January 26, 2021

Article at respectnews.ca

Visiting through the digital window

Jeff Gaye

How do you feel about computer technology?

I remember the early days of personal computers. Friends of mine made themselves busy with pointless tasks like entering recipes from cookbooks onto computer drives, or listing their book and record collections in a digital catalogue.

Why? Because they bought the damn thing, now they have to find a use for it.

When I was first posted to CFB Cold Lake way back in 1990, every office had a typewriter. Only a few had computers. My boss was old-school and had no use for computers, and his office never had one. He hated trying to get some assistance from another department, only to be told they couldn’t help him because “our computers are down.”

I remember one afternoon he was trying to escape the office to go golfing, but the phone kept ringing. Finally he answered one call and said, “Sorry Bud, I’d love to help you, but our computers are down.” The caller accepted the excuse, and the boss picked up his clubs and bolted out the door.

After he retired, things changed. As the Base Bandmaster I had my own workplace, but I occasionally substituted as my new boss’s assistant. His office finally had a computer, but I never learned to use it. One day a senior officer came rushing down the hall into the office asking, “did you get my email?”

I said no.

He looked at the dark computer screen. “Why isn’t your computer turned on?” he demanded.

“I wasn’t using it,” I replied innocently. “So what’s the message?”


“Your email. What was it? You’re here, I’m here—why don’t you just tell me?”

He never did.

Some time after that, the boss ordered me to get a computer for my Band office. I went to the telecom section and asked if I could have a couple of old units from their scrap bin. They told me to help myself.

So I took the unusable computers to the band room, and used them as doorstops when we were loading band gear in and out of the building.

“Did you get a computer yet?” the boss asked one day. “Yes Sir,” I said, “in fact I got two of them.”

“Well done, Gaye,” he said. “What do you use them for?”

“Um… primarily to facilitate movement and tracking of equipment and inventory, Sir.” He liked that.

Eventually I gave in. I got a phone call from someone looking to book the band for an official function. “Are you not on email?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

“Well that explains it. I’ve been trying to find your email address for three days! I finally gave up and phoned you.”

I’m sure he thought I was the stupid one. Nonetheless, I realized that if I want to communicate with people, I have to meet them where they are—in this case, that meant online. I went and got a proper computer and had it hooked up.

My attitude has changed. I still prefer real things to so-called “virtual” things, but I rely heavily on computer technology in my work and in my personal life.

And now more than ever, digital technology is proving its worth, connecting people over distance and through pandemic isolation barriers.

If you are my age or older, you may well be resistant to going online. Brand names like Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype may seem like a foreign language to you. And if you’re like me, you might even resent the loss of real contact as virtual visiting becomes normal.

It’s not nearly satisfying to see your grandchildren’s smiles for a short time via a computer or smartphone screen. You want to be with them. “Visiting” on a Zoom call can seem awkward. But it’s better than nothing.

And more and more services are being delivered online – friendly visits, academic courses (see our story on page 8 about FAFA’s French-language offerings), even health consultations.

All this online stuff can help free us from utter isolation, at least until we can hug our loved ones again. It doesn’t require advanced scientific training, you can keep it as simple as you like. If you have someone who can help you, or if you can help someone else, by all means make the connection.

If you don’t have access to a computer, tablet, or smartphone, there are services available by telephone to help you connect with other people. Call your local FCSS for advice on how to beat isolation.

I love real things, and I’m suspicious of anything billed as “virtual.” And I have to admit it was fun to be a stubborn smart-aleck and resist our inevitable enslavement to the robots.

But when I can’t see my grandkids in person, I’m grateful at least to visit them through a digital window. Until things get better (and they will), we’re wise to use what we’ve got.