Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Topping It Up

The top-up woman has an unctuous, hyper-friendly voice, and everything she says has an exclamation point on it. "Welcome to the XYZ mobile top up service!" she gushes. "If you wish to top up by voucher or credit card, press one!"

I've asked my daughter to be nearby because I didn't trust myself to do this alone. "Okay," she says from across the room, "what you have to do now is--"

But I've suddenly noticed that my phone's touch screen is blank. "There's no keyboard!" I cry. "How can I press one when there's no keyboard?"

"Please press one!" the lady repeats in her smarmy voice, blocking out what my daughter is trying to say.

"But how!" I yell at the phone and my daughter. "There's no keyboard!"

"Mom! There's no keyboard because they know you'll be holding your phone against your ear and you might accidentally press the wrong number!" She leaps up and takes my phone from me, presses a series of buttons and hands the phone back. "Now, when the lady tells you to press one, you just hit this button first -- are you looking? -- and your keyboard will pop up."

I glare at the phone. "It's intelligently done," my daughter adds. "They've thought of everything."

"Yeah? I didn't hear them saying anything about what buttons to push to make the keyboard return. That would be a lot more intelligent."

"They expect you to know," she says crisply. "It's lower common denominator stuff."

The top up lady is back. "Press one!" she gushes, a smile in her voice. I press one. A one lights up on my screen but nothing else happens.

"Did you press one?" my daughter asks, leaning forward.

"Yes, but it's not doing anything!"

"If you wish to pay by pre-paid voucher, press two!" the lady says. I picture her as a combination of my junior high school science teacher and Betty Crocker. I'll bet she's got polished fingernails, fire engine red lipstick, and ironed skirts.

I press two and my one becomes a twelve. This is so obviously an error, I hang up. "What did you do that for?" my daughter demands.

"My one became a twelve!"

"It wasn't a twelve!" my daughter groans, "it was a two next to a one!" She presses a bunch of buttons and we go through the whole rigmarole all over. "Now press one, then press two, and don't hang up!" she scolds.

This time, I press one, then press two. The woman doesn't react to this. She doesn't seem to know what a monumental thing I'm attempting to do here. Insensitively, she launches into a sales pitch about all the cool things I can do with her top-up service. "What's going on?" I whisper. "Shouldn't she tell me what to do next?"

"Mom, they've got you where they want you. You just have to be patient and hear her out," my daughter advises.

"This is ridiculous! I don't need to know about their stupid services, I need to top up my %$£"!@-ing phone!" I say, ready to launch into a full rant but my daughter holds out her hand to stop me. "Read me out the number NOW!" she shouts.

I read out the number in a stiff, clench-jawed voice. My daughter finishes punching in numbers and hands the phone back to me. "There you are, you've got £20 of credit on your phone now. Congratulations."

"It's so complicated!" I fume, staring at my phone. "I'll never be able to do that on my own!"

"I told Dad not to get you a touch screen," she hisses, throwing back her head and rolling her eyes. "They're not adult friendly!"

I take a deep, sustaining breath. "I changed your diapers," I tell her. "I had to remind you when you needed to blow your nose." My daughter flashes me a brief, pitying smile. "Which was all the time!" I can't resist adding.

"Come on, Mom," she says in her perky, helpful voice. "It's just a matter of practice. Topping up really isn't all that hard. Even Dad's learned how to do it."

"I used to have to take you to the toilet at night!" I say. "You used to beg me to!"

My daughter pats my knee in an infuriating way. "Mom, you're a perfectly competent human being. But you know you're seriously technically challenged."

Somewhere I've got a picture of her in a big, saggy diaper, with pumpkin all over her face. If I ever figure out the technology, I'm putting it on Facebook.



Anne Spollen said...

I'm first! I'm first! I'm usually way down on the bottom here, but this time, I'm first.

I hope that's an omen for 2011.

Adult friendly - yes, I, too, have lived the moments in this story. Try not knowing the difference between what you can see in the profile section of Facebook, and the Account section if you want to hear teens howl.

(And I'm still first! : )))) )

Vijaya said...

And this is why I'm thankful I don't have a cell phone (wait, was that a cell phone?). I've got actual buttons I can push. Real buttons, Mary!

Charles Gramlich said...

Lower common denominator stuff. yeah, I'd like to see one of 'em change a flat, or even find themselves something to eat without a store around. That's true lower common denominator.

debra said...

So it is with the computer/electronic natives. We, the immigrants, need help. Big. Help. Why we have kids.

Falak said...

Touch screens are not human friendly let alone adult friendly. My touch screen phone has spent more time in repair than it has with me since the time I bought it. And I'm no adult :)

Mary Witzl said...

AnneS -- I was the first to post on your today blog too, so I'm guessing we'll both have an auspicious 2011!

The thing my kids will never forget is that I tried to put a DVD in a CD player's slot. They remind me of that so often I've had to trot out cute stories about their amusing linguistic false hypotheses. That usually shuts them up, but I've got plenty of baby pictures too.

Vijaya -- I resisted for years, but when I started working again, I had to have one, especially because we didn't have a land line in our house. But boy, what a learning curve it is. And a great way to get humiliated by my kids. Keep resisting as long as you can!

Charles -- My kid and her friend have both admitted they couldn't change a flat, but come to think of it, neither can I! But I can grow my own food and I have extracted fish from bodies of water: I'm that much ahead of them, and thank you for reminding me!

Debra -- It's just so embarrassing and irritating, isn't it? Especially when we can remember all the dumb things our kids have said and done.

Falak -- Thank you for telling me that! My daughter has just informed me that one of her friends needs help topping up his phone credit. That really made my day.

Kim Ayres said...

Beautifully written :)

Blythe Woolston said...

Even though I'd like to consider myself technologically competent, my children find me impossibly not so. I feel like a mastodon when I try to type on a phone (or the "keyboard" on my iPad for that matter). It is almost painful when my children use the *patient* voice to walk me through something that seems to be so intuitive to them.

Robin said...

Hahaha! I love when they get so impatient! Considering the hours and hours of patience we had with them, it's amusing. Thank you for reminding her of it. Looking forward to the "saggy diaper pumpkin face" picture.

My son goes nutsy fruitsy when I don't understand Facebook.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Those words send a chill my my spine: "They expect you to know,"

Mary Witzl said...

Kim -- Thank you. Who tops up your phone? Can you do this yourself, or is it up to Rogan? And if he does it, is he kind?

Blythe -- I'm glad I'm not the only one!

That steady, patient sentient being to idiot voice my kids use makes me froth at the mouth and gnash my teeth. One day, these are the people who'll be settling us in our lawn chairs and fixing us our creamed corn. It's just too vexing for words, isn't it?

Robin -- I sat with this kid in her pediatrician's office and managed to hold onto her through a twenty-minute temper tantrum during which she screamed like a banshee, sweated like a racehorse, and bit a small chunk of plaster out of the wall. (No, I'm not kidding and I've got witnesses.) If I ever find that pumpkin shot, she's going to be sorry!

I wonder how our kids would cope with record players and reel to reel tape recorders? Sigh...

Robert -- It chilled my blood too. It's as though the people who are developing this technology have no concept that people like me exist. Their lowest common denominator is a point way beyond my grasp. Sad and scary!

C.R. Evers said...

LOL! Luv the last sentence. too funny! :0)

anna said...

Ha! Brilliant! And my goodness I am in sympathy with you. I'm useless with my mobile too, though getting better at it is not on my list of things-to-do-in-2011. It seems to me that their main function is to allow people to feel they can be incredibly late for things, just because they're able to text at five minute intervals - 'sorry running late leaving now', 'traffic awful sorry', 'can't find park, will be there shortly' etc...

Kim Ayres said...

I'm on a contract, so it just automatically comes out of my account each month :)

MG Higgins said...

HA! So funny. ""It's lower common denominator stuff." Right. At times I'd love to throw out all my techie gadgets, but I'm afraid I'd miss them terribly.

Pat said...

That's convinced me to stay with my antedeluvian Nokia which I can top up - no problemo!
Happy New Year!

Kim Ayres said...

You have a Rambling Beard Award waiting for you over on my blog. Do pop by to collect it :)

Anonymous said...

Sigh...can so relate. My daughter often pats my shoulder in an infuriatingly patronizing manner.

Carole said...

Technology should be shot.