By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

rotary-phoneThis year I will hit a milestone birthday.  I have frequent reminders that I’m getting older, mostly from my knees and memory.  But these days the true test of whether one is on the “back nine” of life is dealing with technology.  I have long prided myself in my interest in computers and anything the least bit geeky.  I owe this to my long-time technology guru at work, Doug Clayton, who always assured me that pressing the “F10” button on the keyboard was NOT going to blow up Hong Kong.  He encouraged me to experiment and right-click my way through most problems.  I wish that I still lived near him – a man of endless patience who never once rolled his eyes at me or called me an ignorant slut.  Although he certainly would have been justified on many occasions.

vcr hook up

These days, I browse Best Buy like it’s a candy store.  Honestly, I’d rather spend two hours there than at Nordstrom (unless it’s the Nordstrom Cafe with their delightful chocolate cake).  I think for someone who started out with a black, rotary phone and a phone number that started with a noun (Twinbrook 23537), I’ve come pretty far.  I have lived long enough to marvel through push-button phones, cordless phones, answering machines, cell phones the size of a shoe box and now the Apple watch.  As for computers, much like the old TV sets, my first one at work had a 10 inch screen with bright green letters on a black background.  I remember when, with more enthusiasm than talent, I hooked up our first DVR back in 1986 and it was a simple matter of connecting two coax cables.  Now…well, there is a computer in everything, from my fitness band to the washing machine.  And everything connects wirelessly.  Even the TV is now called a “smart TV”.  I don’t know exactly what that means but I know one thing, it’s a heck of a lot smarter than me.

Computer wireLast week the intersection of technology and my ineptness crossed when, after 17 years with the same phone and internet company, I decided I’d had enough of their slow speeds and faulty phone lines.  So on Friday a nice young man from the new company showed up at our doorstep ready to install everything I’d need to wisk me through the digital age.  He said it would take about an hour.  That was at 10 a.m.  Apparently our home, which is only 15 years old, is the Parthenon of technology wiring.  At 4 p.m. he finally finished, having had to cancel every other service call scheduled for that day. I peered over his shoulder (which I’m sure he just loved) to watch how he hooked everything up.  When it was all up and running he left.  Big mistake.  I should have kidnapped him.

I spent the next two days uttering language that would make a sailor blush.  Somewhere over those 17 years I lost count of how many devices I’d hooked up wirelessly until, one by one over the weekend, they stopped working – the printer, the wi-fi extender, both iPads and the cell phones.  Don’t even get me started on that “smart TV”.  If it’s so damn smart why can’t it hook itself up?  Honestly, would it be that hard for it to detect that there is a new wireless router and think “Gee, the old router is no longer online and there is a new router.  I think I’ll connect to that one.”  I don’t think that’s asking too much of something that purports to call itself “smart”.

In any event, here I am a week later, and everything seems to be working.  Of course, we all know that I’ve lulled myself into a false sense of security.  I’m guessing that within the next week something will go down and I will have to call Tech Support in India where “Dave” will walk me through all the things I’ve already tried before transferring me to someone in Poughkeepsie.  Some days that old black rotary phone looks pretty darn appealing.

P.S.  For those of you who kindly commented, and related your own stories, on my blog about “Un-Fun Money”, we can now add “new garbage disposal” to the list.  It never ends.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

The Poma remnants

The Poma remnants

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  Which means that I’m spending today cleaning out the refrigerator and wondering why I bought so much food.  There is something about Thanksgiving that must make my “starvation gene” kick in.  I buy groceries like we have had nothing to eat for months and end up with enough food to feed an army.  Unfortunately, with only six of us in the house, we end up being a very well-fed army.  Or, as our daughter said this weekend, we are in a “poma”.  That is a hybrid word she coined on Thanksgiving night as we sat watching football in a  stupor – a combination of pie and coma.  It aptly described our mental and physical states.  And that was before the 49ers played so badly that the owner apologized to the fans. Maybe the players were in a poma too.  But no matter how bad we felt, we were still better off than the people who ventured out to shop in the newly formed “Thanksgiving Day Sales”.  I want to go on record that I am totally against the stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.  Can’t we still have a holiday that celebrates food, family and football without Target and Walmart getting involved?  The stores all claimed that the early opening times would avoid some of the mayhem from past Black Friday sales when so much pushing and shoving took place.   Hmmmmm…let’s just re-cap how that little experiment worked.  For your reading pleasure, here are some of the highlights from the “new” Black Thursday:


  • In Romeoville, Illinois a policeman was dragged from his car in the parking lot at Kohl’s by a shoplifter he was trying to apprehend,

    At least there are no knives in sight

    At least there are no knives in sight

  • In Las Vegas, a man was shot in a Target parking lot when two men accosted him and tried to steal the HDTV he had just purchased,
  • In Virginia a man was stabbed in the knee with a knife after two men got into an altercation over a parking spot,
  • In Carlsbad, California a man was stabbed in the stomach at the entrance to a mall, ostensibly jockeying for position to be the first to get his hands on a brand new TV.
  • At a Houston Walmart people were trampled and fights broke out when shoppers laid down on Samsung TV boxes to “reserve” them.  (I actually had to laugh thinking about the genesis of that shopping strategy:  “Okay, I’ll go get the Game Boy and Barbie Doll, you go heave your body over the Samsung box until I come around to pick you up.”)

The most telling of the “Black Friday” incidents occurred in Nanuet, New York, where two Costco employees began fighting in the men’s room before the store opened and one of them stabbed the other with a box cutter.  You can only imagine the conversation that preceded their tiff.  They were most likely fighting over which one of them had to go out and face all of the fruitcakes that were lined up at the store entrance, waiting to get their hands on a bargain-priced electric potato peeler or a jumbo container of gouda cheese.

Clearly, the goal of the new opening hours on Thursday did nothing to stem the violence – or stupidity – of the shopping public.   But I suspect that the big stores will open again on Thanksgiving next year because I just read that the extra hours translated to record profits for them.  It seems hard to believe that we might become nostalgic for the “good old days” when people were just pushing and shoving.

As for me, I’ll stick with Cyber Monday, where traditionally people shop from their employer’s computers so they can take advantage of the fast T-1 lines.  Not to mention the added benefit of looking like they’re working furiously on their computer when in reality they’re perusing the latest Best Buy ad.  Even though I am now retired, I still like looking at the deals available today.  And I have the extra added benefit of safety – I am fairly confident that neither my husband or Dash the Wonder Dog will stab me while I’m shopping.