I now have a new definition of frustration. No, nothing to do with carers, wheelchairs, or social services, this is to do with my mother-in-law, Pam. Firstly let me make it perfectly clear that I love her dearly. She is kind and generous and loving towards me, and she really is like a second mum to me. This is not an anti mother-in-law rant. Okay? But...
In the light of recent events Pam has wisely decided to buy a mobile phone. She had one before but only John knew how to work it and he forgot. Besides it's so old by today's standards that it may as well have a dial. As a dutiful son-in-law it fell to me to order one for her. “I don't want anything fancy,” she said. “I don't need a camera or a built in teleprinter thingy.” “.Teleprinter?” “Yes, I can't be doing with all that button pushing.” “Button pushing?” I turned to Polly for help. “She doesn't want to text,” she explained. I ordered the most basic, simplest phone on the market, the Nokia for Grannies 001.
It arrived and I unpacked it and installed the Sim card and battery. When the phone was fully charged I loaded in all the numbers she will need, set the time and date, and put some credit on it. All Pam had to do was make a call on it. Simple.
“You press this button to scroll down the list of names.” “Right. Which button?” “The big one:” “Okay... it's gone blank.” “That's because you've turned it off.” “Oh, so which button is it?” “The BIG one.” “Right, I understand. It says 'options'.” “Press 'down' not left or right.” “Oh, I see... No. It's playing Space Invaders.” “Press the Red button so we can start again. “The Red button? This one?” “Is it Red?” “Yes.” “Then that's the one.” “I was just making sure. There, I've pressed it.” “Okay, now press down.” “Why is it making that noise?` “You're phoning someone.” “Am I? Who? Oh hello. . . Sorry I don't understand you. Do you speak English?” “'I think you're talking to someone in Bhutan. You need to hang up.” “Which button is that?” “The RED one.”
Many, many minutes later. . .
“So if I want to ring Paula I have to...” “Scroll down until her name is highlighted in red.” “I see.” “Have you done that?” “Yes.” “Now press the green button.” “Right.” “Is it ringing?” “No.”
Many more minutes later. . .
“Hello, hello? Is that you Paula? No, I'm sorry. What language do they speak in Bhutan?” “Press the RED button..” “Which one is that?” “The one coloured RED!” “Polly!” Enter Polly. “He's shouting at me, Polly.”
A fraught argument through clenched teeth later. . .
“I wanted a simple phone.” “If it were any more simple it would be two tin cans and a length string.”
Eventually Pam made a successful phone call to my sister-in-law, Paula. I showed her how to find out what the credit balance is. And forty five minutes later she found out what is was. As she was getting her things together to go home she said innocently, “I was thinking about getting a computer so I can keep in touch with Irene in Texas using that email.” “Oh dear,” I said quickly.” I don't think they have the internet in America.”