Bubbie, You’ve Got Mail


Bubbie, You’ve Got Mail old lady on computer

“Bill, the Presto machine says it has a paper jam.”

“Ok Mom, I’ll be over tomorrow morning Mom to fix it.”
“Tomorrow morning? What happens to my email that arrives tonight?”

Never did we imagine, when we got my 88-year old mother-in-law a Presto machine, that she would turn into an email junkie.

Bubbie loved the phone and had long conversations with her extended family daily. But as her hearing worsened, using the telephone became more difficult. The high-pitched voices of her great grandchildren were especially hard to hear. Communicating was such a source of joy for Bubbie. We worried that her world would get smaller and that she would be lonely. Email seemed like a logical solution, but Bubbie refused. She had not gone beyond 8th grade and had never used a typewriter. She wanted no parts of a keyboard or the Internet.

Bubbie was pretty stubborn, but so were we. When her grandson David told us about Presto, a computerless email system, we were excited, even though we had no idea how we would convince Bubbie to use it. Presto is a combination email printer and mail service that enables you to send emails to someone who does not use a computer. David opened a Presto email account for Bubbie and registered friends and family (Presto users only receive mail from registered senders, so they never get spam or viruses). The machine arrived. We set it up, installed the ink cartridge and paper, and Bubbie firmly announced, “I’m not using it.”

“No one will call me,” she said. “I like phone calls.”
“They will continue to call you,” we assured her.
“I won’t know if I should answer the phone,” she countered. (Presto works on your reguar phone line).
“We’ll program the emails to arrive while you are at dinner, so you won’t have to worry if you should pick up the phone when it rings,” we responded.
“I’m not going to like it,” she insisted.
“Look, it’s here and it’s hooked up. Try it. If you don’t like it at the end of a week, we’ll give it away.”

Bubbie glared at the machine for several hours, and went down to dinner. When she returned, she had email. Her great grandchildren had scanned in their homework and two art projects. Her daughter had sent humor and health tips. Cousins sent newsy email letters. Family friends sent political commentary. An army of people had been mobilized to make Bubbie’s first email experience glorious. We didn’t hear from Bubbie until the next morning, when we got the call about the paper jam. One day of email, and Bubbie was hooked.

Bubbie’s email interests were eclectic.  She liked letters, news, and health information. She liked political commentary, puzzles and humor. She loved art from her great grandchildren. Soon, her dinners were cut short. “I have to get back to my room;” she would say. “I have mail.”

At her request, I brought over a ream of paper and Bubbie learned how to refill paper on her own. She still needed help to replace printer cartridges, and that was when we would hear her lament, “You can’t come till tomorrow?”

“How come you never send me email?” she soon asked us.
“Mom, we’re right here. We see you every day. Why would we send you email?”
“Everyone else does.”

We had created a monster, we joked. But in truth, we were thrilled. Bubbie said that being part of the high tech world made her feel young. She had learned something new, and conquered something that had intimidated her. She felt special; she was the only person at her dinner table who was “online.” Best of all, email gave Bubbie stories to tell and information to share. Bubbie loved to communicate.

Physically, Bubbie’s world was very small. Her 8×9 sitting room — where she spent virtually all her time —  housed her TV, her refrigerator and microwave, her recliner, hundreds of family photos and her Parakeet, Pookie. Bubbie sat in the recliner to watch TV, talk on the phone, read books and emails, and slept in the recliner as well because it helped her breathe better. But emotionally, Bubbie’s world was very large. She had meaningful relationships, was passionate about world events, and conquered new challenges. Bubbie’s large world was made possible by many things — caring friends and family, an understanding physician, a very special bird — and by Presto.

To learn more about Presto computerless email service, go to www.presto.com.

Apple’s Secret Sales Strategy

Apple’s Secret Sales Strategy bettywhite2So I was at the Apple store asking a question about  my iPad when the 20-something young man helping me said, “I really like the way you have highlighted your hair.”  I stared at him, dumbfounded. “Really,” he said, “the way the blond blends in with the gray is very attractive.” And I thought to myself, “Is this some new sales technique they are teaching? If so, it’s working. I’ll take an iMac, a MacBook Air,  an iPad and three iPhones”.

(I didn’t really buy all that, but it makes sense as a sales strategy. According to boomer expert Mary Furlong, boomer women are Chief Purchasing Officers, driving 85 per cent of consumer purchases).

As I left the store, smiling, I thought how pleasant it was to receive a compliment from a young man. After a certain age, it seems, women don’t expect to receive compliments about their appearance, especially from young men.

I remember a French film I saw in my teens, in which a little boy asks his father if he smiles at all the women in Paris or just the pretty ones. “If the woman is beautiful and I smile at her,” the father explains, “it gives me pleasure, and if the woman is not beautiful and I smile at her, it gives her pleasure… so yes, I smile at all of them.” I remember this quote because it describes so well how the person giving a compliment gets pleasure, not just the recipient.

I’ve often complimented women in their 70s, 80s and 90s on some aspect of their appearance. “You have beautiful eyes, you have lovely skin, what a beautiful sweater…” It could be to someone I know, or a complete stranger. The reaction is always the same. First, they are surprised, and then they smile, feeling good about not who they were, but who they are now. And like the father in the story, it gives me pleasure as well.

It makes me happy to recognize that 80 and 90 year old eyes can be beautiful, and happier still to realize that such a simple thing, something so easy to give — a compliment — has made someone feel good. Acts of kindness, I have come to realize, don’t have to be large or require real effort.  And it’s Ok if they make you feel good too.

In the meantime, there is still something wrong with my iPad. I may need to go back to the Apple store.