‘We have no public bathroom here” was the first thing our instructor said. Two dozen 50-plus folks clutched their brand new smartphones and looked anxious. He went on, “so if you need to use the restroom during this basic smartphone class, you must go to Sears or Target.”
“Will they let us in? It’s only 8 a.m.” I heard a timid squeak. It came from me. He looked puzzled. “I guess you’ll just have to knock on doors until you find someone to let you in.” That’s how I learned that smartphone owners need good kidneys.
Yes, it’s true, I am now the owner of a smartphone. (Or maybe it’s a Smartphone. The experts don’t agree.) And sure enough, it’s much smarter than I am. I’ve taken three workshops without bathroom breaks and watched hours of video. So far I can turn it on and off most of the time. I still don’t exactly know how to make a phone call. I always imagined I’d be able to make phone calls with my smartphone but life is filled with disappointment. My great-grandson can operate it easily, but he won’t help me. He’s 3 years old and apparently feels I should be able to work it out for myself.
The problem with owning one of these high-tech companions, we are warned, is that someone is just dying to steal it. Nobody wanted my old phone, but I can’t just leave my new treasure in the car and walk away. However, I was cheered to learn that I can download a “Find My iPhone” app (web application) that will theoretically make it easy to trace the phone if it should be lured away. There are more than 500,000 apps available to help with, simplify or complicate any human activity you can imagine and many that don’t bear thinking about at all. Any app can be downloaded to my phone with a single click. Then it will just sit there, because I won’t have any idea what to do with it.
Statistics show that although 46 percent of adults now own smartphones, only 13 percent of seniors do, and smartphone use decreases dramatically with age, which shows that we do get smarter as we get older.
Life today alternates between high-tech and no-tech with dizzying speed. On a recent morning, I texted my youngest son (with the car safely stopped) and then followed my GPS (high-tech), which miraculously got me to Westport, where I used my trekking sticks (trek-tech) to climb over sand berms so I could join my delighted grandsons on the beach as they played in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. There’s an app to find high tides. Spent the nights at the ocean sleeping in the bottom bunk bed (no-tech).
One of the first things I learned to do was to silence my phone at funerals, where some people now record the proceedings with their smartphones. My kids think I’m spending too much time at funerals, but I’m at the place in life where it seems only polite to attend any funeral where I’m not the guest of honor. There’s an app to plan a dignified funeral.
There are some things not one of those 500,000 apps will help with, though. There are still losses that can’t be glossed over, although I saw a post on Facebook recently that announced a relative’s death and added “Click ‘like’ if you feel sad.”
One of those painful losses came last month when time came to say goodbye to the beloved retired pastor of St. John Bosco Church in Lakewood, the Rev. Oliver Lee Hightower. The self-styled “Missionary from Montana” was loved for his deft touch and his practice of “giving homework” to his parish as he worked with the poor, the military, prisoners trying to find their way back to society, and Habitat for Humanity. The Father Lee Hightower Habitat House was completed in Tillicum early this year. Father Hightower loved a good laugh, so he wouldn’t mind being remembered here.
People you love and lose live in your heart forever. How you keep them alive is up to you. There’s no app for that. You have to do it day by day in the old-fashioned smart way — with love.
Dorothy Wilhelm’s website isitsnevertoolate.com
. Reach her at 800-548-9264; PO Box 881, DuPont, WA 98327; or Dorothy@itsnevertoolate.com. She is the author of a teeny tiny book, “No Assembly Required.”