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Ask Dr. Rich
Richard Simons | Upper East 11th Street


Photo illustration Art Olson. Click on image to enlarge.


Q – A good friend called me the other day and she is terrified. She just realized that when her son leaves for college next year there won’t be anyone in the house who understands how stuff works. You know – the electrical stuff, like the TV, the DVR, the stereo, the computer, the iPad and like that. Do you run across this problem in your practice? – m.s.

More and more often my colleagues and I are encountering cases like this. There is apparently an entire generation now discovering there is a new aspect to “empty nest syndrome.” Clearly, considering the sophistication of the electronics found in the contemporary modern home, every household needs to have a young person in situ. How young is a matter of some debate, as scientists are strugglng to understand at what point human babies began to be born with the genetic twist that allows them to understand this complex new world right out of the womb. It is fairly clear now that almost anyone under 20 years of age bears this trait. On the other end, consider the daunting maze of jargon: “wi-fi,” “server,” “plasma,” “hashtag,” “cloud,” “streaming live.” Certainly no one over thirty can possibly understand the meaning of these terms. As one pundit recently pointed out, until grandchildren come along, the recreational possibilities for empty nesters are limited to card games and sex (in so far as possible).

I was able recently to observe the effect of the new DNA in my own granddaughter, who just turned three. She (quite literally) cut her teeth on her mother’s iPad. The other day someone carelessly left one of those things called “magazines” lying around on the floor. The child found it and was fascinated by the glossy, four color, full page ad. But after a bit she became bored with it and wanted it to disappear. So she began to initiate a series of that sort of pinching, bye-bye gesture that iPad owners use to shrink images, and was greatly frustrated when it wouldn’t go away. Eventually she tossed the magazine away, on the ash heap of history.

The electronic geeks (“electronistas”?) have also wrecked havoc on the tried and true. A good example was reported recently by one of my cases. He drives an old car and recently the radio gave out and he had to have it replaced. The old radio was easy to understand: It only had two knobs, one clearly marked “On/Off” and “Volume,” the other “Tuning.” His new device has four knobs and six buttons, marked only by cryptic arrows and unexplained hyroglyphics. My charge is not happy – the radio is stuck on one channel, which plays music he doesn’t like – loudly.

A good example of the helplessness of my generation may be my very own wristwatch. It works fine when left alone, but twice a year when we go forward or backward there is a problem. I will typically struggle to reset the watch for an hour or two and then, as the chance presents itself, hand it off to one of my daughters (late twenties) or my grandson (eighteen). Either of the daughters can crack this case in under a minute and a half. The grandson can do it in 20 seconds flat. (There is a generational progression here that I hope you noticed.)
It ain’t agonna happen, but I would really love it if I could be around when that grandson turns my age, to see him stumbling around confused by devices driven by forces not yet discovered by mankind.



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