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This has little to do with history, books or theatre – though it is, in its own way, a story. I might stretch it, and say it has to do with communication – but the fact is, it’s a story without and ending (yet) and it baffles me. Now, you see, my mother is in her early seventies, quite smart, and in full possession of all her marbles. Also, she used to love technology and innovation, and grew up in a household of enthusiastic engineers and tinkerers.

Hardly one to be overwhelmed by a new kind of cellphone, right?

Well, last Christmas I gave her her fist smartphone – and now I hardly know my dear old Mamma anymore. In fairness, she had expressed some misgivings about the thing. “I won’t know how to use it,”she murmured more than once, shaking her head – and I said fiddlesticks: how hard could it be? After all, I’m technologically impaired, and learned to use one of Those Things in a few days, right?

As it turns out, perhaps I hadn’t taken into account Mother’s contrariness. After more than a month, she’s still moping for her old cellphone, and going blank whenever she has to use what she calls The Contraption. This morning she received an SMS and, after laboriously opening it (“How on earth am I supposed to remember all these idiotic and absolutely meaningless steps? See, if I had my poor old little phone…”), she just stared at the two, three sentences, as though they were written in Sanskrit.

“Well, I don’t understand this,” she announced, almost triumphantly, and shoved the contraption in my hands. And I can assure you, it was just a very run-of-the-mill communication in plain Italian – only, she refused to process it, because it came through The Contraption.

And mind, it’s not a matter of old age. Apart from the fact that she’s not that old, she keeps doing, reading, discussing and understanding all kinds of quite complex things, in two languages, on a daily basis. Only, let The Contraption be needed, and she goes blank, and wants a ghostwriter for the blandest exchange via whatsapp. She touches the screen at random, and then takes it as a personal offence when the poor Contraption reacts unexpectedly. “I didn’t tell the bloody thing to do that. Why does it? It’s so very stupid!” And when I try to explain, she huffs and pouts, and scowls, and says that it’s hopeless. She’s never going to learn, thank you very much – so she could as well go back to the old phone.

I’m speechless and frustrated in equal parts, and a little amused (an ever smaller little) – and I’m not sure that helps, either – but really!

What does one do, o Readers? Do you have any experience or wisdom to offer about smartphone-training elderly and stubborn parents?

 

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