Lately, when “Mum” pops up on my call display, I look at my phone, sigh heavily and think, “What now?” At almost 80 years old, my mother seems to have more tech gadgets than I do, and yet she’s hopeless when it comes to basic troubleshooting. Whether I like it or not, I am her dedicated tech support. I field calls about her laptop, smartphone, printer, scanner, universal remote, Wi-Fi network, Bluetooth speaker and ultrasonic toothbrush, just to name a few. Twenty-four hours a day. Rain or shine.
If you have been similarly conscripted, here are some tips from the trenches:
Always take her call. I know, I know, it can be painful, but you have to trust me on this and pick up. She is your mum, and she’ll play that card. I usually get a “Craig, I am your mother.” Plus, if she detects even the slightest hint of my exasperation, she hits me with “I changed your nappies!” Well, Mum, being your personal Geek Squad is a crappy job, too!
Don’t troubleshoot in front of co-workers. Over the years, Mum and I have developed a familiar, “unfiltered” tone when we talk to each other. My side of a typical call starts with “Yes, Mum?” and quickly spirals from there to “You can’t do what?” to “I would love to help, but I don’t think ‘thingamajig’ is a $%&# technical term!!!” Such talk, while often justified, doesn’t go over well in an open-concept office. Your colleagues will think you’re The. Worst. Son. Ever. To avoid raising any eyebrows, take the call from the nearest supply cupboard. (Pro tip: if you need something to scream into, a roll of paper towel works great!)
Share the burden. The next time Mum hands you her smartphone to “figure out,” take a proactive step by creating a new contact called IT Emergency Helpline and encourage her to use it. But instead of inputting your number, use your sister’s. (Sorry, Krista!) It’s about time she stepped up. Sure, she may be balancing three kids and a new job, but since when is that a Get Out of Jail Free card from helping Mum figure out where her Spider Solitaire icon disappeared to? (I have a life, too, Sis!)
Help mum’s wi-fi help her. Recently, while taking a break from looking out her front window, Mum managed to locate that one corner of her home that has a weak Wi-Fi signal. What prompted her to use her tablet in her laundry I’ll never know, but she sure as sugar called me afterwards to complain about it…followed by an update on her neighbours. Faster than a speeding bullet, I was over fixing her network and decided to rename it. I felt “Linda Wi-Fi” was boring. Thanks to me, folks within a five-house radius have seen “Pick Up After Your Dog Wi-Fi,” “Mow That Lawn Dammit Wi-Fi” and “Your Bathroom Needs Blinds Wi-Fi!”
Avoid emojis at all costs. Finally, a word of caution. I mistakenly introduced Mum to emojis thinking they would liven up our otherwise mundane text exchanges. At first, I needed the Rosetta Stone to decipher Mum’s messages. For instance, on one occasion I wasn’t sure if she was describing her garden or curious about medical cannabis. But things turned really awkward last August after Mum got home from a local peach festival. Her texts describing plump, lip-smacking peaches still give me nightmares.
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