Time to hit ‘Escape’

I’m doing my best to keep up with technology, but getting attitude from iSnobs everywhere doesn’t help.

By Marianne Leone
September 13, 2009

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Earlier this year, I was pulled over on the two-lane highway bordering my South Shore town. The friendly 30-something cop told me I had a busted taillight and asked to see my license and registration. He frowned as he looked at my license. I tried to joke.

“I know. I look like a felon.”

“Do you know your license is expired?”

My birthday had been two weeks earlier, and quite frankly I hadn’t scrutinized my license in a while. I bridled my normally feisty personality into a meekly supplicant one and sputtered excuses. The cop expounded on his right to leave me stranded on Route 53 while he impounded my vehicle, then relented.

“OK, I’ll let you go this time. But you have to promise to drive straight home and renew your license online. You do know how to renew your license online, right?”

I’m over 50. I’m guessing that 30-something cop thought a touch-tone phone was my technological limit. “Check out my BlackBerry!” I wanted to scream. “I downloaded my ring tone from my iTunes playlist, dude.” Instead I smiled gratefully, then brooded on where I had last seen that bemused yet pitying look.

Oh, yes. It was on the face of the 20-year-old Mac store “genius” who told me the problem was my Internet provider, not my new Mac laptop, which wouldn’t let me online. I salaamed out the door, chastened by his warning to stop putting off downloading my software updates.

At least I can program my new phones when they break down every five months, even if I’m retro enough to still use a land line. And I haven’t opted out completely like my husband, a confirmed Luddite and the only actor in the Western hemisphere to not own a cellphone. (He regards them as “electronic jail bracelets.”)

Didn’t I get points for knowing who my provider was? Not with my long-distance (and I mean really long-distance) customer service technician, Ran or Ren or Ron, who kept calling me “sir” and exasperatedly barking out orders to connect and disconnect various cables and type in long number sequences punctuated by dots. I followed orders like an altar boy, sometimes anticipating the moves, but even without visuals, I could picture Ran or Ren or Ron rolling his eyes. In the end, my technician gave up on me and said my case had to be solved by the senior department, “Tron,” and that someone from “Tron” would call me within 24 hours. I turned off the computer and waited for a fully sentient robot to call me with a cyborg voice that could still somehow embody aggravation. (And don’t think I couldn’t hear you rustling manual pages, Ran or Ren or Ron, even from your far-off continent. You couldn’t figure it out, either.)

I wasn’t going down without a fight. I marshaled the accumulated wisdom and intuition of my advanced years and turned on the computer. I navigated the labyrinth of passwords and flashing windows, using the Force like a Jedi master. It worked! The computer did my bidding, suddenly recovering from its temporary amnesia and recognizing some mysterious entity called the PPoE. I had conquered cyberspace all by myself. Sign off, Tron! Klaatu barada nikto.

The truth is, I don’t know what I did. I turned on the computer and the Internet gods somehow randomly granted me access. Maybe nobody knows anything. Or maybe this is payback. I do recall snickering at my Uncle Benny’s eight-track collection in the ’80s and my exasperation with my mother’s mortal fear of the answering machine. Now I’m on the receiving end of the snark.

I admit I’m clinging to a life raft of learn-as-you-go stopgaps in a sea of new technology. I admit I cannot impart my now-useless tech savvy at running a mimeograph machine, unsticking a typewriter key, or threading a reel-to-reel tape recorder to the younger members of my family. But my Uncle Benny did teach me to swim, and my mother taught me to make lasagna, wonderful skills I still use today. And the Luddite can operate a chain saw.

My new plan is to enlist the younger nieces and nephews in a skills-exchange program. They hook up my new copier/printer/particle collider and in return I use my culinary crone expertise to make them my mother’s mouth-watering lasagna. And I promise not to look at them smugly when they ask for the recipe.

Marianne Leone is an actress and writer living on the South Shore. Send comments to

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