Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Those Bothersome Elves

From the Florida Keys . . .

My parents are doing better . . . still in need of prayer . . . but both doing better. The crisis has passed and now we need to tackle the longer term problems . . . and tackle them with both the hope and the fortitude they will surely demand.

Meanwhile I've been taking Dad out for coffee and playing hours and hours of Scrabble with Mom. And if they can go out for coffee and play Scrabble, things clearly are better (Far! Better!) than they were just a few days ago.

I've been trying to get the folks moved into their house and generally situated for their winter stay in Florida. Right at the top of Dad's To Do List was a daunting task: Breaking into his email account. I have touched on this issue before -- my dear Dad and that confounded Internet. I was laughing about this very subject just the other day with two of Dad's close friends. Dad and the Internet -- a love/hate relationship if ever there was one.

Here is the thing you have to know about my Dad: He is one bright, capable guy. In certain areas he's not just bright; he's brilliant. The Internet doesn't happen to be one of those areas.

Last summer the unenviable job of accessing Dad's email fell to my long-suffering sister, Kate. Before calling on Kate's services, Dad had tried all variations of passwords and finally resorted to answering security questions. And it all went something like this:

Question: What is your oldest daughter's childhood nickname?

Answer: *****

Email successfully accessed.

Dad was incredulous. I mean, incredulous. Who put that in there? How did they know that? What's going on with this thing?

Hint to Dad: It wasn't Elves.

Let me reiterate: My  father is one of the sharpest people I've ever known. He builds radios, uses Morse code fluently, plays a wicked game of chess, routinely digests books like Chess Openings and The Open Sicilian 1-- and that last title has nothing to do with pizza.

But this pesky Internet? It's positively baffles him.

So, with just the slightest patronizing air, I attempted to log onto his account. I accessed the security questions. I entered the name of the place my parents had once vacationed. I entered just the state. I entered the city. I  tried the city and state. I added a comma. I omitted the comma. I tried all caps, some caps, no caps.

I abandoned ship and tried to access my own email and had no more success with that. I correctly answered questions -- really, I did, no, I really did, darn it! -- with caps, with commas, with a dash of salt thrown over my shoulder.


Suddenly the Elves didn't seem quite so far-fetched, and I was forced to confront an uncomfortable truth: I'm turning into my father.

He, at least, can still tap out messages in Morse code. As for me, I'm slipping big time. One minute you think you're in control of all your faculties, the next you're scratching your head saying, "Six times seven? Hang on, hang on. I know this one. I know this one."

Not too long ago, I hid the remote to our streaming device. Why, you ask? Because maybe I couldn't decipher the parental controls. So I pulled out the ultimate parental control and hid the blasted thing. And now you can probably guess the ending to this pathetic saga. I can't find it. Checked all the usual spots. No dice. So while I was incredibly stressed thinking about my parents and trying to pack up and facing mountains of laundry that all could have been done oh-so-very-easily if I could just have watched a few re-runs of Downton Abbey. But no remote!

Does Saint Anthony respond if the request involves a soap opera?

Now my boys, they swear I can turn my I-pad into a remote. How they know this, I can not tell you. They are on some sort of mailing list that has bypassed me entirely.

And then there are the non-technological issues.

Kolbe was on day eight of a ten day antibiotic. That boy had faithfully taken his meds. Ever dependable is my Kolbe. One morning I peered into the bottle and was surprised to see so many pills left. One glance at the bottle told me the reason why. Take TWO tablets twice per day. TWO! Which is not to be confused with ONE which, mathematically speaking, is HALF the dose.

And then there's Christmas prep. I thought I'd peruse the old Christmas list in the wake of Dave's Black Friday shopping spree. When it comes to surprising anyone on Christmas, the electronic age brings with it a host of new challenges. For starters, most online purchases are followed by no less than three email messages explaining the exact status of your order  So you have to be prepared to delete multiple emails.

But then there are the pop-ups. Your husband might be idly checking The Weather Channel to see the snow accumulation in Detroit and up pops an image and the price of the very sweater you had just purchased for him. And then there are electronic-savvy kids who helpfully fill up your Amazon cart and browse your order history just for kicks.

I maintain an ever-changing Master Christmas List on excel, and the kids have stumbled upon that as well. So I encrypt the whole thing. With Ainsley, this is easy. I type "The Explorer" and know that this is a Dora doll. As long as I don't get over-zealous hiding Dora, I can be reasonably confident our favorite explorer will make an appearance under the tree.

The older kids call for more sophisticated subterfuge and a touch of wiliness. Instead of Skateboard, I scramble the letters and type something they'll never figure out but I will until I don't and then I'm left looking at Tim's list and wondering what in the world Eblank means and why is listed as a gift from Grandma and have I, in fact, already purchased Eblank and, if so, where is it?

Please don't ask me to enter security questions to access my Christmas list. Been there, tried that, never got the email (though perhaps the Elves are occupied somewhere north of here).

Meanwhile I sit in the Florida Keys unable to decipher Direct TV, fumbling to locate the mute button on the remote.

But this problem Dad can fix.


Kris said...

My Dad, who is a brilliant engineer, is also baffled by computers and the internet. We were recently there and discovered that he had two printers for 3 computers and he would unplug and plug in the printer depending on the computer he was using. My husband (Mr. IT) casually mentioned that the better printer was wireless and he could network all the computers to that one. Did it in 5 minutes, much to my Dad's delight and bafflement! In the same visit, we also noticed that Dad had Wi-Fi all of a sudden. When we remarked on it, he denied vigorously that he would ever "pay for Wi-Fi". We figured out he had upgraded his cable to U-verse, automatically getting Wi-Fi. Months ago. He had no idea. I can tell you many more stories.....!!

Jamie said...

Can you just add a password to your Excel file, instead of encrypting all of the contents?

Glad your parents are better!

Kelly Dolin said...

Kris - I love that "I'd never pay for Wi-Fi!" While your father's printer set-up sounds horribly inefficient, there are plenty of things I do the hard way just because I know they'll work.

Jamie - Your suggestion is just way
too easy and sensible.

Still haven't figured out what "eblank" means.