Mom vs. Steve Jobs

Although Steve Jobs passed away a month ago, my mother is still rather annoyed with the man. Since she’s been ill she’s had a lot of time to kill and has spent a great deal of it watching television. One of the stories circulating through the news cycle has been the death of Steve Jobs and I should have known something was up when she informed me that “Steve Jobs was not a genius, he was an evil man for inventing Twitter”.

Now under normal circumstances I would have found this funny considering this is a woman who refuses to even own a cell phone, but at the time I was dealing with other issues. In retrospect; and upon repeating this story several times, I’ve come to see the humor in her statement. But I’ve also had time to think about her statement and all it entails for us as we grow older. At what point do we decide that we are done growing and adapting to the new in society and retreat into the old and familiar?

I started thinking about my Grandma Bouc who was born in 1904 when Edwardian values and expectations for women were in high form. By the time she was twenty and came to the US in 1924 much had changed. We had endured a world war, skirts were shorter and women could vote. I’ve never seen a picture of her before her marriage, but on her wedding day in 1926 she was dressed in a typical “flapper” style dress of the time and had cut her hair into a short page-boy style; a style she kept until she died.

She grew up on a farm near Prague with plow horses but ended up learning to drive a car. They didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing but she lived to experience radio, moving pictures, talking pictures, color movies and television. I asked her once what it was like to hear a talking picture and she told me it was “loud”. But she adapted and liked to go to the movies well into her 80’s.  She probably put on pants as soon as she could and never looked back.  In fact I don’t remember my grandmother ever wearing a dress unless she had to go to the grocery store. I bet if she was alive today she’d even know how to use a cell phone and a computer.

And then there are the people I know who like to talk about the “old days” or “the good old days”. I wonder if that was when we institutionalized our mentally and physically handicapped. Or maybe it was the time when being a color other than white and a sex other than male automatically made you a second class citizen. Perhaps they’d like us to go back to hiding in closets and marrying someone we don’t love (0r at least like) so we can have children. I’m not sure any of those “days” can be classified as good.

Others like to point to computers and the internet as necessary evils that are ruining our families and relationships. But like every new technology, all that has happened is a difference in the way we communicate. I can now keep in touch with my friends and family instantly via text or Facebook. If  I’m lost I can “Mapquest” directions or find out where I am via GPS. And I can call for help on my cell phone too. Best of all I have the free app for Solitaire which gives me something to do while I’m waiting for kids in the car or suffering through another night of insomnia. Three cheers for more ways to waste time!

Finally, as my mother found out later in the news cycle, Steve Jobs also invented the Mac Computer and paved the way for other technologies that allow  handicapped people to communicate where once they were mute. By pushing a few buttons on a screen with pictures of familiar objects and words, children with severe handicaps can now tell you about their dog or their day.  These technologies allow school children who could never afford to travel to Japan or China talk to other children from there via Skype.

It is perhaps the fact that technology makes the world a smaller place that highlights it’s true value. We are no longer people isolated in our little countries or states, but people free to meet anyone in the world. In doing so we are seeing that we are more alike than different. I am hopeful that as the world grows smaller we will decide to stop trying to dominate and kill each other and instead try to find a way to work together.