At my first real job at a tech consulting company in Germany, my boss handed me six boxes of software to install, along with their manuals, and said, “You know what you’re doing, right?” Like I was going to admit the truth and get sent back to America; I just nodded and started installing. That trial by fire eradicated any sense that technology is mysterious or that I’m going to break it by pressing the wrong button. That’s why I’ve always been the person in the house who is called upon to defrag the hard drive, figure out why the printer is stalled, and format Excel tables.
However, I can see that my reign as Tech Support Queen is coming to a rapid end. In a cycle repeated endlessly, across all disciplines, the old gets replaced by the new. I am not even being replaced by the 14 year old, who is herself very tech savvy. It’s the 11 year old who is our self appointed new Geek.
My mom has never loved computers but during her visit last week we talked her into getting an eReader – her lifelong love of reading being the one thing that we thought might get her on board with modern technology. The youngest daughter took it upon herself to set up a self-paced instructional module called “How to Be Moderately TechieTM” for Grandma. It culminated with a written test showing photos of various devices whose primary function had to be chosen from a multiple choice list (good luck with the iPhone answer.)
There was also a long list of desired search results, for which Grandma had to write down the proper search phrase she might use to elicit them.
Thus began the biggest “Who’s On First?” debacle this house has ever seen, with the granddaughter saying, “Ok, how old is Lea Michele? What phrase would you use to look that up on Google?” and my mom saying, “She’s 20. I just read it in Parade Magazine.” My daughter would sigh heavily and ask again, and my mother would just as firmly say, “I know she’s 20 so I don’t have to look it up.” On to the next question: “What would you search for if you wanted to know the name of Madonna’s latest song?” “Oh, that’s easy. It was during the Super Bowl. She was wearing some sort of gladiator costume.” It was like listening to two weary travelers from far distant lands meet at a crossroads and try to provide a helpful weather report, each in in her own tongue.
The child’s particular expertise is AT&T U-verse and the operation of our one television. I believe it’s related to her ardent love for things that appear on its screen, including but not limited to Dance Moms; if there is troubleshooting to be done, she materializes magically, grabs the three remotes it takes to operate our TV/DVR/VCR, and juggles them like a circus pro. Her ways are inscrutable, but she’s never yet been defeated.
Last Sunday afternoon, though, I thought she’d met her match. I got the first tech support call, from my husband and father who were hoping to watch the Pebble Beach golf tournament. Neither my regular tricks nor my advanced hacks worked, and I ended up on the phone with AT&T support, scheduling a repair visit for Monday morning. So much for the Grammies, and worse, as I announced right before dinner, so much for Downton Abbey.
Downton Abbey, which runs until 10 pm, provides the only exception to the 9 pm bedtime of our nascent tech guru, so she was off to the races. From the kitchen we could hear her talking to the TV; it was definitely taking her longer than usual to do her magic. My husband finally went down to provide moral support, which is when the bickering started. Dad clearly was not on board with whatever approach his daughter was taking, and she was just as clearly sure she was right. About ten minutes later we finally heard the telltale “Got it!” and the sounds of voices coming from the tv.
My husband came upstairs, shaking his head. “Do you want to know how she fixed it, in case it happens again?” he asked.
“First, put the movie ‘Elf’ into the VCR, and watch it for seven minutes. No other movie, and no less than seven minutes. Then, and only then, press the ‘Exit to TV’ button on the DVR remote control. That’ll reset the whole system.” He went on demonstrate her unique swish and point technique for operating the remote, which looks suspiciously like Hermione Granger schooling Ron Weasley on Wingardium Leviosa during Harry Potter 1.
Our daughter joined us, looking quite pleased with herself. “But Dad,” she pointed out, “it worked.”
The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.