Location: SF Bay Area
On a slow Monday morning, at the bookstore, an older woman wandered through our doors. She approached my counter slowly, her body hunched over, a confused expression lingering over her face. She clutched a plastic See’s candy bag to her chest as she worked her way down the cash wrap line, glancing around her. She seemed lost and unsure of her surroundings.
“Excuse me?” She grabbed onto the edge of the wooden counter attempting to gain some grounding, “Is Luke working today?”
“I’m sorry. He’s off today. Is there something I can help you with?” I replied pulling myself away from busy work.
“I can’t work this.” Opening her bag she placed a tablet on the counter pushing it towards me.
Looking down at the device I picked it up carefully as she looked to me. Her years of wisdom had gone in an instant. It was the alien technology looming before her, stamping out all that she had once knew.
“I thought—” she paused, “That I could read on this, but I don’t understand any of the images on the thing.” She sniffled slightly.
“Ya know? To be honest I felt the same way when I first started operating smart devices. It’s okay and I am more than happy to go over this with you, if you don’t mind me jumping on my register every so often.” I smiled happily.
At this point I was the only cashier at the bookstore. So, in these instances I am expected to pass on any tablet or e-reader related questions to another co worker. However, we were already operating on a skeleton crew and passing a customer around like a football was not the best demonstration of customer service in my eyes. My job description says I am there to take your money in exchange for the goods and services.
Our e-reader at the bookstore is quite similar to Amazon’s Kindle. There are a variety of models from a simple e-reader to ones that will connect you to life, the universe and everything in it. Gayle had the universe in her hands and was unsure how to use it.
We went over the basics of operation from the power button to icons to connection via wifi. I showed her how to connect to the shop, check her email and make sure she had all her books downloaded within her library. She seemed to be picking up the basics, although nervous by the device and its futuristic abilities.
“I just want something simple!” Her brow furrowed as she cupped her hands over her face, “I really wish they taught a class at the senior center. You know? If they ever have one here, I’ll be the first to sign up!” She smiled slightly.
“You could always trade this in and read physical books if that is what makes you happy.” I suggested, “We also have simpler e-readers.”
“Can you look up words on the simpler ones?”
“No, unfortunately. You would have to go to a dictionary for such.” I said, attempting to figure out a solution.
She shook her head, “No…no! I will learn. I like to learn new words as I go and it’s more convenient. I just—” She sighed heavily, her eighty two years of experience not aiding her current predicament.
“You have already learned a lot today.” I interjected. “You came here not knowing what an icon was nor knowing how wifi worked specifically on this device. To be honest, you should be proud of all your accomplishments. You are a bad ass for wanting to stick with this and learn something new!” I gave her a high five.
“So I am just able to lightly tap the icons to open them up? And when I have a new email I will receive a notification in the upper corner of my screen?” She looked at me with a soft smile.
“In no time you will be programming these things with ease.” I chuckled as I watched her new found confidence beam.
“Not that far, but at least I can take my library with me farther than I even imagined before.”