Sunday Jitters – From a Long Distance

Sundays are so different from Saturday.  It’s hard to believe they can stand to be next to each other.  Saturday, so bright. So carefree. So full of hope. Sunday, so…so…so Monday Eve.  I get the Sunday jitters somewhere after breakfast or after church if I got myself there. 

This Sunday’s anxiety didn’t seem to be fueled by the idea that I wasn’t ready for school, or the idea that things might go wrong the next day.

I think this Sunday’s discomfort came from the mix of the uncertainty of the world and disappointment about something that didn’t work.  

The day before, a bright crisp Saturday, had seemed full of positive thoughts.  I had busied myself with unimportant tasks like walking the dog, picking up twigs and branches, and having myself a mini bonfire with all of those dead tree parts.  

I had big plans for  a Google Meet Party for my mom’s 90th birthday this week.  We had put the real party on hold for social distancing reasons, of course, but a little get together on the Internet might be just the thing to celebrate and then allow my mom her peace and quiet.  She had reluctantly acquiesced to the party in the first place. I called my sister, who approved. I called my mom, who agreed. I made a video for her to show her how Google Meet worked. Here’s how to say yes to the invite.  Here’s how to click the Join button. She watched it and emailed back, “I think I understand.”

That was Saturday.

Sunday dawned an overcast grey. Typecast.  I had scheduled a 10:30 test run with my mom.  It’s always best to be prepared. At 10:30, I joined the meeting.  At 10:37, Sarah suggested that I call my mom. She picked up quickly.  She was trying, but it wasn’t working. I coached her through the steps.  She followed the directions, pausing to scold herself when she opened the wrong window.  At 10:50, a thin ray of sunlight. Her icon appeared on our screen. We welcomed her. “Hello?  Mom? Can you hear us?” No response. “Mom, see if you can unmute yourself.” No response. “It’s in the lower edge of the screen, toward the middle.”  No response. No image either.

“I think you’d better call her again.”  This was Sarah. I heeded her advice and phoned again.

“Mom, do you see a little microphone symbol at the bottom of the screen?”

Yes.  She tried clicking it.  No change.  

“Mom, how about the symbol with the camera.  Can you click that?”

She tried clicking it.  No change.

For an hour, I tried taking her through settings, looking for a way to activate the microphone or the camera.  No luck. At one point she got to a screen that listed accessories or devices that were disabled. “Yes, Mom, look down that list.  Find the microphone that’s disabled, and click it.”  

She couldn’t.  She said it said, “No microphone found.”  Was it possible that there was no microphone on this computer?  Why yes, when you stop to think about it, a 12-year-old desktop computer with a separate cpu certainly might  not have a built-in mic. Huh? And no camera? Why yes. That, too, was possible.  

So much for a Google Meet Party.  We’d all be chatting without the guest of honor.  This would not do.

“What about that tablet you got her a few years ago?”  This was Sarah again. I was dubious.

“I don’t think she knows how to use it, and it’s one of those Android tablets.  I can sometimes muddle through it, to find something, but I don’t think I can walk her through it over the phone.”

We tried anyway.  She said it was charged.  That surprised me. I set up another meeting.  She turned on the tablet. She found the email.  She clicked the invitation. She clicked the Join message. 

Nothing happened.  I suggested that she try to get to the extensions to download Google Hangouts.  This was like speaking Greek. Then she clicked the Invitation again, and squealed.  A message had popped up. “Do you want to install Google Meet?”

“This is great.  Say yes. Click Install.”

She did.  “Nothing happened.”

“What do you mean, ‘Nothing happened?’”  

“Nothing happened.”

“Maybe you didn’t really tap it.  Try tapping it again.”

This went back and forth, with her saying she HAD tapped it, and me saying maybe she hadn’t tapped it RIGHT.  Finally she got some action. “There’s a circley thing going round and round.”

“That’s a good sign, Mom. It’s just downloading.  This could actually work.”

The circley thing, though, was the Android version of the Mac’s  Rainbow Wheel of Doom. It never stopped. After 25 minutes, I released my mom from this torture.  She could go back to her New York Times. “Maybe just leave it on and come back to it later. Lots of things are working slowly these days,” I offered hopefully.  It was a faint hope.

Two hours later I called her back.  “Any luck with the circly thing?”

“No change.”

I sighed.  Heavily. She apologized.  “It’s not your fault, Mom. It’s just disappointing.”  

That was how Sunday differed from Saturday.

12 thoughts on “Sunday Jitters – From a Long Distance

  1. We had almost an identical FaceTime scenario with my mom the other day. It is frustrating for both sides of the screens — and just compounds this feeling of being separate. But we will all learn new ways of being together – and will appreciate the old ways even more when they return.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh. I had been considering a consultation with Ben, the tech guru, to see if he had suggestions. We’re now thinking she’ll call in. We’ll hear her and she’ll see us. Could be worse.

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  2. Oh man, I was *really* hoping that this would end with her figuring it out. That said, I’m not surprised that it didn’t – my mother struggles with technology, too. Though your mom must be on the path to sainthood: I’m impressed she was willing to put up with your help & suggestions for so long. My mom would have broken something or given up after about 10 minutes. Fingers crossed that you get to celebrate a belated 80th with her sometime soon – and good thing for phones, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ugh. I too hoped for a happy ending…for all of you. I’m impressed with your mom. Since all of this has happened, I’ve suggested buying my 91 year old grandmother a device to connect her to others- or at least see her great grandkids. Your mom’s tech skills are impressive. I was also impressed that you made her a video to coach her through… putting all of your new tech skills to good use. Happy birthday to your mom. I’m sure she felt loved even if the party didn’t happen.

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  4. Alas. Technology is great when it works … when it’s user-friendly …going back to what seems a hundred years ago, when automated responses and voice mail first appeared in our lives, my grandmother tried to talk to it. So frustrating for the older generation. The great heroism of this story is that your mother – age 90! – is able to grapple with the tech to the point of scolding herself for opening the wrong window (very impressive) and your determination to make her day special. I am sure it was in spite of the complications; she knows she’s loved. And I love the expression of Sunday being “so Monday Eve.” Something EVERY teacher knows so well! Such a well-delivered story – and happy birthday to your mom.

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  5. OMG! Your mom sounds just like me. We have tried to Zoom with the kids and with a friend who was celebrating a birthday, and we had similar problems as your mom did. Finally had to use my phone which was ok but not really great. You have described the situation so clearly and completely!
    About those Sunday blues…I remember them well. That they have disappeared in my life is the result of retirement.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was crossing my finger that it would all be resolved. I hope things are fixed soon and that you can see each other soon. I know you can hear her but it’s just right now it helps to see them too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, too bad. I bet you will find some solution. Birthdays are tough right now. My daughter’s is tomorrow and I have been thinking of ways to celebrate and make it special.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This experience sounds like some of the meetings we had this week. Technology is so great when it works, and so unbearably frustrating when it doesn’t. I must say that your mom impresses me. My dad (also 90) would have given up much earlier on this sort of thing. He may have started to tell me how he walked (uphill both ways) to Staples when he was a kid, and no one had technology…….and, well, you get the picture. You and your mom are models of patience and persistence, which are required during these days of electronic parties.

    Liked by 1 person

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