Friday, March 16, 2012

The Septuagenarian Skype

Skype is a way of life here. Living in a community with Russians, Nepalese, French, Mexicans, Italians, and the occasional American means that we all understand its importance as a link back to the old country, and most everyone spends some part of their Sunday rolling through their contact lists, reassuring friends and family that we are indeed alive and happy. Some of those conversations are more humorous than others.

There’s nothing funnier than pre-Computer Age people confronting technology. Last night, I skype conference-called my grandmother (Bubby), her husband Kim, and my coolest, funniest great-uncle, Uncle Gershon. All of whom I love, but when you put them together, you get laughs. This is how it went down:

Gerson: How is that place far across the ocean? (Read: I have no idea where you are)
Me: Norway’s beautiful, Uncle Gerson. (Yeah, I’m nice. I help out the forgetful)
Gershon: I see a cat! Why do I see a cat? If I wanted for to see a cat, I could just look outside!  (He’s been hamming it up since before I was old enough to understand this kind of humor. As a five-year-old, I thought he was a very worried man)
Me: My camera doesn’t work on conference calls, so instead I have a picture of a cat.
Bubby: You want to see Hannah, don’t you? Hannah, put on your camera.
Gerson: I want to see her! Why is there a cat?
Me: My camera doesn’t work on conference calls. (Ask again! Ask again!)
Bubby: I know, I told her to get a different picture. (What’s wrong with the cat?)
Gerson: And what’s that on its head? Is that an orange on its head?
Me: There’s a grapefruit peel on its head. (Well, that was a conversation-stopper)
Gerson: So, how do I make sure I can call you whenever I want, Hannah?
Me: I sent you a message, Uncle Gerson. You have to click accept.
Gerson: Where? I was born in 1936! We didn't have computers then.
Kim: (roars humorously) And we were better off! (Aged agreement on the other end)
Some time later…
Bubby: Bye, Gerson!
Me: Lots of love, Uncle Gershon!
Gerson: Okay! Goodbye now! Enjoy Norway! ...  ... ...
Bubby: Gerson, do you know how to hang up?
Gerson: Wait, is it still on? Where do I turn it off?
Kim: (roars) It's the red telephone! Press the red telephone!
Gerson: Hello? hello?
He hung up. As I continued speaking to my grandmother, he called her back, to let her know he had figured out how to hang up. Then he called me to say that he figured out how to call me.
Gerson: I can see you! You’re beautiful! Why can’t you see me? Well, let’s see, I’m bald, I’ve got a shiny bald head…
Love you, Uncle Gershon.

By the way, my grandmother is sufficiently technologically advanced to read my blog assiduously. Luckily, she has a good enough sense of humor that she’ll find it hilarious (please, Bubby?). But hey, Bubby, at least I didn’t spill the beans on the Bubby-club that plots to make shidduchs for grandchildren.

A student came in for help on her paper. She was only halfway through the first of two books that she was going to write on, and wanted advice on constructing her thesis statement. My advice: READ THE BOOKS! Sometimes facepalms aren’t enough. Sometimes I need a good solid head-bashing against the wall to regain my patience.

A discussion on Tripmaster Monkey with two of my college students, one Pakistani-Norwegian, the other Chinese-Norwegian, led to an inevitable discussion of racism in Norway. They face prejudices of varying toughness: people won’t sit near them on the bus, ask if they were adopted, refuse to speak to them in public, speak English to them instead of Norwegian... Wonder what their Norwegian-for-several-generations peers would have thought to hear them tell their stories.

Another Work In Progress seminar with the grad students. One of the writers wrote about his “protagonist implemented into civilization’s institutions.” Sometimes I want to follow Norwegians around all day with a tape recorder just to hear how they’ll poeticize or mangle English.

People in Bergen begin to look like mushrooms in the rain: headless bodies with umbrellas attached at the neck. Or maybe a week’s solid rain just has me hallucinating slightly. Your call.   

Classic mushroom-head

How can s/he even see where s/he is going?
Kids don't need umbrellas! They're splash-happy in their rain suits

Reeeeally big mushroom-head

The nice thing about umbrellas for Bergensk is that they don't like to acknowledge passersby-- this solves the problem of sociability

It can even work to keep you from having to
 talk to the person you're walking with
Bergen in a nutshell

1 comment:

  1. Great commentary on the aging population's interactions with technology. My grandparents keep insisting they need a "guru" to help them with their computer, and my Safta asked me if I could post her comments on a blog because she could not figure out how to post. Just smile and nod, smile and nod!