Maybelle is just old enough (don’t ask) to have missed being a true member of the computer generation. When she was in grad school, the computer lab consisted of massive monitors and clunky keyboards. Today that same school, a state university mind you, has rooms full of Macs and wireless all around. Maybelle is so happy for those kids she could just pop.
But Maybelle can surf with the best of them, so it was with full confidence that she offered to help her mother navigate the information superhighway.
“It’s easy, Mother. All you have to do is log on.”
“Log on what?”
“Log onto the Internet.”
Maybelle’s mother stared at her daughter, lips pursed.
“It’s libraries and research institutions and people connected by computers. You can access all sorts of information, even order clothes.” Maybelle knew this was not the time to get technical.
“Let’s look up something,” she suggested.
“I need to find the middle name of your father’s third cousin twice removed’s great-grandchild on his mother’s side. You know, the guy who was run out of town in the 1800s.”
“Right,” said Maybelle, rolling her eyes with fervor. “I remember him.”
“It could be the missing link to your family tree, Maybelle. Really, you ought to have more respect for your roots.”
“Okay. Let’s post a query on a listserv.”
“Post a what on a whosit?”
“It’s like a bulletin board. You ask a question and people respond, either here or in your mailbox.”
“The mailbox at the end of the driveway?”
“No,” said Maybelle, gripping the sides of her chair. “The mailbox attached to your email address.”
“Do I have one of those?”
“Yes, Mother, you do.”
“Oh,” she responded, shrugging her shoulders.
“Didn’t Mrs. Bartlebaumer send you something after her grandson got her online? Look, here it is, a picture of her great-grandchild. Yikes, she really shouldn’t have!”
“Don’t be mean,” said Maybelle’s mother, squinting.
“Maybe you need computer glasses.”
“Those sound expensive. I’ll be alright. Don’t worry about me.”
“Okay. Hit ‘reply’ and type Mrs. Bartlebaumer a note.”
“I don’t type very fast,” said Maybelle’s mother as she hunted and pecked and made clucking noises with her tongue.
“What happens if I accidentally punch the wrong button? Will that bother anyone else?”
“Like who?” asked Maybelle.
“Those researchers you mentioned, or people who are shopping.”
“You’re not going to bother them,” said Maybelle, patting her mother on her left knee. “I promise, you can’t bring down the entire Internet with one misplaced keystroke.”
“Well, I should hope not. Goodness knows I have enough to worry about.”
Several weeks later, Maybelle’s mother was bookmarking websites, visiting chat rooms, and sending emails with ease.
“Wow,” said Maybelle when she stopped by her mother’s house for a visit. “You’re doing great.”
“Don’t sound so shocked. But I don’t have time to visit right now. I got a lead on that relative of your father’s. The nicest historian in Scotland is emailing me. Maybe you and I can IM later tonight when traffic’s not jammed on the server. I’ll text your cell when I’m free.”
Maybelle hates it when she’s forced to resort to cliches, really she does. And she hopes you can forgive her. But all she could think as she walked away was, “We’ve come a long way, baby.”