In the next week or so, many of you will be heading over to your relatives’ houses. Your mom and dad will be there, so will grandma and grandpa, maybe even your great aunt and uncle. They’ll all be dressed differently, maybe some will have aged better than others but every single one of them will have something in common: they’ll all want your tech advice. We all like making jokes about how old people can’t use technology and we like to complain about how hard it is to teach them. Although this is often the case, just think back to why you even bothered trying in the first place.The following story took place over the most recent Thanksgiving break; my first time home from college. I hope that you may take a thing or two away from my story and remember what the holidays are truly about.
“What’s the difference between this youtube and that youtube?” Grandma says in sing-song Mandarin pointing to the two icons on her new iPad.
“One is the app and one is a bookmark to the website” I try to explain. Of course to her, there was no difference between the two.
She asks for the third time: “So which one can I watch Chinese soap operas on?”
“Neither!” I reply, thoroughly exasperated. At this point I’ve reached the limit of my feeble Mandarin vocabulary. I continue in broken Chinglish along the lines of, “It’s illegal putting company’s show on internet. The government lawsuit sea-pirates if they steal television!” I look up at her and she’s still as confused as ever; I’m frustrated with her and at my inability to communicate such a basic concept in my mother-tongue.
Grandma sighs as do I–we’ve been here before.
We got her the iPad for mothers’ day hoping that she could use it to finally learn “the internet”. After all, there were literally several documented instances of septuagenarians all around the world figuring out the thing on their own. As far as personal experience goes, let’s just say there’s a reason why every old person isn’t foaming at the mouth to get one.
This is at least the third time I’ve tried to teach her to use the iPad but all she wants to do with it is watch soap operas with it. At one point I dug up a few episodes on youtube which subsequently convinced her that every show must be iPad accessible somewhere on the internet. No matter how hard I tried, there was no way I could convince her otherwise–so I gave up.
I gave up on the grandmother who had just spent her afternoon making me dinner. The same woman who travelled across the world to take care of me because my parents were working full time and couldn’t do so themselves. My grandma who left behind the rest of her family and all her friends to make sure I would grow up safe and healthy. I gave up on her because I was frustrated that she couldn’t figure out an iPad. I felt miserable, but you know who didn’t? Grandma.
After fuming for half a minute, I looked up again at her and there she was; still smiling, eyes twinkling. “I’m sorry I don’t understand this, maybe I’m just too old” she said with a chuckle.” I had no words; what could I do but hug her tightly and hope she understands I’m sorry for everything. When I think back to all she’s done for me I realize that I will never be able to pay her back. The least I could do is try my best to teach her how to “internet”. But even if I fail, which inevitably will be the case; it really is the thought that counts.