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You didn't get an iPod for Christmas?

You didn't get a Kindle either? Read on, please


While looking for after-holiday mall bargains, I noted a young man collecting empty carts and flipping his iPod - probably a Christmas gift - at the same time. I nodded, smiled, gave a polite, perfunctory comment, "How are you?" Instead of "Fine," he tossed me, "Hey, I'm cool."

So how can we old-timers (but don't call us that) - whose electronic terms are not part of our vocabulary - become cool?

This question is especially relevant because I recently read that credit cards soon will be obsolete, and everything will be done via iPhones. So, here's another question: How will those of us who don't own iPhones pay our bills?

A friend, even more elderly than I (if you can imagine that) doesn't even have a cell phone, for goodness sakes! So, if you actually know people like that in this electronic age, tell them not to worry about being un-cool, you know someone with a solution: Me.

Let's start with the basic cell phone. "No one can be cool without one," a friend told me, "so I fake it. I hold my garage door opener to my ear and nobody knows the difference."

Good idea! My mind raced on. But what if you don't even have a garage door opener?

Here's what: Use a hand-held calculator. Or your TV remote. In fact, most anything will do; just make sure it fits in your palm, has buttons to tic-tac-toe with your thumbs, and others will assume you even know how to text!

Now, if you can hold a "phone" between your head and shoulder and search your purse or pockets for change while the cashier and a line of impatient customers wait, that's cool, too.

But, if you're still self-conscious about talking into thin-air, put your door-opener calculator/remote/whatever) to your ear, then say, "Hey, wassup?"

What you say doesn't matter; just talk. My husband Lawrence and I were in an airport a while back and overheard a teen-ager exiting the men's room saying, "I'm coming out of the bathroom now. Now I'm walking down the hall." Real deep stuff, you understand.

You can even use your fake phone as a point-and-shoot camera by holding it at arm's length and telling your model, "Say cheese." Or instead of a wristwatch, glance at your fake and say, "Wow - look at the time! Gotta run!"

Then there are MP3s. My friend's looks like a pack of Dentyne gum with a cord and earplugs. She claims 250 songs, a dozen CDs and a couple of books are downloaded into that itsy-bitsy thing. So add a package of Dentyne to your fake aids, plus a cord to wrap around your ear.

As for a "Bluetooth" (for the uninitiated, that's an ear phone): Take an empty, mini-matchbox, color it a solid blue or black with a magic marker, then unbend a paper clip to attach it around your ear.

When I saw one man's Bluetooth even sported a mini-mike, I told myself, I can make my own high-tech-looking mike by painting a Q-tip black and sticking one end into the match box and pointing the other end toward my mouth.

Now for a quick aside: Did you know "ear phones" actually are nothing new? My great-grandfather had a black, clarinet-looking "phone" called an "ear trumpet." He stuck the small end of that clarinet into his ear, and relatives hollered into the big end. I only saw Grandpappy once, but that big, black thing stuck in his ear scared me so that I, a 5-year-old, "minded my parents" a whole week! Honest-cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die.

"With-it" people talked of getting Kindle Fires, iPods and iPads for Christmas. We uncool senior citizens can make replicas with peel-off stickers like those you write yard-sale prices on, or which come free in appeal-mail, stuck onto Dollar Store frames. Others will really believe your device is real when you poke a sticker, and then brush your fingers across the glass.

Finally, one must talk the talk. Use a word from mythology: druid, gnome, pixie, troll, sprite, goblin. Or the name of a planet. Any word ending with two small ii is cool - like "Hawaii." (Just remember to say the "Ha" part under your breath and only the "waii" out loud).

Trust me. Throw such terms around, and they'll confuse even those in the know because new names and products are coming so fast, others will assume you know something they don't.

Finally… if you're hesitant about faking stuff and need help with the correct terms, just adopt/borrow a 6-year-old. Kids that age are the ultimate in cool.

© Copyright 2013, Isabel Torrey, a King City resident now in her 41st year as a columnist.