Those new parking machines that have replaced real human parking attendants are driving me crazy. Is it because I’m old and incompetent, or just plain stupid? The grumbling and sweating start while I am still walking across the parking lot toward the scary, big, green and black machine. Will it grant me permission to occupy a space for a few hours? Will it perform its job without complaint or hold me hostage while a hostile mob lines up behind me?
There was a time when I was a very savvy business lady. I was reasonably on top of current technology and after spending most of my career in the company of testosterone-loaded, self-confident men in the construction industry, I could hold my own in almost any situation. Then, I retired and lost the support of an entire I.T. department. That was my undoing. I was forced to muddle through changing technology on my own.
A week ago, with the assistance of a kind attendant at the Kipling subway station in Toronto, I finally managed to buy myself a Presto transit pass. After too many embarrassing experiences with being unable to figure out how to operate the ticket dispensing machines or determine whether my old paper senior’s tickets were still valid, I realized I had to step up to the plate and buy a Presto pass. Cross that one off my list.
Then, for some strange reason known only to the holy gods of the Toronto Transit Commission, I had to take my new pass to a Shoppers’ Drug Mart to get it verified as a senior. Why they could not do that at the subway station where I bought the pass is a mystery to me. Does the TTC struggle with technology too? Oddly, I had no trouble with the (French) machines in the Paris Metro last year. What does that tell you?
Just like the little portable Visa/Debit machine they hand you at the end of a meal in a restaurant, every modern gadget is a bit different and presents different challenges. It’s usually easier to just let the restaurant wait staff operate it, press Tip 20%, and get on with life. My time on earth is limited these days.
It’s not that easy with parking machines because usually, I am the only human being on the scene. Sometimes, a kind, younger person behind me will get fed up and offer a helping hand but most often I’m on my own. Step One instructions are never clear and simple. Do I select my estimated time first or insert my credit card first? Where do I insert my credit card and which side is up or is it sideways? How do I indicate a limit? Cash is a no-go these days. Will the sun be shining on the machine in such a way that I cannot read the screen? So many challenges. Terror and rage take over.
You’re probably thinking, Why doesn’t she just get the app? The simple answer is I’m too scared. Will it work everywhere? Because I rarely use my mobile phone, I’m not on a data plan, so will it work at all? Obviously, I have to draw on my Presto experience and summon up the courage to go for it. Put on my big girl pants, as they say.
I’m foiled by the technology needed to use public transit and foiled again by the technology needed to drive my car and park it to do my errands. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t. At least during COVID, I was confined to quarters and no knowledge of technology other than UberEats (which took me a full two hours to master the first time I used it), or clicking on “Place Order” on Amazon was required. And do not tell me to call an Uber for a ride because I can’t manage that either. I would hate to have to go back to work just to have access to an IT Department.
I need you to get your grandchildren (or great-grandchildren?) working on this. I’m sure they can invent a better machine to help this old boomer get out of the house and out into the world—something with large print, simple and clear instructions, and perhaps a fingerprint tap linked to my DNA and Visa number requiring a single touch. Oh? They have that already? On the app? Lordy, lordy.
It’s so hard to keep up these days. If only our grandchildren—or your grandchildren— would visit more often I might be able to cope. Maybe they could show me how to operate our new thermostat too. Another problem for another day.