The Interview

A few days ago our son Daniel, who helps us with all our technology problems, called to ask me if I would be willing to answer a few questions about technology, for a researcher. Since I’m not doing much else these days, I would say yes to just about Any research. Brushing my teeth with a new tooth paste, trying out vacuums on rugs covered with cat hair, taste testing anchovies; almost anything would be interesting during this stay-at-home pandemic.

The researcher was studying instructions for setting up devices like Alexa, and figuring out how to make these instructions more user-friendly for the older demographic, ie us seniors. This sounded like a perfect opportunity for me to have my say about a subject near and dear to the hearts of my husband and me, and many of our friends. I already had a list of complaints I mean suggestions, in my head.

The only small hitch was that, because of social distancing, this research was to be gathered through an online interview. I’ve had experience with facetime, and there have been numerous role models on TV lately. Think of all the politicians and talk-show hosts who are now broadcasting from their home offices, with kids climbing on their laps and cats traipsing across their keyboards. Well we don’t have a cat and I could just close our office door to keep Peter out. It would be fine.

I was excited about the idea, until I got the email with the instructions for setting up our online meeting. The first question was whether I have a microphone, camera, and headphones for my laptop. Yes to mic and camera, but I had to hunt high and low for headphones. I came up with earbuds but they wouldn’t stay in my ears. Could I hold them in place with tape? I continued reading the message. The words were a blur of indistinguishable terms like Cleanfeed, Quicktime, and instructions such as “turn off all notifications” and “limit the number of open tabs on Chrome.” It was like reading Greek.

After Daniel assured me that I could just use my cell phone and the phone earbuds that fit, I remembered that this interview would be live. With video! That meant I had to find a clean sweater. And wear earrings. And put on make-up. AND fix my covid 19 hairdo! Next I had to tidy up my desk: get rid of my little frog statue, my kids’ pictures, yesterday’s wine glass, my old jacket hanging on the back of the chair. Then I wondered if I had enough time to paint the office walls. I have never really liked that washed-out yellow…

But there was no time for painting. The researcher, Miriam, appeared on the screen with a friendly “hi.” She walked me through some further set-up details but she was patient and we figured it all out. Then the questions began. I relaxed and dove in.

I made several points which I think are important for our age group. For example, when dealing with novices like us, the instructions need to reflect that technology is like a new language. Many of the words are unique, they rarely relate to other words we know, and even “cookies” are not the cookies we bake for our grandchildren. We need a dictionary! If we have to plug a mic into a portal, we need pictures! Have you ever noticed how many portals there are on the back of your computer? You could spend all day trying to find the right one.

I was having fun blathering on, and the session was over much too soon. I still had things to say! I asked Miriam if she wanted to come over to my place for coffee? Maybe she could help me paint the office while we talked! Then I remembered the virus. Oh well, it had all been a bright spot in my otherwise mundane life. Daniel had come to the rescue again.


5 thoughts on “The Interview

  1. I have a virtual appointment on Thursday. I appreciate these excellent preparation tips! We’ll see how this goes! N



  2. And to think I used to sell this technology in the 80,s and now it is Greek to me today. You really need to grow up with computers and cell phones today. My granddaughter Alexandria (14) teaches me…ruth


  3. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud while reading your story. Absolutely hilarious. Thank you for doing this interview for us senior folks. Not sure I would volunteer!


  4. Sue Thanks for adding a little sunshine to Tuesdays. It’s always such a pleasant surprise to discover an email that I actually want to receive.

    You may or may not be curious, but since your post was inspired by technology and I’m still paying my P.Eng. dues I can’t resist preaching.

    I’m replying to you in my rocking chair using a MacBook Air on my lap with no wires attached. The camera and microphone are invisible but they are there when you want them. If I want to be secretive or not disturb those around I put my wireless AirPods in my ears and audio and microphone transfer magically. Oh, and by the way there’s only two ports and they’re both the same size and they figure out what you plugged in.* Cheers Gary

    * The writer owns shares of Apple Computer, but does not stand to benefit significantly when you rush out and buy a MacBook Air for each of your family members



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