Grumpy old woman

From cars to tvs, technology is everywhere and claims to make life simpler, but does it?

Child watching tv


I’ve officially turned into a grumpy old woman. The exact time of doing so was 2.33pm on Saturday afternoon. I had been woken up at around 1am by daughter three who had been watching a film with her sisters and had apparently thrown a bathbomb at the cat [in jest] which had ricocheted and hit the remote control that turns the tv on, obliterating it. “I’m really sorry, mum,” she said as I half-opened an eye.

Five minutes later I got an email with a link to a new eBay remote. I decided I would ring our tv provider Virgin to see if I could get a replacement one quicker. What could be more simple? It turns out there is no such thing as a simple call. I was informed that the tv box was changing and in a few days we would no longer have any tv. We had apparently been sent messages through the tv for months. No-one in our house has seen said messages. Sending us a remote for the old box was useless. Instead we would need to book someone to install the new box. Not only that, but the new box was so awesome – it does pause and records multiple channels at the same time etc etc [why?] – that we apparently had to add a monthly rental fee for the box to our already hefty bill. The previous box did not require a rental fee.

Feeling somewhat conned, I rang our phone and internet provider [I know – it is cheaper to have them all in a bundle, but I’ve never coordinated the renewal times]. It would cost 130 quid to get out of the contract, plus I was not really inclined to stick with Virgin in any event. Did we really need a tv? Our tv has loads of channels, mostly useless ones, although not the really expensive sport and movie ones. Why are we paying all this extra for round the clock Come Dine with Me when we could go Freeview? Take me back to the days of yore where you just had a few channels – the ones we still actually watch – and an aerial sitting on the top of the tv.

Fast forward a couple of hours. I was taking daughter three and a reluctant only son to a ‘thrift’ store to get some trousers with her xmas money. We have just got a new car after the other one collapsed. It is second hand, but it has new-fangled stuff like Bluetooth. I feel a little bit weird driving it – like I shouldn’t be in charge of something so futuristic. The kids are enthralled and now volunteer to come on journeys just so they can connect their playlists. The Eurovision CDs are lying in a sorry pile on the floor in the living room, abandoned and obsolete.

The car also has an alarm system and a very detailed manual. I have so far not figured out how to turn off the alarm system when someone is in the car and the driver is out. This has led to several occasions when I have come back to the car after popping into the supermarket to find an ashen-looking child sitting in the passenger seat, having sat through multiple cycles of alarms going off. “I think it doesn’t go off if you sit absolutely still,” said daughter three on one occasion when I returned to find her statue-like in the back.

I thought I had cracked it on Saturday, but I seemed to have set off the outer alarm in doing so. I had to get swiftly back in the car and turn it on and off again. We left the car, listening out for sirens from afar. “I just want a car that drives and can be parked easily,” I said to the kids.

The day before we had been stuck in a car park beside a column as I couldn’t figure out how to pull the wing mirror in. The car park was rammed and a car was waiting behind me to take my place. A car park attendant loomed and caught me consulting the manual. No amount of pushing buttons seemed to shift the wing mirror, though I am quite sure the wing mirror is capable of amazing things like speaking to me or defrosting itself.

I have come to the conclusion that I am not built for technology. Who has time to read manuals? For the kids, it all seems to be second nature, but my mind does not think like the people who design all this stuff. I got home and decided to rebel. I dug out an old CD player. I plugged it in, put in a Eurovision CD and hit ‘play’. Music came out and I started to dance.

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