Most of you know I live in a retirement community. Read that to say 55 years and older living on a fixed income.
Fixed income. I’ve always liked that term. It beats the hell out of “I’m too poor and I didn’t plan adequately for retirement.” And no, that’s not really the case for many who live here. The cost of living has indeed blossomed to be out of reach for those of us who do live on a fixed income; even a well-planned retirement can need some lifestyle changes. Hence, government subsidized places like where I live.
You know what? I like it here. People my age listened to Jefferson Airplane. Not Starship…Airplane. I’ve had protracted arguments with someone who wanted to argue that Jefferson Starship was the band formed by the kids of Jefferson Airplane. No really…I’m not kidding. Sheesh, even a lame Yahoo search engine will show that to be bologna. But I have to admit it sounds good. The busted meme that is.
Before we moved here we lived about six blocks away. It was a nice enough house. A rental house with builder grade move-in carpeting and cabinets. Nice enough, but not like here. Here, when I walk outside people don’t pretend to be busy so as not to acknowledge a friendly wave or the beginnings of a conversation. We range in age from 55 to 93 years, and in a true community way we take care of each other…we watch out for each other. Those of us who are more technically astute will help those who are not.
Claude and Joyce live directly across the street from us, and they were the first to greet Diane and me when we first moved in. Fact is, we weren’t even moved all the way in before they arrived and offered their help. It’s places like this that make the cut-throat condo lifestyle fade from memory.
When Claude stopped by a couple of weeks ago, I invited him in for coffee. DeeAnn, the lady at the end of the cul-de-sac, was having fits with her computer and she had asked Claude who might help her. Claude told her that I had put a different operating system on his machine and it was now running problem-free. His visit was an intermediary plea for help and I told him I would go over later that afternoon.
DeeAnn is a nice lady. Recently widowed, she found herself unable to keep her house, so she sold it, put the money away, and found a place here with the rest of us. She invited me in and ushered me into her “office,” where her computer was set up amid a lot of half-emptied moving boxes and the sundry stuff that clutters our lives upon a change of residence. I wanted to do the “well, here’s yer problem right here” routine, but my sense of humor doesn’t always translate as, uh…funny.
She was using a Dell Optiplex with Windows Vista installed, and it was a mess. It wasn’t virus-laden, it was I-love-all-of-these-toolbars-they-make-life-so-easy laden. She mentioned that Claude said I could put a program on her computer that was better than what she had, and I said, yes, I did have such a program and would she like to see how it worked before I put it on her computer. She said she would be thrilled to do that.
With age comes wisdom. Mostly. Sometimes. Maybe.
A previous experience last year in this same senior laden neighborhood had produced deep wounds in my psyche, and I still have an involuntary twitch every time Windows Vista is mentioned. Many of you would probably have done the same thing I did: I installed Linux on a computer, showed the new user the basics and she claimed that she was comfortable with her new system.
It wasn’t thirty minutes later that she was pounding on my door, demanding that I fix her computer back to the very same way I found it, which included 87 viruses and more malware than I cared to identify. It took me weeks to get her computer back to an identifiable state. It took longer for a healthy state of mind to return to me. Long enough in fact, that DeeAnn was going to get to sit down to a day of using a live flash drive version of Lubuntu and make any more permanent decisions after doing so.
It didn’t even take an hour before she was back at my house. “Can you fix it so it comes back to my computer?”
Uh-huh. Whadid I tell you? But I had saved myself a ton of misery and a bevy of new uncontrollable twitches.
I told her to give me a couple of days and I would have her fixed up as good as new. True to my word, a legal, licensed Windows Vista installation disk arrived via UPS and side by side we installed her fresh operating system. I put all of her pictures and settings back in place and told her that I would not be available to do much more for her unless the entire computer blew up. Then I would charge a flat fee of $75.00. She was happy with that. I took the liberty of installing Avast antivirus and a sponsored installation of Malwarebytes. I did that for me, not for her.
So, did I sell out? Did I go against everything I thought was right? Yeah, I did and I would do it again given the same circumstances. Here’s the deal…
As we get older, we are less malleable mentally. We don’t want to learn new things if the old things are serving us. We don’t want things done for us “for our own good.” We forget stuff.
Really, we do forget stuff. The initial article I submitted to FOSS Force to run today was largely an article I had already submitted here a few months ago, one that I thought I’d put on Blog of Helios, so I had to write another article. That didn’t go over well. Actually it was fine, but my point is my point. When we get older, we don’t want anyone to save our world for us. We like the world we live in and if it’s ultimately a pain in the ass for us, that’s okay. We’ve learned how to work around those pains in the ass. Most of them anyway.
DeeAnn wanted her computer to work and do what it did before it got all gummed up and wouldn’t work any more. That’s what I gave her. She got her working computer back and I got some peace of mind. New and better isn’t always better. Most often, it’s best to find some middle ground, and if that middle ground turns out to be a turd of an operating system…well, let there be turds.
At least I won’t have to pretend I don’t see her when she waves at me while we’re outside getting the mail.
Reglue needs a new delivery vehicle in order to continue its mission to deliver computers to school children who can’t afford them. You can help by visiting its Indiegogo page.
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Ken Starks is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue