The simple and grand pleasures of technology

Technology still fazes me at times. I’m not embarrassed to admit. As I’ve often said, this baby boomer Lola keeps on learning. I love to learn. Learning is a spice of life that should never fade. So, you might ask – what’s the latest from technology for me. Well, I’ve never been really interested in zoom. Facetiming and skyping have been favorite activities with family members and friends – but group zooming I wasn’t really into – until shelter-in-place started. Since virtual meetings have become part of the new norm, and by virtue of its pragmatic functionality, zoom has become a buzzword. I have definitely learned to appreciate it.

Catching up with the rapid pace of technology is a challenge. I’m a baby boomer, and I’m convinced technology is on a fast track – nonetheless, I enjoy the challenge (I think).

It seemed just a few years ago when my grandson Eliott, around 7 then, introduced me to Siri during a facetime session. When he asked if I’d like to meet Siri, I responded, “Who is she?” At the back of my mind, I recalled hearing her name, but it didn’t mean anything to me. Eliott was eager to show his Lola his new iPod, but more excited to let me hear his new friend, Siri. I was stunned. Immediately, I liked her silky tones and respectful voice. Eliott urged, “Go ahead, ask her questions”. My first inquiry was polite and civil – you guessed right – what’s the weather today? Smart gal. Gave me accurate responses. It was a humid 80+ degree weather then, and as she reported the temperature, I started to sweat. She was darn right – it was very warm! And I wasn’t aware of it inside my home, until Siri told me.

When my grandson heard me pledge loyalty to the original Siri weeks ago, he did a switch on me. He tweaked a button on his iPod, and the voice turned to that of a man. A male Siri! Egged on by my surprise, Eliott stunned me further. He changed the settings so that the male voice projected various accents and inflections. Utterly clever. Amazing technology. But I begged – “Could you please put it back to the old Siri?” See what I mean about being fazed by technology.

Last week, my grandson showed me a parade of emojis and GIF’s. Until then, I didn’t know the difference between the two. This young boy, almost 11 in July, explained to his Lola with such patience and kindness. No ridicule about an older person’s ignorance. A bit of surprise, maybe, but definitely, a great deal of respect in teaching a doting grandma. Well, I learned that GIF’s are pictures or images that move or show activity on the screen – and emojis are pictures or drawings that are stationary. Did I get that right? To me, emojis look like stickers. My favorite is Cool with the dark glasses and a broad smile on its round face – so I call it Smiley. But my grandson corrects me – it’s just Cool. So now, I call it Mr. Cool. I haven’t yet found a favorite GIF.

Back to zoom. I started zooming two months ago when my son suggested that he, my daughter, my grandson and I zoom to listen to my grandson practice a Bach piece. We were quiet while listening, but rushed to conversation during two 2-minute breaks during the piano lesson hour. My first zoom, and I loved it. That was followed weeks after by two zoomings with relatives in the Philippines. Recently, I joined a zoom meeting with some church members after a Sunday service. By this time, I assumed I was savvy with zoom. This was a sermon discussion session with Pastor Paul of Peninsula Bible Church who delivered a meaningful and insightful message during the livestream worship that Sunday in Palo Alto. Following the urge to ask a question, I started to speak. I heard the pastor say he saw my lips moving, but no sound was coming from me. Hmmm … I thought, there must be something wrong from his end, and too bad, no one knew how to read lips. He requested the moderator to check the system. Twice, she suggested, “Unmute yourself”. Frantically, I looked for the mute button on my screen and couldn’t find it at first. Meantime, everyone was waiting for my moving lips to chirp some sound. A bit embarrassing, I dare say. This Lola should know how to zoom! Finally, up on the top left corner of my screen, I found an icon that had skipped my notice. I jerked my finger on the button and clicked it fast. To my great relief, I heard Pastor Paul say, “There you go!”

A funny yet strange nudge – unmute myself. After the zoom session following the livestream worship, while engaging in a reflective mood, I couldn’t help but muse over what happened and gave in to chuckles. I pondered – when I communicate with God, whether in prayer, supplication or conversation – do I forget to unmute myself?

On a sublime plane, will I find the right unmute button? I think I will – right here in my heart. And when I do, that wouldn’t be just a simple pleasure — that would be a grand pleasure of a higher technology.

Linda P. Jacob

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