Chip and Pin-o-Phobia

Jul 09, 2012 No Comments by

While standing in the queue at Robert Dyas to pay for a rather fetching Anthony Worral Thompson barbecue cover, the woman in front paid for some cheapy earphones with a debit card.  A voice behind said, “Look, she’s paying with a card.  You just put it in the machine and tap in your pin number and that’s it.”  TF was up next and also whipped out our debit card.  “Look, he’s paying with a card as well.  Everyone does!”  Finally we turned and there stood an older couple; nag and husband.  He was around 6′ 2″, patrician, 80 or thereabouts. “Are you a cash man?” we asked.  “He just won’t listen to me.” said the haranguing missus.  “I suspect he does nothing but listen to you,” we thought.  And in reference to using a chip and pin card, the hen-pecked old duffer said, “It just doesn’t seem right.”

Old Mother Fogey & Old Father Fogey

In terms of excuses to not embrace technology it’s a tricky position to argue against.  Old Mother Fogey refuses to use the Internet.  “Not interested” and “don’t have the time,” are her principal excuses.  Part of the reason she doesn’t have any time is she wastes it by, for example, driving to the train station to buy tickets.  She won’t even use the phone for this.  “I like to talk to the lady at the ticket counter,” she says, as though they have some sort of secret understanding that transcends the mere purchase of an advance, off-peak return.  Sometime she will phone us and TF will buy the tickets online while we chat.  Her garden is over-run with slugs and snails but because there is a resident hedgehog she won’t put down slug pellets. Instead she plucks slugs off foliage, slicing and dicing them, Benihana-style, with a sharpened paint-scraper.  In terms of  ‘things we’d rather go to our grave without ever having done,’ chopping gastropods is right up there with ‘eating our own pooh.’  If only there were slug pellets that were safe for hedgehogs!  Well, of course, there are.  A quick Google search and before you can say ‘you daft old fart’ two cannisters are ordered and on their way to hedgehog central. “It’s easy for you,” says Old Mother Fogey but it’s not.  It never was, never is and never will be.  TF is okay at a few online skills but comparatively speaking we’re light years behind the uber-nerds who fill space on proper tech websites.  But we muddle through.  Improvise.  Use our common sense.  But how common are our ‘senses?’  There’s no standard requirement for online proficiency.  It’s not like taking your driving test.  But perhaps it should be.  You can only buy, or even use, a computer if you’ve passed your test.

Of course, there are myriad books and courses but unlike the advantages of car ownership that are well-established and understood by those who benefit most from driving, the elements of society who would gain most from some online skills often won’t acknowledge a comparable need.

Old Father Fogey was bought an iPad last Christmas.  He sort-of uses it but not in any meaningful way.  He has managed to drop it on a hard floor, though, because one corner now has a lovely mosaic patina crazed in the glass.  He has no idea how this happened and didn’t notice that it had.  We’ve tried downloading TED lectures as podcasts and subscribing to other podcasts we think he might be interested in but he is stoic in his refusal to engage.  We even set him up with Skype so we could have video chats.  Never happened.

There’s nothing to be done, of course.  Some people are receptive and open to new ideas; others aren’t.  Age is not necessarily a factor (although money certainly is) but there does seem to be some sort of inverse snobbery relating to technology and its supposed benefits.  Old = good; new = bad.  Ignorance is bliss.

When she was alive and widowed, Grandmother Fogey was so accomplished at ‘pottering’ we were almost in awe of her.  Dusting, hoovering, washing dishes, laundry, making tea, drinking tea, popping to the shops, making breakfast/lunch/dinner and eating the same.  Days, weeks and months slid by in a somnabulant daze, marking time en route to eternity.  Which is nothing like surfing the net for hours on end and then writing a blog that no one will read.  Nothing at all.

It’s a greetings card quotation from, of all people, Kurt Vonnegut: “I tell you, we are on earth to fart around and don’t let anybody tell you different.”  Just don’t let anyone tell you what that farting about should entail.


ps – apologies for the pic of some random melons from the market in the main square at Pollensa in Majorca.