Let’s face it, I’m old. It didn’t happen overnight, but it finally happened. I’m old and I feel it. I wake up sore from just sleeping. My bathroom medicine cabinet looks like a scene from “Breaking Bad.” I bend over to tie my shoes and find my arms have shrunk. Why bother? I can’t see my feet anyway. I haven’t seen them in years. My head is the only place I don’t have hair. My hairline has receded so much it now reaches the hair on my back. I tried to shave it once, but again, my short little arms. I stopped going to the barber years ago. They were spending more time on my eyebrows than the hair on my head.
My hearing is going. Not all my hearing, mind you, just the decibel range where my wife asks me a question. I swear, she talks softer now just to give herself a bit of a laugh. She says something, and I can’t hear. I need to stop everything I’m doing, get up from my chair and go see what she wants. “Oh, nothing dear, I don’t want to bother you with . . . Oh, well, since you’re up . . . I carry a note card in my pocket with my address and phone number. In case I go for a walk and forget how to get back home. Let’s face it, I’m old.
Both my shoulders needed surgery, and the perfect eyesight I was blessed with in my youth has now been cursed. Who knew you could get quadra-focal prescriptions for all the distances you’ll ever need. Oh, hell! What’s next? My knees? My hips? My back? Yep. They’ll all need the 100,000-mile service but one at a time. I’m on the medical merry-go-round. Thank goodness I’m on Medicare. Now the free medical care for life the Military promised me only costs $200 bucks a month. What? The procedure’s not covered? “Everyone experiences that once in a while . . . at your age.” Nobody likes growing old. I hate it.
I know, I know, many of you have it much worse than me. Seems like the worse off one of my friends or relatives is, the less they complain. Let’s face it, I’m weak and getting weaker.
When I was working, I was no stranger to technology. I was, as you say, cutting edge. Well, I’m dull now. I can’t navigate the TV remote, and my smartphone’s been locked for three days. Later, I’ll Zoom with my six-year-old grandson so he can fix it. Today my Amazon Alexa isn’t working, so why is that woman still talking to me? “Shall I start your free trial? Unless you cancel, and we know you’ll never figure out how to cancel, your credit card will be charged $11.45 every month until you die.” Since “Alexa” is an Amazon product, it’s tied right to your Amazon account. Now the shopping channel that used to be on cable TV has an IV shoved right up your wallet. Technology is so convenient.
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, isn’t it? Easier for whom? Our internet router went out. The helpful automated robot on the phone told me to go to their website. I can’t go to their website because my router isn’t working. What moron came up with this idea. And don’t even get me started on calling customer support.
Well, since you did, customer support for the technology impaired is all but gone. It used to be you could wait on the phone for three hours to solve a three-minute problem. Now, the automated menu for customer support sends you into the do-loop of despair. Press one for sales, two for technical support, and three to get back to the main menu. No human for you to cuss at, no polite-sounding person with the accent of someone from Dubuque, Iowa. The polite people of customer support are all but gone. Of course, your polite person wasn’t from Iowa or even the Midwest. Your tech support hero was from Bangalore, India, or Kuala Lumpur. Which was great, by the way. You used to be able to talk to a human, a polite person who cares about you and is there for you twenty-four hours a day, ready to solve your problems. I loved customer support when you could actually reach a human. But you can’t. Not anymore. All the humans got laid off during COVID. Now you just get the automated do-loop of despair.
I loved the great rivalries of years gone by. In football, it used to be the Dallas Cowboys. Everyone in Texas loved the Cowboys. Everyone else hated the Cowboys. When asked who’s your favorite team, the safest answer was “any team playing the Cowboys.” Ok, that was when I actually watched football. But I stopped watching thirty years ago. I stopped watching professional sports a long time ago. Too much Hollywood and too much money. The safest answer today to the question of your favorite team is whichever team is playing Tom Brady. We do sure love our villains. I don’t hate the Cowboys or Tom Brady. But if you ask me, I’ll say I do. I try and get along.
Do you remember the great tape wars of the late seventies and early eighties? Who would win? Betamax had better image quality, their machines were better, and the sound was superior to VHS. But two things crushed Sony and Betamax. First Beta was limited to 60 minutes of record time, while VHS could handle up to three hours. Second, the porn industry favored VHS. Over half the sales of VHS tapes in the eighties were for porn. An average-priced VHS recorder sold for $800, but consumers wanted their three hours of uninterrupted porn. This little vignette is not something I hate; it’s just an interesting story. See, I’ll be prepared at the next cocktail party, what will you bring? I’d hate for you to come unprepared.
Why is there a CVS on the same corner as Walgreens? Why is there a Rite Aid less than a block away? Is there a Home Depot close to you? Chances are, there is a Lowes within a few miles of the Home Depot. Why is that? MacDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s are all right next to each other in every metropolitan area in the country. We sure do love our choices. We love the competition. But do we need it? Does the competition lead to lower prices? I don’t think so. All this comparison shopping doesn’t lead to getting a better price. Sometimes yes, but mostly no. What all these choices give you is an opportunity to be separated from your money. All these choices result in an endless search for stuff you don’t need. Hey, ear wax remover is on sale at Walgreens – got to run.
Today’s technology war is among Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Each vying for a slice of your American pie. Only compatible when they must, each of these giant companies wants you to put your data in their cloud or subscribe to one of their subscription services. Remember when we all learned HP made more money selling ink than they did on their printers? Welcome to the new IV hooked directly to your wallet. In days gone by, you could go to a record store and actually buy a vinyl record. Now you can only lease an MP3 file. Of course, the song only costs $1.50 on Amazon or Apple Music. But to store just one song in the cloud will cost you $19.95 a month for the rest of your life. If you cancel, you lose your song.
Netflix and Amazon Prime Video cost me ten bucks a month each. But now I also have Hulu, ESPN, Disney Plus, HBO Max, PBS, and a few others I can’t remember. But they remember to suck money out of my checking account every month. PBS. I even pay for PBS. Yes, I pay for a network that is subsidized by the government and comes over the airways for free? Yup, I do. I guess I should stop watching so much TV anyway. I could just read more. So, I bought an Amazon Kindle. Now that free book from the library costs me a low, low price of nine dollars a month.
Sometimes, but not always, I hate technology. I guess I’m just another dumb consumer living in a smart house. A house too smart for me.
I’m so old.