There are many techno-savvy senior citizens, but there are some who have never tickled a keyboard. I am a librarian and I’ve set up email addresses so that folks can communicate with their grandchildren, assisted with dozens of resumes and walked many a senior through online job applications. Last week I helped a very elderly gentleman renew his Master Electrician’s License online. Throughout the process it periodically required him to type in a code to verify his identity. He had 10 seconds to type it in. He was terrified of this and would call, “Mrs. Day!” each time it popped up, and I went running. Recently an interesting case walked up to my desk.
He was a widow and well-known WWII Veteran, intelligent, very tall, healthy and really quite handsome. He had a most attractive head of gray hair, twinkling blue eyes, a deep booming voice, and his hands were as large as dinner plates. I was used to seeing him at any and all patriotic events, dressed in full uniform and saluting the flag.
“Got any idea what this means?” he asked, tossing a piece of paper onto my desk.
email@example.com; it’s an email address, Mr. Brantley,” I said, slightly surprised. I would have thought he would fit into the savvy group.
“An address, on the computer I suppose, right? I need to send something there. Can I use one of those darned things over there?” he asked, pointing to the computer area.
“Of course, Mr. Brantley, do you need some help?” I asked, knowing he would. I knew the next half hour or so would be spent helping him set up an email address first, then composing an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I sat down next to him, pulled up the internet and navigated to bahoo.com.
“Here’s the sign up page, Mr. Brantley. Just type in your information and be sure and write down your username and password,” I pointed out, and then headed back to my desk. I waited on a few patrons then looked back over in his direction. He was staring at the computer monitor, white faced and wiping perspiration from his brow.
“Mr. Brantley, you don’t type?” I asked.
“On a dang typewriter, yes, but I don’t get this mouse thing. Would you mind very much getting me started?” he boomed.
“Well, I’m not really supposed to handle your personal information, but…” I responded. After I typed in all his personal information, went through the process and wrote it all down, we went to his email and clicked ‘Compose’.
“Now, I don’t know how personal this email is, you may not want me typing it for you,” I said.
“It’s the darndest thing. She knows I don’t have a clue about this computer stuff,” he said, leaning back and crossing his arms.
“I’ve been having coffee with Louise Andrews, who works at the bank, for over a year. I thought everything was hunky dory until this morning. She didn’t take a sip of her coffee or take a bite of her Danish. She just stared at me,” he said.
I cleared my throat, hoping to make him realize that he was thinking out loud. Should I be hearing this?
“She went on and on about how we’d been keeping company for a year and that I hadn’t bothered to declare my position. She said she wasn’t getting any younger and that if I had something to say then send it to that address. She said that if not, there wasn’t any need to meet her for coffee anymore,” he said.
“Now’s your chance, go ahead and peck it out on the keyboard, and then I’ll come send it for you,” I said and left him to figure out what to say.
“But why on this blame thing?” he wondered aloud.
“If you go through this process and get out of your comfort zone, she will know you mean it?” I offered.
He sat there staring at the keyboard, deep in thought. Finally he began tapping at the keys. It only took him a few moments before he motioned me over.
“What do you think?” he said, leaning back in the chair.
‘W-I-L-L Y-O-U M-A-R-R-Y M-E?’ was all it said, but that was apparently enough. I clicked ‘Send’ and within minutes Louise Andrews came flying into the library, her Blackberry in hand.
We discourage public displays of affection in our library, but this time I looked the other way.
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