Dear Stuart,

One day I was supposed to help some senior citizens learn how to use computers. I’m not sure how I got into this position as this happens every time I touch technology. Regardless, the main reason this seniors residence was recruiting people to teach about the interwebs was so that the residents could use email to keep in touch with faraway family members and complain to the government.

I started working with an old man named Bert. I showed Bert how to turn the computer on and when it prompted him for a password, he called the computer saucy and went to take a nap. I didn’t see him again until the end of the day when he came into the computer room and tried to “photocopy” his hand using the printer. He broke the printer and made me trace out his hand using a pencil and paper.

When Bert left, I was assigned Ethel. She seemed promising. Making it past the start-up-computer phase, I was feeling pretty good about how things were progressing and introduced her to gmail.

“You have to have a name for your email address”
“Ethel”
“Ok, it looks like Ethel has been taken. How about we add your last name?”
“I’ll just go with Ethel”
“Unfortunately you need to add something else since someone else has taken the address ‘ethel@gmail.com'”
“How are people going to communicate with me if there are so many Ethels in the internet?”
“… they’ll use the address that you choose”
“I’ll go with Ethel”

Ethel eventually decided to use the computer to draw circles with Microsoft Paint. She would later have me complain to the government on her behalf by writing them a letter (“we need more snowplows!”)

When I lost Ethel to Paint, the directors of the program were about ready to kick me out. Everyone else was having great success with their internet teaching while my elders were napping and yelling things at the photo of Barack Obama that was hanging in the main room. I got one last chance with a curmudgeonly old whip named Aster. Aster was a quick learner. I had high hopes for him.

He booted up the computer. He got onto the internet and found his way to gmail. He created an email address. We made an address book which contained the email addresses of all of the other residents. Aster had clearly used a computer before but I took credit for his skills and went to the kitchen to get some water. When I returned, Aster had changed the name for his email to “Savage Fox” and sent an email to all of the other residents. It contained nothing but a photo of what appeared to be a rabid fox and/or coyote.

And they haven’t asked me back since.

Best,
Heather

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