“Hey Sis, I want to get a computer.” I looked at my middle aged father with raised eyebrows. He couldn’t work his own VCR without shutting down all power to his home, how on earth was he supposed to learn to use the Internet? I sighed in defeat, knowing that he wouldn’t drop the subject until he had a computer set up and he was hounding me to teach him to use it. Calling up my older sister, the two of us managed to piece together some of our computers so that he would be able to get online. Phone calls were made to hook my father up with a phone (no, he didn’t have one yet since he preferred his cell phone that he somehow managed to use without too much error) and an order was placed for DSL connections to his home. With his account all set up, all we needed to do was wait for the techs to show up a week later and route his service.
Two days before the techs were to turn on his DSL service, Dad received a call from the phone company that was hooking up his Internet. And just our luck, they just remembered that they don’t offer high speed Internet where my father lives. Lo and behold, he was forced to use dial-up. I was at home when he received the call, and after he hung up with the company he promptly dialed my number.
“Sis, the phone company says I can’t get what I wanted for the Internet. They said something about dial-up. Just who on earth am I supposed to be dialing up for Internet?” I groaned loudly. Dial-up? This was incredulous. Horrific images of my own personal experience with dial-up clouded my mind for a minute. Being hooked to the Internet at a whopping 30 kbps if I was lucky, slow page loads, pictures that downloaded with the speed of a stampede of turtles through peanut butter. The only upside was that I wouldn’t have to live with it, I could blissfully return home to my high speed broadband.
A short time later I found myself sitting in front of my Dad’s computer and trying to get a basic website to load. Three minutes later, I was able to explain to my father the purpose of a browser, but allowing him the hands-on experience that he needed to actually have it imprinted in his mind wasn’t happening with the short time frame that I had to help him out. So I explained to him how to access his dial-up, and how to tell if it was connected. My older sister had thoughtfully made him a Yahoo Messenger screen name so that he would be able to communicate with us if he was online and needed something. So I showed him how to get onto that, and away to my sister’s I went for dinner.
I couldn’t have been there for more than ten minutes when her phone rang, the caller ID showing that it was my father calling. I handed over the phone without checking which phone number he was calling from, the furthest I managed was seeing his name pop up in the display box. She answers it, and I try to occupy myself with other things so I wouldn’t have to be bothered with whatever he called for. It didn’t work. I could hear my sister replying to my Dad that what he needed to do to get Yahoo working was enter his username and password in the box that pops up in order to get on.
Well, fifteen minutes later my sister is still trying to walk him through accessing his messenger. And to no avail. Every attempt she made to get him signed on was met with no connections. I gave up trying to ignore what was going on, and had my sister hand me the phone.
“Dad, can you look in the lower right corner of your screen where the blue toolbar runs along the bottom?” He answers that he is looking, so I proceed. “Look for the little picture of two computers sitting one behind the other.” Yup, he sees them. “Now tell me Dad, is there a red X across those computers?” And of course there is! He just spent 20 minutes trying to connect to Yahoo Messenger with my sister’s help while he had no internet connection. “Go ahead and sign onto the server.” Five minutes later he finally managed to double click quick enough to get the Internet Service Provider dial-up box to show. Nearly four minutes after that, he irritably says that it isn’t working. “What does the box say when it refuses to connect?” I asked. “It says that the phone line is in use.” He answered in bewilderment. I closed my eyes and counted to 10, breathing slowly while I did so. “Dad, what phone are you using to call here?” I already knew the answer, but had to make sure that he got the big picture. “Well, my house phone of course. It’s what I had it hooked up for!”
With my sister laughing hysterically in my ear, I calmly explained (for the third time since he was set up with dial-up) that he could not use his house phone in any way if he wanted to be on the internet. I told him that we had to hang up so he could access Yahoo Messenger. I managed to get him off the phone and sit down heavily at the kitchen table. My problems with my Dad and the Internet were just beginning. A few minutes later my sister confirms that he is online, so she sends him a message. Playing with my 7 month old niece, I took no notice when the phone rang again (as it was apt to do at her house). I can hear my sister talking in the background, then she taps me on the shoulder.
“Dad wants you to go down and show him how to work that stupid thing.” I looked at her with an expression that could have melted ice, but she just laughed and went back to doing the dishes that she was immersed in when I got there a short time before. Ten minutes later I was headed out the door and for my father’s house, yet again.
Upon my arrival, Dad relinquished his seat at the computer so I could show him a few things. Basic Internet processes, once again, were gone through. I didn’t think he needed much more than that, since his main goal was to have someone do his finances online for him. I gave him the Internet for Dummies 101 Crash Course, and left him to his own devices.
His own devices, as I should have known, were going to get him in trouble. Earlier today, much to my amazement, I saw Dad’s Yahoo name lit up, and a message box from him up on my screen. Hmm, it says that he canceled his request to start photo sharing with me. Didn’t know that he had photos. So I sent him a message, and waited for his response. And what I received back was a one letter response from him. I. That was all. Just that lone letter. Five minutes later, and my phone is ringing.
“Sis, I can’t type! Every time I try to type something it moves my words somewhere else and I don’t know where they went to!” He sounded agitated, as well as confounded. And I had no answers for him. So I tell him that I will be down tomorrow to fix it for him, there is nothing I can do over the phone. We hang up, and I go back to my research on the Internet. Five minutes later he interrupts me yet again!
“Sis, the music you put on my computer isn’t working.” I shut my eyes, and once again counted to 10 while breathing slowly. It didn’t help much, but I was able to keep my voice even for the next 15 minutes while he tried to follow my instructions to get it working. With no success. I pointed out to my father that I would be at his house tomorrow to fix whatever was ailing the keyboard, so while I was there I would try to fix that too. Barely managing to get him off the phone in time to keep me from screaming in frustration, I hung up and returned, yet again, to my research.
Ten minutes later I’m buried in my work when a Yahoo message pops up from my sister. I read through it quickly, and had to read it again to make sure I was seeing it correctly. Yup, I was. “get ahold of dad and help him with that music thing that you put on his computer i have no clue how to fix it”. She had to be kidding me!! So I furiously typed back that I had already talked to Dad, and told him that there was nothing I could do without being in front of his computer. And that I had ALSO told him I would be there to do it tomorrow. She merely laughed at me, “lmfao”, and signed off.
So here I sit, resigned to the fact that I will be at Dad’s tomorrow trying fruitlessly, I’m sure, to teach him the basics of the Internet again. Really, if you think about it, the Internet isn’t that difficult! But, wait, this is my Dad. Like I said, he can’t work his VCR without shutting down all of the power to his house in his attempts. Wish me luck, the powers that be know I need it!