Today’s (R)age

This morning my husband and I went to IHOP for breakfast. We’ve both had birthdays in the past few weeks and he pointed out we’re now eligible to order from the “Seniors’ Menu,” which we did. But here’s where I got perturbed. They didn’t ask for proof of age. You have to prove you’re 21 to buy cigarettes or alcohol…surely you should have to prove you’re old enough to be a “senior.”

I suppose I expected the waitress to say, “I’m sorry, you have to be 55 to order from this menu,” but she just grunted and wrote down our choices. Even after I gave her a second chance by pointing out my order was from the senior menu, she didn’t blink an eye.

When I turned 50, I loved how people said, “You can’t be 50!”  or “You don’t look anywhere near 50.” I liked it so much I told pretty much everyone I saw I was turning 50, and almost everyone came through with a “make me feel good” remark.   I was convinced they were genuine.

But today, even with make-up on, the server had no problem believing I’m 55. Maybe it was the crease on my nose left by the reading glasses I’d so carefully removed…or perhaps the gray hairs that have crept out from behind my expensive highlights. Whatever, I was not a happy camper. Good thing hubby left the tip!

I don’t drink beer, but I think I’ll run out for a six-pack…just to get carded.

Technology Challenges for an “Over 50” Writer

When I learned to type (not keyboard) I learned on a manual typewriter.  A manual typewriter was one with an “arm” or carriage return lever on the top left side. The carriage was a cylindrical roller also known as a platen.  It looked a lot like a rolling pin.  Paper was put behind it and rolled up either by using a knob on the end or by “hitting” the return arm. When at the end of the line, the typist had to manually reach up and drag the arm from left to right to start a new line of type.  Each letter was on the end of a little spring-loaded bar-key in the middle of the typewriter and when the corresponding key for that letter was pressed, the arm would spring up, hit a ribbon, and put an ink imprint directly on the page. (Really!)  One of the most difficult things to learn was how to hit the keys quickly, yet one at a time, so they wouldn’t get stuck.

It was slightly better with an electric typewriter as one could hit the “return” key to start a new line. Also many electric typewriters had a “ball” with the letters on it (no more stuck keys!) AND you could change the ball and change the font. It didn’t take much to amuse me.

When in college I considered myself lucky to own an electric typewriter. I used it to type up notes (my personal style of learning) and to type term papers for myself and others. I think I charged fifty cents a page. Fortunately, I was a fast, accurate typist because when a mistake was made I either had to erase the type (messy), use “white-out” or retype over an inserted sheet that put white letters over the black ones. If I wanted multiple copies, I had to use carbon paper and the previously described correction methods only applied to the top page…other pages had to be manually erased which meant my hands would get dirty from handling the carbon and, more times than not, my fingerprints would end up on the white paper (and my clothes and books and…well you get the idea.)  For me, it was usually quicker to just retype the whole page. As I recall, footnotes, were my biggest nemesis, because I never knew how much room to leave at the bottom of a page…but I digress.

My college only offered a hand-full of “computer” classes, and I took them all. They were all classes in programming languages: Basic, C, Fortran, Cobol, Teach, etc. The computer at my school filled a room that was about 10×10, I’d guess. The room had to be kept so cold one had to don a coat before entering – or risk frostbite. This massive computer probably had less memory than my current cell phone. We only had two terminals to input our data so there were often lines see if the programs we wrote for homework actually worked. Luckily, the building was open 24/7. The input terminals had round keys that had a much different feel than a typewriter. There was no screen. When something was printed it was on a yellow roll of paper. I also remember something called punch cards, but I don’t recall how they worked. By the time I finished my business degree, I’d decided computers were too much trouble and I’d stick to my typewriter.

Around ten years later (mid 1980’s) I was introduced to my first PC. At first I resisted (flashbacks to those college programming classes) but when I learned the programs were already written, I decided to give it a try. I think the first PC I owned had 256k, but maybe it was 512. I remember the monitor (black and white with green flashing cursor) being about 10, maybe 12 inches in diameter, and the printout was on dot-matrix paper. I learned to use the word processing program (word perfect) and could do very basic numbers manipulation. For the next few years I was happy. I could write my stories, though I didn’t have a built-in dictionary or thesaurus that I recall, but I could edit and rewrite as I went and I saved a lot of paper!

A few years later I started hearing about the Internet, but everything I heard terrified me…viruses, stolen information, spying…so I wasn’t interested. I did start doing my banking by phone and worked in an office where data was transferred via a dial up modem. Then I moved to another state, away from my friends. That was back when you paid for long distance…and it wasn’t cheap. My friend, Charlotte, told me about this new thing called e-mail. She thought it was great because “you didn’t have to worry about spelling or capitalization, or anything…” so I decided to give it a try. Charlotte was even less technologically savvy than me, after all. I got my first e-mail account and, with a dial up connection, I was on my way. After six months, I could hardly communication without e-mail.

Now 15 or so years later, I can’t remember how I functioned without the Internet. Most days, “Google” is my best friend…but it’s been made so simple that I’m finding it a challenge to set up my website. Ironically, I worked for BellSouth (now AT&T) selling phone and Internet services about 10 years ago. I had to learn how the Internet worked (to sell it). But when a customer would ask me to explain it I usually just said, “It’s magic,” and most of the time, that was answer enough for them.  In one of my BellSouth training classes I was taught how to build a website which was fun, but useless information, from my point of view at the time. Oh, now how I wish I’d listened…

My website is up ( but I’ve not yet figured out how to link my blog directly to it. Supposedly I can even link Paypal to it should I ever want to sell my books directly, but right now I’d settle for figuring out to create multiple pages. I’ll get there. I’m just easily distracted and I still need to make time to actually write. So, for now, it’s just my blog with its separate welcome page. At least I don’t have to create it on a typewriter! Thanks for reading…keep coming back!