[”Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published January 23, 2023] ©2023
In previous years, it was always our hope to have the company of our four preschool grandchildren over the holidays. And after they left, it was always our hope to someday get all of our electronics working again. For all of you who had tiny grandchildren visiting at Christmas, this is for you.
There is something about tiny persons and LCD panels that is just irresistible. In our home, alas, the electronics all seemed to be located at perfect toddler eye level. I always taped covers over the CD player, amplifier, and DVD player (don’t judge; we’re old) but for the tots this just acted like a flashing neon beacon that there was something Really Neat underneath. Pretty much everything we listened to on our CD player for weeks after they left was really heavy on the bass.
As for the remotes, even Olof, who is an engineer, was sometimes hard put to get them to ever operate a TV again if they’d been left unattended. (So many buttons! So little time!) The living room light timer was perpetually ten hours off when the tots were in residence casting us into darkness at inopportune times and lighting up the house like a Christmas tree at 3 a.m.
Tragically for us, the electronic touch screen panel on our KitchenAid range was on the front rather than the top. Exquisitely accessible to someone of the pre-school persuasion was the Options button, which when combined with any single digit between one and seven suddenly made something that worked before cease to. For example, Option + 2 turned off the timer bell so that one could, for example, discover that they’ve had one of the back yard sprinkler valves running for seven hours.
Option + 4, which turned off the Cooking Completion Time bell, was a serious bummer as well.
Fortunately, you could put the oven control panel in Child Lock mode so that they couldn’t use it. But you couldn’t either. More problematic was the fact that two Thanksgivings in a row, a grandchild took it upon herself to turn off the oven while the turkey was cooking. You walked into the kitchen and instead of the comforting hum of the oven there is an eerie silence and the heart-stopping Black Screen of Death on the touch screen panel. Had the oven taken this extremely inopportune time to crump? Or was it a stealth toddler operation? I pressed the On button and the panel (and oven) blessedly sprang to life. But how long had it been off? Ten minutes? Oy, an hour?
Deciding the dishwasher was suddenly on the fritz, I discovered that tiny fingers had simply re-set it to “Rinse and hold.”
The really odd thing is that we never actually saw them do it. And it’s not like they’re roaming around our small house unattended. But toddlers seem to have radar for Unattended Electronics upon which they engage in covert attacks. The Navy Seals could take lessons.
One year, realizing three days after the Toddler Invasion had decamped that we had no phone service, we discovered with our phone company’s help that we didn’t have three phones but four: the last one was the small handset on our little-used fax machine that was ever so slightly off the hook.
My computer was in the guest room and should I accidentally leave it up after I’d checked email, I’d find that all my desktop icons have been rearranged, my font settings mysteriously microscopic (I’d love to know how they did this since I couldn’t change my desktop fonts if I tried) and the speakers had been cranked up to 150 decibels. I could only wonder what they’d ordered on Amazon.
My desk and desk chair, meanwhile, were elaborately reupholstered with an entire package of Post-It Notes, some with personal “wuv” messages (the author informed me) in the form of Hi-Liter scribbles. All electronic transgressions were immediately forgiven.
Ironically, all the grandkids over a year old could actually operate iPhones (to watch videos) and phone cameras. At four, our budding-portraitist grandson would shoot away, review his photos, and delete the ones he didn’t want. Given his size, it is not surprising that most of his shots were of people’s nether regions.
Fortunately, we don’t have to tape anything over any more. The kids have all moved on to iPads. And they continue to leave us in the technological dust.
During one visit, the grandkids were anticipating a Wild Animal Park excursion and were debating whether a lion could eat a giraffe. The three-year-old, a giraffe devotee, was horrified. “Lions ‘non’t eat ‘raffes!” he insisted. So I said, “well, let's look it up.” I hadn’t taken two steps toward my computer before my eight-year-old granddaughter picked up her iPad and said to it, "Do lions eat giraffes?" and it replied, "The only animal that would eat a giraffe is a lion."
Who knew typing was so last decade.