Mom and Electronics

I work at home at lot.

I think the fact that I work from home plants something in my Mom’s brain that, well, if I’m at home, I’m not really working. To be fair, she doesn’t call a lot, but she does call. She rarely called when I worked in a retail establishment (actually, now that I think about it, she actually came in the store more often), and rarely when I had a “real office” job.

Maybe it’s because my brother’s on the road–apparently he’s a trucker (I wouldn’t know, we don’t talk, my brother and I, but that’s another blog)–and he can chat for hours behind the wheel.

Whatever it is, my Mom calls me.

The second thing you need to know about Mom is, due to her age (she just hit a very robust 84), she doesn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with modern electronic devices. My in-laws are similar. And I get that. While I didn’t exactly grow up with things like cellphones and GPS units and the internet, they’ve become ubiquitous in the areas I travel on a daily basis, so I picked it all up through osmosis and a lot of trial and error.

With Mom, it’s a lot of trials and mostly error.

So, yesterday, Mom calls me. “Are you busy?” she asks.

“Not right this second, no,” I say.  Mistake number one.          

“Where are you?”

“At home,” I say. Mistake number two.

So after filling me in on the ailing health of one of her sisters–and don’t get me wrong, I care about this stuff, but do I need to get medical updates on a relatively daily basis? While I’m working? –then she moves on, I believe, to the real reason for the call.

A bit more backstory here. Mom got it into her head to buy a HD TV…which then meant she had to upgrade to HD TV service…which meant her provider needed to give her a new HD box…which meant she could have it delivered or pay $35 to have them install. Screw the $35. So she had the box for the better part of a week before it finally got hooked up. But she’s a little shaky on how it all goes together and how to switch between her DVD player and a TV signal. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog…

“So,” says Mom, “I can’t get the darn…DVD thing to work.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, I don’t know what’s the matter with the damn thing. I can’t get it to work.”

Mom’s great at saying the same answer to the question. When in doubt, drill down on specifics…

“You mean you can’t get it to turn on? Or you can’t watch a movie?”

“I can’t get it to work.”


“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong,” she says. She says this in a defiant way, a frustrated way.

After a few more probing questions, I finally work out that she can turn the DVD player on, she’s just not able to switch it from the TV box to the DVD player. Well, hell, I think. That’s easy.  Mistake number three.

phone rep

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I used to work in call centres. And, if I do say so myself, I was a damn good agent. I’ve walked 90-year-old women with their cats on their laps through manual programming of their cellphones. For those that have never attempted this with someone over the age of 65, it’s equivalent to getting them to stand on their heads, stick their tongue out the right side of their mouth, pat their head while rubbing their bellies, and reciting the Lord’s Prayer in reverse.

Yeah, it ain’t easy.

And yet, I still managed to do it while keeping a smile in my voice and having them so pleased with my service that they offer to allow me to speak to their cat afterward–and normally it’s only close friends that get to talk to E.T. the cat. Swear to God I’m not making this up.

cat lady

So, putting on my best customer service hat, I say, “Is your TV on right now, Mom?” Mistake number four.

“No,” she says. “But I can turn it on right now.” I can hear the rising anticipation in her voice. There’s a bit of scrambling, then the TV turns on.

“Okay,” I say. “You’ve got the remote?”


“Okay. There should be a button that says ‘source’ or ‘input’.”

“Source!” she says. Lovely!

“Okay, press it and tell me what you see.”


“Did you press it?”


“Mom, what do you see?”

“Oh, there’s like…TV and Component and some other stuff.”

“Okay, I need to know what that other stuff is too.”



She finally gives me the list.

“Now, scroll down to Video and select it.”

“How do I do that?”

I explain how to scroll and select.


“Okay, what?” I ask. “What do you see?”

“It’s…” Then nothing.


“It’s not working.”

“Okay,” say, still calm. “But what do you see on the screen?”


“It’s blank? Like, nothing on the screen at all?”


“Then, what do you see?”

“Well…nothing…oh this damn thing!”

“Does it say something like ‘no signal’?”


“It’s stuff like that you need to tell me, Mom.” At this point, I get up out of my chair. I’m not pacing yet, just standing. “Go back to the source button and choose the next one on the list.

This goes on for a bit. Eventually, we determine that the DVD player is coming through the “Component” area. Lovely. Then she drops the bomb.

“Okay, so how do I get it back to the TV?”

“Well, it’s likely going to be the ‘cable’ or ‘satellite’ input,” I say. “Go back to source and then choose cable and tell me what you see.”


“What do you see?”


“What? What do you see?” Now I’m pacing.


“Mom?” I say. I’m trying to keep my voice calm.

“Well, when I…it’s…oh shit.”

I resist the urge to throw my hands up in the air.

“Mom? Did you put it to ‘cable’?”


“And what do you see?”

“Oh, it’s not working!”

I throw my hands up in the air. Doesn’t help.

“Does it say ‘no signal’?”


“Mom, you gotta talk to me. Remember, I’m a half hour away and on the phone.”

“It says ‘HDMI’.”

“Okay,” I say, calming. “That’s okay, you’ve just chosen the wrong input. But that’s good, now we know it isn’t that one. So go back and choose ‘cable’.”


Time passes. Weeds grow. Roots deepen. Wrinkles form.


“Everytime I…oh shit.”

“Everytime you what?”

“Everytime I…”


I can picture her sitting there, remote in hand, pointed at the TV like Kirk with a phaser, pressing buttons, being distracted. My pacing increases in pace. I leave the office and start wandering around my basement.


So take all the above and repeat for over twenty minutes. Add in me walking into my wife’s office, giving her the wide-eyed unbelieving stare of someone who cannot believe they got suckered into one of these session yet again. Add in more arm waving. Add in one punch to the door jamb. Add in a lot of “I really do love my Mom, honest I do.”

Honest to God, I was a good phone rep.

bad phone rep

And the damn thing? I know it may take a couple of weeks, maybe as long as a month…but I guarantee I’ll be right back in the breach.

“Are you busy…?” Mistake number five.



3 thoughts on “Mom and Electronics

  1. Just for the record, I can talk his “in-laws” through this in 5 minutes and I have to deal with two of them asking me questions at the same time…the wife…

  2. You have missed your calling, this was the best laugh I had in YEARS! I guess it reminded me so much of the conversations I have with my son about my computer problems. He lives in Nashville but as he is in a rock band travels all over the States. One day he said to me in sheer frustration: “Mum, this is like teaching you to ride a bike over the phone!”

  3. Pingback: The Rapture and Me | Left to Write

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