“Zoom me,” he says, giving me a card with twenty-two links on it.
I hate technology. I’m from the typewriter generation, and answering machines. As an author I work on a computer but I don’t know all the ins, outs, and technologies. Now with the pandemic and the world shut down, I have to learn all technologies and ways to communicate. But I have little Tech acumen. Nothing works. Not only do I have Covid anxiety, but the only thing that works is my TV, which is on twenty four seven, reporting the rise of virus cases, and deaths. Even Alexa isn’t working. When I shout, “Alexa!” there’s silence. She’s not working. I spend the rest of the day face timing, zooming meetings, but nothing works. Either my screen freezes, the audio isn’t on, or a phone call breaks up face time.
Anyway, with zoom fatigue, I’m exhausted. I go to bed early. But I can’t sleep. It’ s the middle of the night and I hear loud talking. My heart racing, sure that there’s a break in. I press the 911 panic button on my phone. In less than ten minutes, three burly police officers with keys clinking from their belts, arrive at my apartment. Shaking, I’m ranting someone is in the apartment, hiding. “I heard talking! Someone is hiding!”
“Hey! Lady! It’s Alexa!” sighs a tired looking officer, looking at me strangely. “You need to get Alexa fixed!. Your Comcast is off.”
As the weeks pass, I spend hours on Google, taking notes on technology, calling friends, kids I know, with tech questions, but they always say they’re in the middle of a Zoom meeting. I spend hours promoting my writing workshops on face book, trying to Instagram.
Still, nothing works.
If I scramble eggs on my new pre-covid stove, the fire alarm goes off, and then the tenants run down the stairs, yelling “Fire!” This has occurred several times and now they give me dirty looks. Obsessively, I worry if I get the virus and end up dying, my poor adult kids will have to face time me to say goodbye, and in the middle of our conversation, an 800 number will interrupt our call and my phone will go dead.
My tech anxiety is so bad that I’ve doubled my zoom therapy sessions. Even sending an attachment, I break into a cold sweat. Plus, my printer doesn’t work and sometimes my TV sticks on Netflix, and the movie stays frozen. No matter what I do, what buttons I press on the several remotes, nothing works.
I yearn for my little pink business cards printed with one telephone number on it. Now if I meet a Dude, or a business connection, they give me their business cards with lists of links and Apps.
As the pandemic rages and my anxiety grows, I have a recurrent nightmare: I’m lost. I’m driving. It’s dark, the road is thin, and as I drive, the road is thinner, and below, a vast dark green ocean is ready to swallow me and the car won’t stop. My cell phone is attached to the little hook on my belt but it only has ten percent battery juice left in it, and I call 911. A recording comes on, and my phone dies. I wake shaking. I look at the vase filled with yellow roses my daughter sent and I smell the fog floating from the open window and I’m glad I’m alive.
Never will the world be what it was. Zooming has replaced the telephone, and text has replaced e-mail. Recently, to promote my latest novel, I was zooming on this hot national TV show. The host was introducing me, when my land phone rang, and the computer screen went dark.No matter what I clicked, nothing. An hour later the producer called on my cell phone, shouting that I have to shut the phones off and that I “fucked up” their show.
Today, I have a pitch meeting with an LA network producer. He and his colleagues are interested in one of my books for a TV series. I’ve been in this game many times, but never with Zoom.
I decide to glam up. I wear two black ostrich feathers into my long brown silver streaked hair, fake eyelashes, red lipstick. It’s time. I click the zoom link. Wham! The little green camera is lit. Yeh! They’re on! A blast of music. Boom! Bubsy Jacobs about forty something, thin as a pipe, stands next to a huge rocket ship. “I’m virtual.” He laughs.
The head producer they call Ro Ro, short for Rothman, says with a yawn, that the network “loves,” my project. I’m sure he has never read my book. He has a large face and tiny distracted eyes.
Epic Glassman, about thirty, gorgeous, cool, in a bored monotone, gushes how much she loves Should I Sleep In His Dead Wife’s Bed, and that she read it “head to toe.” She pauses, her round blue eyes behind huge chic round glasses, glaring. “However, I would like to see your protagonist do something besides look for love. Also, she needs to be …younger?” She presses her full pale lips, disapprovingly.
I take a deep breath. “Well, first, her name is Lisa. I want to keep her at sixty-five. She’s a Phd psychologist, researching the sex lives of men over sixty. She wants more than work. She wants love and fights ageism and sexism.”
“How do we know this?” she asks, impatiently.
“It’s on the first page,” I reply. “You’re in her office. She has a patient. It’s right there.”
“Who do you see playing the part?“ Ro Ro asks quickly.
“Diane Keaton,” I reply.
“Too old,” Epic says.
“I agree,” says Ro Ro. “The old actresses are in Rehab or in assisted living ” Just as I’m about to reply that is ageist and sexist, my audio goes off and their faces are frozen. Ro Ro calls my cell phone and is shouting to click the little icon with the red arrow in it. “Frantically, I’m looking for the tiny red arrow, but when I click it, the screen goes black.
The pandemic rages on. My anxiety continues.
“Mom. I put money in your Venmo app,” says my daughter on the phone. “It’s a gift.”
“Venmo? Send me a check.”
“My husband put the app on your phone! No one smart goes into banks anymore.”
“Wow, thank you, “I say.
I’m thinking I have three hundred dollars extra in my account. Whoopee! I buy shampoo, books, a New Yorker membership. Until I check my Citibank account, and not only am I overdrawn but checks bounced.
“It can’t. You made a mistake!” I shout at the customer service man. He has a heavy accent and I keep saying, “What? What do you mean the money isn’t there? I have Venmo. Citi Bank has to make this good!”
“Venmo is not a bank!” he says patiently. “Venmo transfers your money into your Citibank account. I will talk you through.”
“So why do I need Venmo?” I shout. “I could walk to the bank.”
“Now go to your Venmo App. I help you.”
Perspiring, I try to follow him as he instructs me step by step. When I press the tiny letters to my password, a bar pops up Reset Password. I’m not breathing.
“Try again,” he says, patiently. I try again.
Finally, a little bar confirms: You are now transferred to Citi Bank. You will receive an e-mail.
“Success!” he says. “You see. You can do it.”
Every day, I practice. It’s a new generation. Technology is the key to cool and youth.
To be continued.
BarbaraRoseBrooker/age activist, author, journalist. She is working on a new book. Her latest novel Love, Sometimes published 2020 by Post Hill Press/Simon Schuster is at all bookstores and on line. Her national podcast The Rant and her recent TV appearances are on you tube, and on www.barbararosebrooker.com