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16 – My mother discovers online shopping

Mom has discovered a technological boon that surpasses even Internet access and video calling. She has discovered that the wild world of online shopping can be accessed by smart phone. The world may not be ready.

“I can use the phone to go online and buy things? I don’t need a computer?”

“Mom, that phone in your hand is a computer. It has a brain ten times larger than the best desktop computer you ever had. So yes, you can shop on your phone.”

“Ooh! Do many stores let you do this?”

“Yes. The larger stores even have their own apps just for shopping.”

Her eyes get big and I can see her brain ticking away furiously. The earth wobbles ever so slightly on its axis. The consumer confidence index shoots up 1000 points, then realizes it’s on the wrong scale and settles back down again. I may have just created a monster.

“Does Gigantomart have an app? I know I’ve been having you order everything from Megamart for me, but I always go to Gigantomart when I go to the store.”

“Yes mom, I am 100% certain that they do.”

(Just a quick side note. You probably know exactly which businesses I’m talking about even though the names are aliases. Between them they already control half the world and seem well on their way to acquiring at least another 25%, so they don’t need a shout out from me. And also, if I were to accidentally offend them, there’s nowhere to hide. Better safe than sorry. Okay, moving on.)

This may be the moment that mom fully embraced the dazzling wonders of the smart phone era. It wasn’t unprecedented for her to send me half a dozen “Oh, one more thing” online order requests in a single day, particularly after she learned that I get points for every order that could be applied to future orders. But using the Gigantomart app would let her order whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, without worrying about whether she was inconveniencing anyone. And everything would still be delivered to her doorstep. This! This was was at-your-fingertips convenience! This was what shopping should be – at least while you couldn’t actually go out and shop in person. This was a brave new world!

Of course we first had to navigate the treacherous waters of finding and downloading the app (”Here mom, why don’t I just do it for you.”), setting up an account (”Here mom, why don’t I just do that too.”), picking a password (”No mom, do not use your birthday. No, do not use your children’s birthdays either.”), and adding her credit card number for purchases. (”Yes mom, you can do that safely. Yes, I know X company got hacked last year. If that happens you won’t be responsible for any resulting fraudulent charges. Yes, I’m sure. I checked your credit card agreement. Yes, I have a credit card number stored for on-line shopping. No, I don’t have an account with Gigantomart. No, I’m not planning to set up an account with Gigantomart. Look mom, do you want to do this? You don’t have to do this if it worries you that much. Okay, so you’re ready to do this? You’re sure? No mom, I don’t know where your credit card is.”)

It took a minute.

This is also when I made a horrifying discovery.

“While you’re doing that I’m going to write down my password.”

“Mmm hmm, okay. Wait, what?” I stare at my mother, certain I’ve misheard.

“I’m going to write down the password.”

“Hang on, do you write down all of your passwords?”


“Do you write down which account each one is for?”

“Well, of course. Otherwise, how would I know which password goes where?”

“Mother!” I pause and take a deep breath.

“Mom. Are you seriously telling me that I just spent 10 minutes reassuring you about putting a credit card number in your Giagantomart account profile, yet you have a written list of all your passwords that shows what each one is for?”


“That is a horrible idea! That is exactly the thing about which everyone is always saying Do. Not. Do. This!”

“But if I don’t, I’ll never remember them.” She says this as though it’s the most reasonable thing in the world.

“Please tell me you don’t carry them around with you.”

“Of course I don’t!”

“Well thank goodness for that, at least.”

“I keep them in that little address book you bought me, which lives…”

“Don’t tell me where it is! If you have a list of passwords, please, at least don’t tell anybody where it is.”

“Well if I didn’t write them down I’d have to use the same password for everything. And that’s terrible!”

“As is writing everything down, mom.”

“You know I transpose numbers. I always have. I still have to look up my social security number and I’m almost 80.” She crosses her arms and rolls her eyes as though nothing could be more reasonable.

“You don’t keep that with your passwords, do you?” I ask, practically squeaking with horror. Then I reconsider. “Actually, let’s just let that remain a mystery.”

There are some things in life that we don’t need to know. There are also some things in life that we can’t change. This was on both lists. So I made a note to sign mom up for credit monitoring and resigned myself to a future of teaching her how to retrieve locked accounts.

In the meantime, she’s getting so many deliveries of aspirin and tumeric and doggie boots and cat toys and small home decor items that they may have to get another truck just for her. It brings her joy.

And she orders all of it herself.


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