On Being an Outdated Person in an Updated World

I don’t know what got into me. I’m usually great at ignoring automated update notices on every appliance I own. My view is, I have to be in the right mood to update — and believe me, I am almost never in the right mood.

But for some reason, I was in the right mood when I got an update notice on my iPhone. I think it was my son’s fault. He’d mentioned something about a big deal iPhone update and God knows, I’m susceptible to rumors. So, when I saw the notice, I didn’t grimace the way I usually do. I thought, well, why not? And worse, why not do it now?

So, I pressed the download button, and immediately my iPhone was taken over by the update apparatus. No big deal. I was going to yoga, anyway. So I sauntered off into the zen zone. When I came back, my phone was sending me all kinds of emergency bulletins, asking for passwords, threatening me, ordering me to do all kinds of irrelevant stuff. By then, I was no longer in the right mood.

“I just ruined my iPhone,” I told my friend Carol when she called. (A miracle: At least the call came through.) “I tried to update it.”


“Everything was just fine,” I continued. “I didn’t have one single problem with my phone. And now I updated it and ruined it — ”


” — my laptop, my iPad, my cell phone! I am constantly bombarded by updates I don’t want. The only update I want is for my body, for God’s sake — ”

Finally, Carol and ended our conversation by slamming down our phones, content we were both 100 percent right. It would have been a completely satisfying conversation, in fact, except I realized I’d forgotten to mention my other, pressing high-tech nightmare.

Which was: Remember the sound system in our fancy, new car, with the gizmos my husband had assured me would change our lives? Well, it was stuck on Hank Williams. Or, more precisely, on Hank Williams’ rendition of “Jambalaya.” Even though I’d punched many buttons repeatedly and screamed a lot (often while driving), the system kept playing “Jambalaya.”

“It’s not even my favorite Hank Williams’ song,” I’d complained to my husband the day before. “If it has to be stuck on something, why not something I really like, like ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ or ‘Lovesick Blues’?”

As usual, my husband hadn’t looked terribly alarmed by the magnitude of my high-tech disasters. He didn’t seem to realize I would probably drive the car into a brick wall if I had to listen to “son of a gun/we’ll have some fun/on the bayou” one more goddamned time. (If I recall it correctly, Hank Williams himself died in a car at the age of 29, in a tragedy I am perfectly willing to bet may have involved punitive repetitions of “Jambalaya,” but that’s just my working theory.)

Update my right shoulder, my neck, or any other aging body part, if you want. Fine. Just leave my high-tech equipment in working order and I’ll be be content. Otherwise, good-bye Joe/me gotta go/me oh my oh.

(Copyright 2013 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read about seeing ghosts


12 comments… add one
  • I could use an update for my saggy thighs. When you find that one, please post it! That’s of course so son of a gun, can have big fun on the bayou!

  • Karen Kalergis Link

    My downfall was doing a “refresh” on my new touch screen laptop and it wiped out my word application. A writer without word is definitely like a day without sunshine. Think torrents of rain, thunder, lightning and lots of four letter words.

  • Crawfish pie, filé gumbo!

  • I have NOT downloaded the latest version. I know that I will not be able to cope with all the crazy things that will ensue. And then I’ll get crazy and want to dump my phone. Just last night I whined to my husband that I HATED electronics and I just want to go back to the way it was before we had them.
    I’m so with you, Ruth.

  • I keep waiting for that Star Trek thing – where they run a scan over your body and immediately fix what’s wrong. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

  • My husband wants me to get a laptop so that when I travel I can work (something I am not convinced I want to do). The problem is they do not make laptops with ergonomic keyboards. Which makes no sense to me since people who type with laptops teetering on their knees are probably at most risk for carpal tunnel. So I am resisting this technological update to my life for now.

  • I wonder if you know the Robin and Linda Williams song Rollin & Ramblin, about Hank’s last ride? http://youtu.be/TEM0OfktB-I
    your story ahd me thinking of it.

    says I writing to you from a twelve year old laptop with a six or seven year old OS, *have* to update…soon…

  • So right on about updates. Send me one for my feet and I’m all over it, but leave my electronics alone.

  • You are way ahead of me. I still don’t have an iPhone, although my kids keep asking when I plan to get one. Now that I know I will have to do updates, I’m even more hesitant to commit.

  • Ugh, what is it with Apple and those updates anyway? My Mac is constantly telling me to update something and I know as soon as I do out here in the woods it will be all over. I will have ruined it. 🙂

  • merr Link

    I am beginning to accept being outdated in an updated world – like, it’s really okay for some things.

  • My poor iPhone is too old (it’s 3G, so by Apple standards, has a foot or three in the grave) – it doesn’t even have access to the update!

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