There was a time when a widget was simply a handy nickname for a device or product; your basic John Doe of inanimate objects. Today, a widget is one of the keys that link you to a number of applications on a smartphone. Widgets come in some obvious and not so obvious designs. They decorate the screens of our smartphones like medals and badges to generals and boy scouts. A variety and an abundance of widgets indicate knowledge and social ability when they are flashed for a brief moment to others. They also demand the right touch to access their purpose. Too light of a touch and the display screen does nothing. Too heavy a touch and you are quickly and uncontrollably initiating a phone call to your boss or an acquaintance, you never intended to contact. Accidentally double or triple tapping that widget and you’ve just ordered 40 copies of Rachel Ray’s latest cookbook from Amazon. Worse yet, allow your smartphone to dance about unattended inside your backpack, purse or the pocket of your cargo pants and you’ve just volunteered to join a Civil War reenactment group . . . as a casualty.
It serves a baby boomer right for every gadgety miscue. Boomers are always trying to keep up with the times, whether it’s learning a new technology or still touring as Steppenwolf, even though you’re the only one left from Steppenwolf.
The continuing stream of boomers to smartphones is a desperate plea to indicate that they still have it. They are not giving in to old age, they’re just as hip as younger generations and they have the chops to impress their peers. The acquisition of a smartphone is a new chapter in their lives. There are scars indicating this new chapter was a struggle.
The first part of that struggle is the mandatory bargaining that takes place with their cellular phone provider. It doesn’t matter that they have been a loyal and timely paying customer. What matters to the cell phone company is how long they have been under contract before any sort of discount can be awarded. Any phone call to a cell phone company’s customer service unit is comparable to stubbing your barefoot toes; it won’t kill you but the experience summons up the entire vocabulary of curse words. By some miracle, a frustrating argument with a supervisor leads to a $50 discount on a nifty Android model or iPhone and the anticipation of a FedEx delivery of that new phone awaits the new owner.
For many boomers, the joy of that delivery can evaporate once they fully charge their new battery and they are overcome with a “How the fuck does this work?” feeling. As they struggle leafing through the owner’s manual, the apparent steps of new logins and passwords sweep over them. A mandatory and mentally aggravating homage to Google or Apple must be paid before new users may advance to the splendor of limitless applications. This gateway is akin to purchasing a Hollywood map of celebrity homes and hoping that following that map will lead you to a glimpse of some celebrity ass.
The smartphone experience is not yet complete. The contacts and pertinent information needs to be transferred from the old phone to the new phone. This often necessitates a visit to the phone store. For some cell phone companies, the phone store is the equivalent of a Soviet gulag trimmed in Formica. There are friendly and competent twenty-somethings eager to assist, however, they are trapped in vortex of speech that only high school girls and rappers understand. If the average boomer is not listening closely, they will miss how to access the coolest app that will tell them where to find the nearest Aeropostale. Convinced that further inquiry will lead to being labeled an old geezer, the boomer will leave the store and left to explore their new toy on their own.
On the ride home from the phone store, the anti-aging boomer becomes the most dangerous driver on the road. Forget about the drunk driver, the new smartphone curious boomer can inflict substantial harm on the streets and highways. Without provocation, their new smartphone home screen has just changed from its clock display to a display of a 5-day weather forecast. Wednesday looks like it will be filled with thunderstorms. By the time the distracted boomer has returned to focus on driving, he or she has gotten into a fender bender with a car full of teens in search of the nearest Aeropostale. Ever the tech-savvy one, the boomer calmly doles out, “Wait, I have an app for that”.