and my desk top computer is named Adam. I also have a CB in my pick-up good buddy.
I are a modern writer.
So...copy and paste means what?
Email...is electronic mail right?
I are a modern writer. Um...what's a query.

Timothy Lowe said...

Fargin . . . hilarious . . .

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Ok. I hope for dragons while writing software for school children because getting their heads out of their devices requires actual dismemberment these days.

I do think we have lost something to technology but there’s no fighting it. Best hope for dragons and get with the program.

Well, I get back to this software. There is a glitch in the time machine, darn second graders. I sent them to get a dragon. They came back with the plague instead. I hate it when that happens.

nightsmusic said...

My father in law is 92 and emails. Granted, he has no patience when learning new things, but he's still learning and once done, does really well. His head is not in the sand. Even he understands that George Jetson is coming...

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

My 90 year old inlaws go into panic mode if the internet is down.

Ashes said...

I spent five years at my local library running introductory computer classes for seniors.

Oh, how I loved them! You know the type of people who attend free computer classes at their local library? The type who want to learn. These were eager, take-the-bull-by-the-horns, people.

My supervisor once commented, about a particularly sharp 80 year-old woman, (who stayed late to learn how to download free knitting patterns), "If she were born today, she could be anything she wanted to be." I realized that could apply to all my students. Not that Shirley was an unhappy grandmother and housekeeper, but that she had that drive and openness to new ideas that makes people succeed.

I will say that I believe seniors need a teacher. Computers are not necessarily intuitive (though tablets are more so), and an adult will usually be afraid that they'll screw it up. Kids, with no financial stake in if they break the computer, tend to do much better teaching themselves. For someone who steps into that teaching role, they need a lot of patience, because when you use computers every day things like when to single/double-click start to feel obvious when they're not.

CynthiaMc said...

At least he's trying. He's living life, taking initiative (however imperfectly), and probably does have some interesting stories to tell.

He may also have some cognitive issues or may be a little hard of hearing. He may not have computer genius grandkids to help him out. He may be quite alone and trying to be independent.

When I was younger I might have rolled my eyes and laughed (before my mother got ahold of me for being disrespectful).

Now I work for a hospital and say "There but for the grace of God" and try to be kind.

Lennon Faris said...

Ahhh... Janet you are my QOTKU but my heart goes to the 80 year old here.

Adapting isn't everyone's forte. People from a former generation have it ingrained to call, not check online. He might not have heard well and made a silly dad joke to make you repeating it less awkward. Calling an agent is off limits as we all know here, but clearly he didn't know to whom he was speaking.

I do appreciate when older folk show an eagerness to learn, but this post kinda makes me want to sit down with this fellow for an hour and go over the basics of computers.

Kitty said...

I wonder how he knows about Janet Reid?

Ten years ago my grandson watched me do something on the computer. How did you do that, he asked. It was something very elemental -- copy & paste, I think. When I showed him how, his eyes bugged out. Boy, you're a genius, he said. I didn't dispute it. He was 7. He had surpassed me by the time he was 9.

Kregger said...

I hope you're that nice to me when I call from my three-party landline with a rotary dial phone.

Which I won't do until I get the bugs out of the machine that pushes a single-malt through copper wires. So, no time soon, whew!

(An employee taps me on the shoulder, after reading over my shoulder.) "That's called Amazon."

"What do women warriors in the jungle have to do with single-malts?" I reply.

I knew I was old and a dinosaur, but I didn't realize I was a fossil. My beta reader asked if I knew how to edit using Google docs (?) I think that is what she called it. She asked on a weekend so I couldn't ask my young staff if I knew how.

Asshattery at its finest, thanks for the laugh. You had me when you picked up the phone.

AJ Blythe said...

The Hub once spent a good half an hour trying to help his mother (at the time in her early 50s) with a computer problem. Over and over he told her to "right click" which she insisted she was doing. After The Hub had lost all sanity he said he couldn't understand why she wasn't getting a menu on the screen when she right clicked. Her response...how did writing the word "click" on paper get something to appear on the screen?

I only wish I'd made this up.

BrendaLynn said...

Fight technology? Heck no! Embrace it. I’m having a blast on twitter and Instagram.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

The only time I liked being called a senior is when I was in high school. Never made it to that in college. My inclination is to say that getting old sucks but it does beat the alternative (I think).

Hey all you age-bashers, you know who you are, the ones who laugh because grandma thinks "twitter" is what you feel while ruffling the sheets with grandpa. If you're lucky you'll get where we are, maneuvering in a sea of science fiction come true.

CynthiaMc said...

Kitty - he may be a Reider too.

Dena Pawling said...


THE Janet Reid apparently still has an abacus and a Rolodex on her desk =)

I've met my share of 80yo curmudgeons, many of whom I'm required to address as “Your Honor” without any tint of sarcasm in my voice.

I love twitter and email and texting and playing mindless word games on my phone. I love that Sigalert is available on my phone [traffic reports, for you non-CA folks]. I love the ease of Amazon, and on-line shopping in general. I love Google to find almost any information I want/need, including info about publishing and the acceptable way to approach agents.

But I'm with EM that getting heads out of smart phones these days does require dismemberment. I hope that when I'm 80yo, books are still available in physical form, society still remembers how to interact in person and with respect, and I'm still bold enough to pursue my dreams even if it means that when I make a mistake, the younger whippersnappers laugh at me and write blog posts about it.

You go, Sir.

The Noise In Space said...

Aw, poor guy. I suppose this does fall under "do your research," but my heart goes out to him. He knows he's supposed to query via email, he's trying to make sure he does it right, and he clearly thought he was speaking to an assistant and not wasting QOTKU's time.

Julie Weathers said...

That was me several years ago. If there was a way to do things wrong, I did them. I often did many things wrong at the same time. Amazingly, I still had many agents call me to talk about my books and I got two agents.

I know nothing about computers. Before my knees went south, I could design and build about anything. Put a Kreg jig in my hand and I could make magic. Ask me about RAM and I'd say I'm really more a Ford person.

Dune, my beautiful R2 Aurora Alienware died not long ago thanks to Windows 10. I will never forgive Microsoft. I loved that computer. I have a shiny new fast computer, but it was stressful figuring out what I needed and wanted. My son suggested we have one built. Since I know nothing about computers, I spent days reading about the different components and deciding what I thought I wanted. He sat down with me and went over what I'd tentatively built, made a few suggestions and changes and we ordered Vader.

Re the gentleman the post is about, good for him for writing a book. I hope I'm still writing at 80. My dad was clambering up and down the mountains and fire look out towers when he was 80. He took me up in his tower to show me the view. It was spectacular. He had just ordered a computer for the first time in his life when he had his stroke.

My mother has a computer, but it's only to play slot machine games and look at funny pictures on facebook. I've suggested she write stories about her childhood. Nope. She can't do that. She's too busy looking for John Wayne movies and complaining about being bored.

Thank God for old people who are willing to step out of their comfort zone even if they do it wrong. That's harder to do than a person realizes.

Julie Weathers said...

AJ

Too funny.

That sounds like me and my son. He once told me people like me are the reason there's a website for techs who post about their days. Usually it's about dealing with clueless people. One guy drilled a bunch of holes in his computer case to get more ventilation. It also drilled through the hardware.

I said, "Hey, I'm not that bad."

"Not quite."

I ordered a new monitor to go with my new computer since the old one was starting to flicker. The new one is substantially bigger than the old one was. Will came over and said, "Mom, what's up with your monitor?"

"I don't know, what?"

"Why haven't you adjusted it?"

"What do you mean?"

"You're just using the middle part of your screen."

"Oh, I didn't know how to stretch it out and I'm used to the small screen."

"I'm not even talking to you."

Casey Karp said...

Wait--the New York subways don't take tokens anymore? One of the few things I miss about living there was the jingle of a freshly-purchased bag of tokens. We called them "dime bags," not because of the price--they cost considerably more than that--but because there were ten tokens to a bag.

Now we load funds onto a card. 'Tain't the same.

So, my sympathies to those still longing for that email thing to go away, like any other fad. We're probably stuck with it for a while yet, though.

The Noise In Space said...

@Casey Karp - I never knew that "dime bag" had a PG definition! I've only ever heard it used for drugs! Learned something new today.

B said...

I agree with CynthiaMc. He might have had cognitive issues. I'm not sure my grandparents (north of 80) know how to use email either.

Hopefully there are agencies that still accept snail mail.

Megan V said...

I'm with Lennon on this one, my heart goes to the 80-year-old man.

I've been that tech-savvy kid that's had to show the adults how things work, including e-mail. Some adapted easily, some still have a lot of problems fifteen some odd years later. heck, I'm still helping out people when I come across them. Funnily enough, I found that women I've worked with adapted a lot faster than the men. My mom used to say that it might be because her generation was required to take typist courses...

In any case, I don't know that his head is purposely buried in the sand. It could be hearing. It could be eyesight or that he doesn't have the support system to help him out. It could be that he hasn't had a reason to open up a lot of emails until now. I don't think 80 was trying to be an asshat here.

Amy Johnson said...

Thank you, Cynthia and Lennon. I started off one way reading here today, and your well-worded, helpful comments have caused me to change my thinking. As Cynthia said, "There but for the grace of God." Now I'm feeling convicted, awful, embarrassed. And I'm someone who from time to time asks my grown kids for help on the computer.

leah reynolds said...

Yep, made me laugh. Thanks.

RosannaM said...

This assumption that everybody knows something just because we do hits me over the head from time to time, and makes me realize that it is indeed true that you don't know what you don't know. Or if you do, you don't know where to start to learn it.

We can all be teachers and students for a lifetime.

To my Dad, no you don't need to hit control/alt/delete every time your screen goes dark. And no, you don't need to ask my sister with the computer degree. You can believe me when I say jiggle your mouse or hit a key. Really.

For my friend (you know who you are) who asked a bunch of questions about fresh garlic. How to use it, roast it, or plant it, feel free to ask away. Just because I cook with it practically every day in every way does not mean I am some kind of garlic savant. It's just a piece of knowledge that I happen to have.

For all the people who have worked in offices their whole careers, try to step into the shoes of someone who hasn't. My home fax machine still takes a piece of paper. Not having bought/sold a house in over a decade, who knew all the purchase/sale agreements with electronic signatures! could be done over a computer. That still seems a little flimsy to me.

As fast as the modern world comes at us it is no wonder we can't keep up. And at the same time we are losing the knowledge and the wisdom of those who came before us.

Janet Reid said...

I do accept queries by post.
I'm looking at one now in fact.

I sold a book recently (not yet announced) by a writer who contacted me by regular paper mail initially.

I miss querying by paper cause I'm a paper and ink snob.
Doesn't mean I'm going to force people to query me that way (although I think about it every once in a while)

Sam Mills said...

I do sometimes wonder what coming technologies are going to stymie me one day. I'm in my early 30s. I'm used to being the go-to computer person, but in a few decades I'm sure computers will be a thing of the past and I'll be struggling to operate the neural controls on my head chip while muttering that external hardware was superior.

THAT SAID. Whenever I encounter something new, my first instinct is to research the hell out of it and take some tutorials. So hopefully in fifty years we still have tutorials. XD

Claire Bobrow said...

Sam, I wonder the same thing. There's stuff coming down the pike that will be a mystery and a frustration to us, no matter how hard we try, yet the kids will have it figured out in a flash. But I'm not going down without a fight! I like to remember my Dad, well into his 89th year, tapping (a bit slowly) on his smartphone, doing the NYT crossword, taking photos, and enjoying the ability to search things on Google.

Cheryl said...

I know 80-year-olds who run complicated websites. I got my first computer in 1984. My dad, who will be 80 next year, taught me how to program it and built several of them afterwards. With all the resources available at libraries and community centres you have to choose to be that ignorant.

I like how this guy didn't even get that it was Janet on the phone.

Adele said...

I once worked with a fresh young whip-snapper just out of college who firmly believed he knew everything about computers, and yet he was, in his own way, clueless.

Me: "We haven't had any e-mails for a while. Have you been checking the inbox?"
He: "Yes, I check it every five minutes. We haven't had any e-mails all morning"
Me: "Hmmm. That doesn't sound right. Let me take a look."
He, huffily getting out of his task chair so I could poke at his keyboard. "There's no sense you checking. I know what I'm doing. We have no new e-mails. The Inbox is empty."
Me, having clicked on "send and receive", which was a manual operation on our system. "Hmmm...I see 92."

He had always used a computer that was part of the college system where his e-mails were received, filtered, sorted, and sent to his inbox.

My takeaway: "You don't know what you don't know" applies to all of us from time to time.

Kitty said...

CynthiaMc, you're probably right!

John Davis Frain said...

There's a comedian who does a schtick about males. They can do whatever they want till they're about 5 1/2 years old. Grab their aunt, say the wrong thing, it's all cute cuz their a kid.

Then, for about 75 years, guys can't be in the same room as their niece or step outside alone with kids in their yard or accidentally tap their neighbor in the wrong place.

Then, when they turn 80, they can do whatever they want again and they're just a silly, harmless old man again.

I guess this guy just graduated cuz y'all commenters are giving him a lotta leeway for expecting the world to stop for his view.

Amy Johnson said...

And along comes Frain with his own thought-provoking comment. :) Good thing I only get three comments a day--I'm all over the place today and now must zip it. I'm going to play a few minutes of Solitaire on my phone now. Which I can do because my teenager downloaded the app for me. Which I could have done myself. Too. Much. Thinking.

Barbara Etlin said...

My husband's uncle bought a computer and learned how to use it when he was 85. He loved email, used it to keep in touch with his friends some of whom were older than he, and you couldn't pry him away from the internet.

Craig F said...

Once upon a time, I thought I had an advantage on technological gizmos. I actually came to understand coding punch cards. Then learned PLC++ well enough to make money at it. Stuck with Microshit because they never let go of using a DOSS base from the dark ages.

Somewhere along the line it all took a turn that wasn't on my map. Phones and windows 10 didn't follow the same logic lines, so I embarked on learning what underlies them.

Can't say I have completely gotten there, but I keep trying. I do that because I can't abide with can't. I hope in the years left until I am eighty I remember that because a mind is a terrible thing to waste and throwing up your hands and saying "I can't" is a waste.

Where There's A Quill said...

I'm not a fan of "but they're from a different time" as an excuse in general. People sweep a lot of sins under that rug.

Colin Smith said...

How timely! I got a new PC at work today. Windows 10. Office 2016. I have Win10 at home, so no problem there. But the new look of Office 2016 caught me off-guard. And then there's setting up everything just as I like it.

But here's the kicker. Not all the software I need had been installed. Understand, due to corporate security, no-one, not even us IT folks, can install their own software. It has to be requested and pushed to your machine.

When I realized my belt of digital tools was incomplete, I felt a moment of disorientation. My world was shaken. It was as if someone had put a MacBook in front of me. "What do I do now??!" I turned to my colleague in the next cube and said, "I think I'm getting old!"

Of course, I got over it. Got up with the help desk, requested the missing software. Started using Office 2016... getting used to the new look. But that's what you do when you have to. I sympathize with the fact that our friend in Janet's tale is probably operating outside his regular world. He's missing software and doesn't know what to do. This happens to kids too. They're perhaps a little quicker at adapting.

Yep, the older generation can't live in the past and expect us all to join them just to make them feel better. But I agree with those saying they need kindly teachers to help them get up to speed.

Funny story though, Janet. :D

KDJames said...

HA! Being 80 isn't the excuse it was 20 years ago. I have several relatives in their 80-90s who regularly use computers and email. Some of them are farmers who have never worked in an office setting, not even briefly.

I understand the empathy for this guy, but the story is still funny for the way it's told. And really, it's not like some random guy sitting on a park bench was suddenly asked to understand an irrelevant computer thing. This guy apparently wrote an entire book on a computer, given he was trying to email a part of it. If you want to do a thing, you need to learn what it takes to accomplish it.

But I also agree with those who said you don't know what you don't know. When my daughter was finishing up grad school, she asked me to proof a brochure she'd created. There were several tables of data and the numbers weren't quite properly aligned. I asked her why she wasn't using decimal tabs.

"Say what now?"
"You know, decimal tabs."
So I explained it and OMG, it was like her head exploded.
"Why didn't you tell me about this before now?! Do you realize how much time I've wasted over the years, trying to get numbers to line up?"
"It never occurred to me I knew something you didn't."
Once she calmed down, she demanded, "What else haven't you told me?"

Heh. Oh child, I imagine there are all sorts of things . . .

Laura Wilson-Anderson said...

Hmmm. My parents are only ten years younger than that, and they have laptops and kindles and tablets and smartphones and cannot be parted from the internet. We had computers starting with a Vic 20 when I was in... okay, I don't remember what grade. Junior high, probably. Maybe this guy has been holed up in a cabin in the woods for 40 years perfecting his masterpiece. :-)

Laura Wilson-Anderson said...

Okay. What's a decimal tab? :-)

KDJames said...

Laura: A decimal tab is a format feature in Word that allows you to align a column of numbers by their decimal point. It's very useful if you're making a report that combines sections of text and numbers (especially in tables), where a spreadsheet isn't the best choice. Or if you're making an invoice.

And if you have several tables with varying columns, you can highlight each table separately and set tabs for each one. Also, if you need to move a column you can just grab the decimal tab and slide it over, moving the entire column at once (and it stays perfectly aligned).

I think Word's instructions are sort of cryptic, but these do a better job of explaining how to do it:

https://www.k2e.com/tech-update/tips/850-tips-managing-decimal-tabs-in-word

It's fun to watch as you type. For the number 1,234.56, forex, when you tab across the page, the cursor hits the spot where the decimal would go and as you type 1,234 the numbers move backwards/to the left and once you type in the decimal, the numbers 56 then move forward again/to the right.

Hope that made sense. :)

Brittany Constable said...

I work in tech support, and every time someone says, "Oh, I'm not good with computers," I die a little inside. Not because I expect them to know, but it's the attitude of willful helplessness. It would be one thing if they actually wanted to learn, but invariably they just want to complain and be given a pass for lacking the basic level of literacy needed to do their jobs. Like they've internalized "not good with computers" as part of their identity and resist all efforts to actually acquire the new skills.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

My paternal grandparents are in their 80's, and my grandmother keeps up with the family on Facebook and Google Hangouts, using her tablet. My grandfather worked for IBM starting in the 1950's, right after he got out of the Navy. So, it wasn't until I was at the front desk of a public library that I realized there were people tech-ignorant, through accident or design. I've had people proudly declare to me that they were luddites, and I just...don't get it. I understand if you dislike people's behavior with their phones and/or on the internet. I get it if you think "screen time" has overtaken lives. But, like it or not, the internet has become the means by which many things function, from libraries to the grocery store to hospitals.

Besides, why deprive yourself of all of the answers in the world, at your fingertips? Like okay cool, you don't dig social media, but do you have any concept of all of the libraries which have digitized their collections of old manuscripts and just.....have that online? It's a marvel. I can look at stuff in the Vatican collection, or at Oxford. I can take a Great Course via youtube. There are massive open online courses, there are cooking blogs, pet blogs, webpages for any topic of your desire. You like tractors? We got tractors. You like bees? We've got bees.