Smart, Smarter and Smartest

Tammie’s cell phone made a familiar ‘ping’! She glanced over at it from where she was sitting behind the steering wheel and said, “Mom, that’s probably Niki answering my text. Why don’t you see what she said.”

I gingerly picked up my daughter’s phone, afraid that I would accidentally press a button or somehow damage it unintentionally. The message had already disappeared from the screen. Not sure what to do, I hesitated.

Tammie encouraged, “Don’t be afraid to handle my phone, Mom. You’re not going to break it. You know my code. Go ahead and enter it to see what Niki said.”

Reluctantly, I did as my daughter directed. I suspected she was hoping that if I used her phone a few times, I would begin to want one for myself. Several years ago, she had asked me, “What would you do if your car broke down while traveling to visit me? You need to own a cell phone so you can call for help!”

I doubt what I did was what she had expected. I went out and bought a primitive flip phone. It doesn’t have dozens of bells and whistles, but I can make calls and take mediocre pictures.

I won’t replace my land line phone with a mobile phone as my daughters have done, because I live in an area where reception is sporadic. Tammie agreed on this point when I’d asked her, “What if I have an emergency and can’t get through to 911?”

Smart phones intimidate me. I manage a desk computer without any problem, but feel that although smart phones are miniature computers, they speak an entirely different language.

With a desk computer, I never touch the screen. I use a mouse to direct an arrow to change pages. Smart phones require you to touch its screen to make it do what you want.

When typing is required, the qwerty key board with my desk computer is the correct size for my fingers. The qwerty keyboard on a cell phone is so small that I should have hands the size of a real mouse to properly hit the keys.

I’m amazed when I watch my daughters use their smart phones. A flick of their finger to the left or right sends or summons pictures. A finger poke at the picture of a button wakes up the camera. Messages are pulled down into sight as if on a retractable shade.

Smart phones do things that a desk computer can’t. They can replace flash lights, stopwatches, alarm clocks, radios, schedule books, calculators and cameras.

Handling Tammie’s cell phone didn’t make me want to buy one. It was the failing battery in my flip phone and the feeling I was missing out on a chance to have fun. My daughters are texting each other frequently and sending pictures. I feel left out.

I ordered a smart phone last week. When UPS delivered it, Niki came and set it up for me, then showed me how to use it.

Two days into owning the phone, a malicious message popped up on the screen. It said that my phone was damaged by a virus. To fix it I needed to buy their product. I tried to ‘flick’ the message away, thinking, “It’s a scam.” It didn’t go away.

The rest of the evil message said that shutting down the device would further damage it. I didn’t believe that either, until I tried to reboot and the phone locked down, refusing to let me back in. Unfortunately, smart phones don’t have buttons to reduce their owner’s panic.

Tammie couldn’t give me long distance help, so I drove to Niki’s house. I arrived on the edge of tears with my dead phone and whined, “My new phone is broken.”

Niki said, “Now don’t be so upset. Let’s just take a look at it.” Within minutes she had found the source of the problem and fixed it. Then, like the calm, loving mother Niki is, she made me sit down with her for a nice cup of tea.

Just having a smart phone doesn’t make a person smarter. The smartest thing to have is a daughter or a friend who can fix these new-fangled gadgets when things go wrong.

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