I’ve got a new phone – it’s gold and it’s 4G, whatever that is, so state of the art, obvs. The patient young man at Tesco’s answered all my daft questions, put in my sim and downloaded everything except the BusChecker and hotmail apps which I needed my google password for – I didn’t even know I had one. In the meantime, I noticed a few more oldies circling the area. Back home, I managed to download BusChecker and the email app, but two email apps turned up, one in Spanish. A shiver ran down my spine – how did it know about my Spanish family connections – spooky or what? But the techno-troops (the four grandchildren, their mum and dad) were due back from Bilbao soon – they’ll sort me out, I was thinking.
‘Gran, gran,’ grandson rushed at me as I arrived at their house. ‘Look, look, I’ve got my own phone.’ His mum had given him her old one (minus sim card) since she got a better one on some deal or other. ‘Wow, show me how it works,’ I said, thinking great, my new phone will be a game-free zone. ‘I need to focus on this game or I’ll die again,’ he replied. ‘It’s Banana Kong, you know, gran, from FGTV’. He saw my face so sang the theme tune: ‘You know, dooble ooble ooble do’, but that wasn’t much help.
‘I’ve got a new phone too,’ I said. ‘Can I see it?’ he asked and I went and handed it over. He pressed a few things. ‘I’ve put your camera in the google file,’ he said. Oh god. ‘And I’ve downloaded SubwaySurfer because my phone hasn’t got a sim card. And, gran, I’ve drawed you and me as a stickman in Stickman,’ he said and there we were pottering about on the screen holding hands – aaaww.
‘But you need Best Fiends (yes, no ‘r’) too,’ he continued, explaining ‘all of the slugs were angry with the flies and the metal from the meteor changed their minds and they became evil and you obviously have to kill the slugs.’ He saw my face (again): ‘It’s definitely the metal, gran,’ he said firmly. ‘I’ve checked it’, adding ‘and you need Putlocker, too.’ All this was not the kind of technical support I had in mind.
‘Have you got whatsapp?’ emailed my son from Argentina after I’d told him I’d got 4G – just to sound uber-cool, you understand. He was unimpressed – he’s not a state of the art kinda guy. But he knows about whatsapp: ‘You just download it and we can call you for free,’ he said. Fantastic. But ‘just download it’ doesn’t exist, does it? There were so-and-so-ing options. High five, App people, let’s get one thing straight, I don’t want so-and-soing options, I just want one thing to so-and-so download which so-and-soing-well works. I plumped for whatsapp messenger and it sent me a couple of codes – what was I meant to do with those? I consulted my daughter’s partner. ‘You have downloaded it,’ he said looking at my phone, ‘now just go into contacts and press the number,’ and later he sent me a whatsapp msg which worked. Flushed with excitement, I whatsapped Argentina.
This is the shortened version. Up in the Andes in Patagonia, a mobile phone rang. ‘Wow,’ I heard my daughter-in-law say, ‘you’ve done it!’ Then the line went dead. A msg showed up on my phone: ‘You’ve used up your payment buffer’ and then another, not one, not two, but eight texts from Tesco’s – oh hell’s so-and-soing teeth. Buzz Buzz, my son whatsapped me. ‘I don’t think you were in whatsapp app, mum,’ he said. ‘so they’re charging you.’ ‘I must’ve downloaded the wrong one, do you think?’ ‘Well, mum, I just press the button and it works.’ Very illuminating.
Then came a few, ‘Can you hear mes?’ and, eight thousand miles away, his wife grabbed the phone. ‘Listen carefully,’ she said between crackles. So I did, did what she said, tried again and it worked. Her daughter came on the phone and we chatted about dragons and dinosaurs, as you do. Beep beep, beep beep, and the screen said ‘reconnecting’. But it didn’t. Buzz buzz, buzz buzz, and photos of my son’s three chickens turned up in whatsapp – so it was working, wasn’t it? There was a very small space with an arrow to reply so I did.
Earlier, I’d asked him to send the photos by email. ‘But, mum, he said, ‘my students tell me that no-one uses email these days.’ God in heaven, noooooo – are we doomed to communicate in short msgs of less than so many so-and-soing characters? Has the world gone raving mad?
And now I keep getting texts from SubwaySurfer, eg, ‘Get the +5 multiplier bonus for runs with Frank today…’ it suggests enticingly. And msgs keep arriving telling me that such and such something or other needs access to my location and other stuff. Ok, so I can press ‘deny’ or ‘allow’, but the thing is that I want to keep up with the modern world so I’ve been pressing ‘allow’ willy nilly and now not only BusChecker, but also MI5, MI6, FB, the FBI, and the CIA etc etc know everything about me and exactly where I am 24/7. Yes, we are all as stickmen in some universal computer game and there’s no escape.
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.