Let me just start by saying the last year has been tough, but I think it was the best era for a pandemic like this to happen.
Netflix, Deliveroo, the internet, can you imagine trying to get through this nightmare twenty years ago?
Sitting there for eight hours a day, with terrestrial television, a box set of Bergerac on DVD and snake on a Nokia 3410, it would have been agony. That’s not a lockdown that’s a wet caravanning holiday to Rhyl.
Technology has helped us keep in touch with family. I’ve been stunned by how quickly my parents have adapted to this new online world.
My father is called “Roy”, which is the perfect name for a working-class, Yorkshire Luddite. You don’t get many baby Roy’s these days, do you? That’s not a baby that’s the name of a sixty-year-old bloke with a moustache and a smokers cough. Babies called Roy would come out of the womb already able to grout a bathroom. I reckon my dad was already a tradesman before he even took his first breath. Apparently, he was born by cesarian section, I imagine he probably used his first words to give his mother a quote for the damage. “We can plaster over that love, no worries, two hundred quid, see you Tuesday.”
He got this iPad so he could Facetime my children. He never got the hang of it, because he used to ring us first, half an hour before, to see if we were “prepared for the Facetime” what did he think it was? Live Aid or something? Just be spontaneous Dad!
He couldn’t use the camera either. For weeks we were being Facetimed by a Fridge Freezer. There was nothing there. Then all of a sudden accompanied by some heavy breathing, this eye would come creeping into view. “Here’s Grandad!” the kids didn’t sleep for weeks!
Now he’s setting up WhatsApp groups, video calls, Skype sessions. He’s learnt new words like, “bandwidth” and “emoji” I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he goes viral on Tik Tok.
Technology is incredible, but it does make our lives more complicated.
I feel like we have to remember more passwords than an MI5 agent these days. I’m running out of options now. I’ve used the children’s names, birthdays, old teachers. I’ve been through the cast of Neighbours, including Bouncer the dog, I’m really struggling now.
Everything is encrypted now too, which just causes more stress. I hate the person who invented that Captcha system. I think we should find them and take them hostage, and only let them go if they manage to spot three fire hydrants a zebra crossing and seven bicycles out of a window. I’m obviously not a robot. As if a robot would be online at two in the morning, googling “What is MC Hammer’s real name?”
I’ve signed up for so much stuff online and I can say with some confidence that I’ve never read those terms and conditions either. Who has time for that?
No one knows what is written in that small print.
I could have just agreed to donate a kidney if I miss a payment, but I want that phone more than I want to be thorough, so I’ll instantly click accept.
During lockdown, I’ve been in a toxic relationship too.
With my inkjet printer.
It’s the year 2021, we’ve put people on the moon and yet we still can’t design a printer that isn’t an absolute arsehole.
“Sometimes our baby monitor would pick up the radio from the local taxi rank. Either that or our youngest was trying to book a minibus to the airport.”
I know they’ll be people reading this who have an inkjet printer, I just want to ask how many times, today alone, have you sworn at it and threatened to sling it through the window? I bet it’s at least fifty.
Mine is possessed. HP, which stands for “Higher Power” I swear it’s trying to break me down.
Once, I got so angry with it, I pulled the power cord out of the back, the light stayed on, that defies physics. There is only one thing powering that, resentment.
Having that printer is like having a teenage boy in the house. This thing just sits in the corner all day, just grunting, there’s a light on but nothing’s happening, I’m always feeding it and it’s costing me a fortune.
I got that printer for thirty quid, an absolute bargain. I remember having to do a double-take in the shop. “They must be making a loss; they couldn’t manufacture it for that price?” This is because they know that they will get you on the ink. That’s not a printer, that’s a gateway drug!
That printer cost me thirty pounds; the ink is costing me over six hundred pounds a year!
That’s like someone selling you a car for five hundred quid and you then find out that it only runs on Unicorn pee!
It’s a scandal, people would march against these companies, but they can’t afford to print the placards.
I’ve got an idea for a new Terminator film; I’m going to email James Cameron this week. It’s the perfect concept, something that pitches man against machine in the ultimate battle to the death. But they’ll be no guns, no gadgets, no time travel, it’d just be one man trying to print a Ryan Air boarding pass for three hours!
We are obsessed with putting technology into things now too. Everything has to be internet ready and it’s getting out of hand.
I got bought a video doorbell for Christmas, it connects to the internet and you can tell you who is at your door when you’re away from home. When you’ve been in lockdown for over a year that’s just what you need. They may as well have got me vouchers for British Airways.
I’ve had a cheaper version of this gadget that has been working well for over fifteen years now, it’s called the front room window. It’s cheap, it’s low maintenance and doesn’t text me like a needy girlfriend every time some stranger looks through it.
I have enough stress to deal with in my life without my doorbell being able to contact me. I’ve got two kids, a cat and a mortgage, now I’ve got a doorbell to look after, I can’t deal with that!
If you’re already an anxious person, this is the last you need in your life. Imagine being sat on a beach in Greece (when we are allowed) on your holidays, trying to relax. Then your phone flags up a notification and you have to watch in real-time, someone trying to burgle your house, whilst you’re sat on a sun lounger, powerless and panicking, holding a Cornetto
“I swear sometimes, in the early hours, I’ve actually heard that poor smart speaker sobbing.”
You can buy a slow cooker that connects to the internet now. Just in case you want to monitor a casserole remotely. How boring is your life if part of your day is to check in on your slow cooker?!
“Everything okay Pete, you’ve gone pale”
“I’ve had an emergency at home”
“Oh no, is it the kids are they okay?”
“It’s worse than that, the slow cooker has got stuck on simmer!”
You can buy a Pepper Spray with a Bluetooth connection, camera and 4G. So, you can spray the assailant whilst sending a photo of them to the police. Imagine trying to do that?
“Mate, I know I’m terrified and you’ve got a knife, but can we do another one, I had my finger over the lens!” “Sure, I didn’t like that one anyway, my chin looked a bit fat”
You can buy an internet ready onesie so you can put your baby online too. With an accompanying app that monitors the heart rate and oxygen levels.
The perfect gadget for those parents on the edge who are already terrified of leaving their kid alone. Having a baby is nerve-wracking enough without having it wired into the grid. It’s bad enough having a baby monitor. That’s meant to bring you peace of mind, but all that happens is you’ll be sat in the front room having a cup of tea listening to your exhausted partner swearing at your child. Very embarrassing, particularly if the midwife is there.
Sometimes our baby monitor would pick up the radio from the local taxi rank. Either that or our youngest was trying to book a minibus to the airport.
It was really weird, you’d be listening to the sound of her breathing, a lullaby being played on the mobile, then it would just get interrupted by Darren at Cable Cars.
“Tony, pick up at Oceana night club mate, you nearby!”
“Can do mate, Roger that!”
Can I just say at this point, I’m ashamed of the way I speak to my Alexa. It’s appalling.
I’m just barking orders at that poor woman all day long. “Alexa, play Radio 2” “Alexa, set the timer for my eggs, Alexa what happened to Zammo from Grange Hill?”
I can just see her at the other end, just running around all stressed and flustered. I never give her a break. If I spoke to my wife like I speak to my Alexa she’d hit me with a frying pan.
The worst thing is sometimes Alexa gets told off for stuff that isn’t even her fault. She gets caught in the crossfire during our marital arguments.
She’ll be playing the radio as I’ve told her to do, my wife will be annoyed with me for some reason and when she walks into the kitchen who does she shout at first? Not me, poor old Alexa!
She turns to that blue light and with venom and hatred she yells.
“SHUT YER FACE ALEXA!”
I swear sometimes, in the early hours, I’ve actually heard that poor smart speaker sobbing.
We should have an adoption agency for mistreated appliances like this. Kindles who haven’t been charged for years, old I-phones that have been discarded in drawers and Fitbits that were worn once and then slung angrily into the corner of the room, after the owner realized that running was yet another thing in life that they’ve failed miserably at.
I think technology has changed arguments forever. They aren’t as much fun as they used to be, are they? It used to be an angry shouting match, people screaming down telephones, tears, maybe even actual violence.
Now, just one sentence sends us into a panic, “David has left the WhatsApp group!” “On no!” “What have we done to David!”
When technology lets you down, there is nothing worse.
We’re in a constant battle with our broadband at the moment. It’s become an essential service and ours is appalling. I rang up to complain to my service provider, I was all charged up, foaming at the mouth, ready to give these clowns both barrels.
But what I’ve noticed is that some of these companies have what seems to be, a secret Nanna department. It’s so clever. I was expecting to get some seventeen year old idiot called Gavin who I could have happily unloaded both barrels on. But instead, I got Dorothy, a softly spoken Scottish woman with a voice like Mrs Doubtfire, and it totally threw me.
I reckon it wasn’t a call centre at all. Just a care home, with a load of lovely old ladies, sat in rows with headsets on and a tartan blanket on their knees. Taking calls in between Countdown and Homes under the Hammer.
So, I tried to put my complaint to her.
“Listen, this broadband isn’t good enough Dorothy, I’m trying to work from home at the moment, we’ve got the children being home-schooled, it’s slow, expensive and unreliable and frankly I’ve had enough of it”
She paused and then her little gentle voice piped up.
“ahhh, two wee girls, what are their names?”
“Olivia and Sophia”
“Beautiful names, I’ve got two wee girls myself. They’ve grown up and left home now, one of them is in Canada, I rarely see her. They all leave dear; I suppose you’re going to do the same are you?”
“Errr…..right okay, sorry about that. No, I don’t want to leave but it’s the upload speed that’s the problem, Dorothy, It’s useless”
“I know my dear, and that’s the one thing we don’t guarantee, I’m so sorry”
“Where I live is the same, my little cottage here on the isle of Sky, we have to make do dear. There are people dying in this pandemic, but I know that a little bit of buffering whilst you’re trying to watch Bridgerton is more than anyone should have to deal with”
“If I could I would come down there with some cable, a shovel and a wheelbarrow and put in that fibre myself. I would my dear, but I can’t do that poppet, I’m 83, my best installation days are behind me now!”
So, I rang up to complain and all I did was have a chat with an old lady for twenty minutes. Worse thing is, she was so good, I’ve not even left, I’ve signed a contract for another three years.
Scott Bennett Comedian
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