Sunday, November 28, 2004

Smorgasbord: My Dad Goes High-Tech

Background: My dad loves to send out voluminous emails, replete with excruciating detail, multiple backstories, and copious amounts of Scottish vernacular. All of which, as you can imagine, is incomprehensible to 98% of the recipients. He writes in a type of Scottish transliteration that mystifies most readers. Then for good measure he mixes in his knowledge of Hebrew by leaving out the vowels! I know. I know. William Safire is developing an ulcer just hearing about it…

So, in order to, shall we say, “channel” his authorial energies, I set him up with a blog called Live From The Marlage, which is the name of the rural house/farm/orchard he grew up on in Scotland. No childhood lecture, story or anecdote was complete without some nugget of wisdom gleaned from his days at The Marlage with his grandparents. I only saw it once as a child, but I sometimes feel like I lived there myself, so omnipresent were its memories for him—and for us through him. My favorite story is how he and my Uncle Charlie “accidentally” set the chicken coop on fire, resulting in a diatribe of expletives from my great-grandfather, a sound beating from my great-grandmother, and weeks of chicken for dinner. I know all of the characters who visited The Marlage, his Scottie dog named Betty, the “attack goose” they had to bite strangers because Betty was unreliable in that regard. It’s all a rich tapestry of far away and yet familiar Scottish archetypes: the policeman who walked and biked from farm to farm just to check in, the dyspeptic old curmudgeon who lived at the next farm, the great-grandmother who read tea leaves, the one black man for miles who would “first foot” all of the homes on New Year’s Eve (in homage to the Scottish belief that the first person to set foot in your house after midnight on new year’s eve must be tall, dark and handsome; and of these three, dark is the most important), how he was laden with gifts and whiskey for his troubles, the stories go on and on. And so did my dad’s emails…

So. I’m running around like crazy on Wednesday trying to get errands completed and purchases made before Thanksgiving. While I’m driving in the car I like to call my mom just to check in, say hi, the usual dutiful daughter stuff. We chat, she tells me about her day so far, and then says, “Before you go into the store, could you call your dad? He’s having trouble with Blogger.” “No problem, Mom. Gotcha.”

“Hey Dad. Mom says you’re having trouble with Blogger. What’s up?” He tells me how he can’t get it to come up, he types it in but nothing happens, and he can’t find it in his programs, and he has been trying to save an entry but nothing is happening. I ask him to read to me what is on the screen. He tells me. Hmm…


“Dad? Are you connected to the internet?”
“Are you on the internet?”
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Dad. You have a dial-up connection and we are chatting on your home phone, so I'm thinking you haven't dialed in."
“No I haven't.”
“Dad, Blogger is a website, not a program. You have to be connected to the internet to do your blog.”
“Connect to the internet then call me back from your cell.” He calls me back, I walk him through a bit of it, then tell him I’ll call him back to see how he’s doing in about an hour once I’m out of my store. Okay.

One hour later: I try to call him but his cell phone is off and his home phone is of course busy. I try again. And again. Finally I give up until hours later when my mom gets home. I call the house and he is wondering snarkily why I never called him back when I said I would:

“Dad, your cell phone was off.”
“So? I was in the house!” [sounding annoyed]
“Dad, were you on the internet?” [starting to sound a little shrill in return]
“Meaning you were on your phone line?!” [definitely shrill, in definite high-drama mode]
“Yes. I suppose.” [still with an edge]
“So how could I have called you?!” [Edgy shrillness with a fragrant twist of righteous indignation]

Then we both laugh hysterically.

Short Story Long: If he manages to get online again, you can learn a new language--and finally understand why I am the way I am--at Enjoy!

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