Keeping up leaves me feeling down

IN A mixture of keeping up with the Joneses and trying desperately to keep up with the 21st century, you might find yourself in a place so alien to your usual environment that you are finding it hard to breathe normally while remaining upright.

A computer shop. While perfectly at home in a book shop or a cake shop, being in a computer shop is like being in a nuclear submarine — it all looks impressive and intimidating and you dare not touch anything. Still. You can’t march onwards in life, being a modern citizen, while still carrying pen and paper around in your bag, can you? Writing people’s phone numbers down on the back of till receipts is so last century. Time to get with the present.

“I’d like an iPad please,” you might say commandingly, looking the geek straight in the eye the way you would an unpredictable dog. Trying to keep the tremor of fear out of your voice. Really, you have no idea what an iPad is, or what it does, but your friend has one and she seems to be able to work hers quite nicely. And it fits in her handbag, unlike the clunking great apparatus that lives on your desk, with its television-sized screen and giant keyboard. Yes, it is time to get modern.

The geek will ask you what model you want, which will obviously floor you. He’ll start droning on about megapixels and hi-def and your brain will enter sleep mode, the way it does when someone gives you massively complicated driving instructions through your car window when you are completely lost in a different city (because, naturally, you don’t have satnav). All you hear is blah blah blah.

The most sensible thing is to get the cheapest — which of course isn’t cheap at all, but you calculate that as it’s a credit card purchase, it’s actually free. Later, still congratulating yourself on your modernity, you realise there is no instruction manual with your new item. WTF? How does this thing work? “It’s, you know, intuitive,” says the geek in the shop when you ring them back for help. Useless. You hang up and ring a techie friend, who talks you through the on/off button function. Your palms are sweating. Did you just bankrupt yourself by buying something so modern you have no idea how to use it?

The eight-year-old swoops on it when he gets home from school. Within seconds he has downloaded his favourite games, set up email accounts to pay for them using your card details, and made a short film of the dogs, which he posts on YouTube. The 11-year-old grabs it off him, and starts Skyping her friends. You stand there, helplessly, clutching a notepad of paper and a biro tightly to your side. Oh, to be modern.

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