I learned the word “Luddite” a few years back when someone remarked that I’m likely one, because I had this suspicious disdain for buzz-whirring gadgets and technology. Could be I’m a grumpy old curmudgeon before my time, but one thing is for sure: when it comes to modern digital machines, I’ve been left behind. I went to the bank today.

We just switched banks (to shorten a long story), and I had been given a booklet with a “customer number” written in it. The booklet says enter your customer number in the appropriate place on the web site, then enter your four digit PIN, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have one of those, so I’m stuck here at step two. I needed a person to help. A real live person.

The fella looked at me with pity – or could he have been astonished at my diminished capacity to comprehend the apparently simple instruction to choose a PIN. I suppose he’d look at any befuddled old man the same way, even though he surely out-aged me by a decade. He turned his computer monitor my way and showed me the web site. Showed me how to download “the app.” And when he was done, he looked at me and didn’t say anything, and I knew it as the look of will there be anything else? So I confirmed we were done with one another, and yes we’re done. Your card will work. Internet banking is set up. Swipe here to see the settings on the app. And welcome to the bank.

Well now how about that, I said, and I gathered up my card and ID and the phone with the fancy new banking interface and I went to the grocery store and bought a bag of spinach with my new PIN, and sure enough, seconds later, all the details of the transaction were neatly annotated on my mobile screen.

I’ll be damned, as they say. I’ve never seen the likes of it.
Last week we received a physical cheque – ink on paper with signatures and all that jazz – from our bank in the US. They wouldn’t wire us the money, they said. Surely there’s some way around the call-centre script – a modern Choose Your Own Adventure – that would enable us to initiate the obvious transaction but I couldn’t figure it. So we stood in line at the bank with a piece of paper that had flown six thousand miles from the country who claims the have invented the Internet, but who simply refused to use it to shift that chunk of money over there to this bank over here.What century do we live in??!! I complained aloud.I put these two stories next to one another because I can’t make sense of the man who lived them. From affronted to befuddled – when will I feel as though technology is working for me? Thing is, I fell off the track when my son was born, going on five years. If it happened since then, I probably can’t make a lick of sense of it. If it happened prior, maybe a fifty fifty chance.

About the kid: the amount that his mother likes video games is the inverse of my disdain for them, and the boy is somewhere in the middle. Funny thing is he expects I have some magical insights into how the blasted console at home turns on, but I don’t. The two of us sit around frustrated at this fact until his mother comes home and rescues me from a digital wasteland I simply can’t navigate – and then I go cook dinner. Hot steel and fire. Now there’s something I can understand.

Tonight his mother’s away on business and I’m not sure how we’ll entertain one another besides frying chicken and reading Dr Seuss. If all else fails, I might show him this new online number game I learned today. But I won’t tell him it’s just Internet banking.

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Brian Sorrell has worked as a cook, typist, computer programmer, woodworker, bicycle repairman, and university lecturer, all of which inadequately prepared him for his current full-time role as Dad. In February 2012, the family packed up their house in California and relocated to Auckland, where he now specialises in chasing his always-on-the-run son, drinking coffee, and recording his adventures at Dadding Full Time

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