Friday, January 20, 2012

Tough outlook for the Major

I do a bit of computer training; just for fun really. There’s a bunch of elderly people in the village who love to look at a screen, adore the Internet and email each other with links to interesting stuff. I’ve been doing it for about four years now and we seem to get on. I get out and bask in their undisguised admiration. They find out how to get their shopping delivered. They also make a contribution to the local church. We meet there for coffee, world right-putting and curriculum planning from time to time. Everybody’s happy.

Then one day a new bloke turns up. He’s quite a loud retired Major from the Education Corps or similar. We buy him coffee. When he finds out about our IT interest he tells us that he’s got a computer running XP, Outlook Express and Word 2000. He says it’s absolutely ideal for him. I point out that it’s twelve years out of date and he says it doesn’t matter. I say, ‘If it works for you,’ ‘It does!” he says.

He enjoys writing to local newspapers about stuff that annoys him and his letters often get published. We read them. The old blokes congratulate him and sometimes agree with him.

One day he says that I should provide computer training for his wife. ‘She needs to know how to get to all the family information if anything happens to me,’ he says and tells me about his backup routines which involve USB drives. I say, ‘Sure, but I can’t really talk about XP or Outlook Express or Word 2000 because they’re all obsolete and I don’t have them installed. He says that that’s okay. I should deal with general principles. This goes on for about a year.

And then a week or so ago he sends me an email and mentions his wife again. I say, ‘Okay. Let’s make a date.’ I notice his ISP is the Post Office, his email address is something like and his email footer invites me to have a free computer scan for VIRUSES and click on a link to buy a Spambuster program.

I ask him why he uses it and he says that he’s happy with it and that an email address doesn’t need to be memorable. He adds that he and his wife have the same email address because 1: We only need the one, 2: We have no secrets from each other, 3: She doesn’t need one and 4: “She doesn’t have the skills.” It turns out that there is only the one shared account on his computer. He says that’s all they need.

Anyway, she comes round one afternoon. She’s a slight attractive lady with a quiet manner. We muck about with Windows for a couple of hours. She’s keen to learn but clearly hasn’t spent a long time with a mouse in her hand. I set her up a Gmail account which, amazingly, happens to be her: ! Result, I think. Then things go weird.

The Major sends me an email and asks me what her Gmail address is. I am instantly confused. Hasn’t she told him? Has she forgotten it? Is there something going on? Can I not tell a bloke his wife’s email address? Who cares anyway? I think for a day and then send him her address. I explain my dilemma.

A couple of hours later I get another email from him – using his wife’s Gmail account! He says he doesn’t like it and it’s not half as easy as Outlook Express. He attaches a photo of his wife.

I reply expressing surprise that he’s using her account. I list Gmail’s advantages over OE. He returns my email with my reasons annotated in green and red. He doesn’t agree.

I tell him that I won’t be working with his wife again. He knows best. He’s a teacher. Teach her!

One of the old blokes tells me that if Major is the rank someone retires with it means they were rubbish. Funny thing is that I read the same thing only the other week in Lee Child’s book ‘The Affair.’ He should know, I guess.

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