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Silver Threads: Thanks to the (young) geeks down the street

An old friend from Texas — and I mean “old” both in terms of the length of our relationship and her longevity — emailed me a video the other day that illustrates our generation’s tenuous grip on technology.

The scene is a kitchen with a 40ish woman stirring a pot on a stove in the foreground and chatting to her white-haired father, who is chopping vegetables in the background. The dialogue seems to me to be in German, but her references to an “iPad” jump out several times.

Then the little white-haired man approaches the pot, and under her incredulous stare scrapes into it onions from a shiny black little rectangle. She freezes as he turns and rinses it in the sink, then opens the dishwasher and inserts it on a rack.

“Was ist?” he asks as he notes her confounded amazement. (The title of the video is “So dad, how do you like the iPad we got you?” and you can watch it on

I love this piece because it portrays someone even dumber than I am about the technology that now surrounds my life. The other day, failing once again to be able to print something from my computer, I applied for help to our personal geek squad down the street. The 15-year-old grandson arrived, opened one of the Abita root beers stored especially for him and his brother, devoured two chocolate cookies, and quickly located the problem.

When I’d fouled up my PC trying to enlarge the print size on all the functions, I’d had to take it to a “doctor” ($100) and had of course unplugged the printer. Embarrassing, yes, but it got me to wondering whether elders of two generations ago ever forgot to plug in their radios. Whatever — I was glad to see grandson Jack, who isn’t nearly as frequent a visitor these days as he was when he was 6.

And lest you imagine me totally without mental resources, let me share that during the time my printer was “down” I got results by emailing what I wanted copies of to my husband, who printed out the desired material. There’s always a way, no matter how circuitous, for the persevering and innovative.

But my primary incompetence here got me to thinking about all the internet scams to which I am potential prey, like the North Carolina elders whose story wound up in Sunday’s Picayune. In this case the couple, former educators with half a dozen college degrees between them, lost a couple of hundred thousand dollars on a sweepstakes scam. This wasn’t on-line, but goodness knows there are dozens of opportunities out there in the ether to be fleeced.

At least a couple of times a week I get emails purportedly from the company that puts me on-line, threatening to close my account if not supplied with certain personal data, my password among them. The messages smack of foreign origin from poseurs badly tutored in English: “We will be shorting down your account,” etc.

Others, some of which begin, puzzlingly, “Dearest One,” promise up to 15 million dollars should I reply. It seems that there’s an unclaimed inheritance waiting for me in some eastern European country with which my family has never had any connection. It’s tempting; what couldn’t I do with an extra $15,000,000? I can imagine my father, had he lived in the day of internet communications, trashing the messages with that annoyed twitch of a muscle in his cheek, just as he did when a “Spanish prisoner” letter arrived at our house 70 years ago.

“We grow too soon old and too late smart” goes the Dutch proverb. But I think it’s never too late to be on top of some things, while others are best left to the geeks down the street.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at


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