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Initially, I just chalked this up to being "old" and accepting the fact I remember telephones before they were "smart" (and will admit they can make me feel "less-than-smart"). I am old enough to remember rotary dial phones (see the image above) where you had to place a finger in the hole associated with the number, then rotate the dial round to the end-stop and let the dial return under its own power. I will not go into the science behind it, but it was extremely reliable – although very hard on your manicure.

But, this is not about the history of telephones or the associated technology that has improved to the point computers that once required a large, air-conditioned room can now fit in your back pocket or handbag. This is not about us all (regardless of age) needing to be digitally literate. It is not about the fact the older we are, the larger the screen size we prefer, although we might claim it is a function of what we are used to versus admitting to declining vision as we age.

Rather, this is about a recent experience that first made me feel old. Then roll my eyes. And then open my eyes to an opportunity.


I was on the phone (a cordless landline – not a rotary dial or even a phone tethered by wires) with a customer service representative from a high-end designer company. We were discussing an order, and he said they would keep me updated. However, they could not do it via email (my preferred method of communication) but would text me using the phone number associated with my order and that he saw on Caller ID. I said that the number would not accept text messages as it was a landline, but they could leave a voice message.

Apparently, that totally confused the rep, as he repeatedly said he did not understand why they could not text me. And, I kept repeating, almost like it was a mantra, "because it is a landline." Finally, he admitted that he had no idea what a "landline" was … and I started to suggest he find someone "older" to explain it. But, then realized this was my opportunity to explain it to him.

I explained the difference between mobile phones and landlines, but also suggested he discuss the situation with his supervisor as the company sold very expensive consumer goods, and I would think many customers were older and might be using landlines. Surprisingly, he was interested in my perspective and admitted to never having thought about it. And then, he thanked me for taking the time to explain it versus just complaining. (As a customer service rep, I would guess almost all his conversations were complaints – not actual conversations).

There is so much for us to learn and share when it comes to technology and how we communicate. Some people prefer emails while others can only be reached by text; some want phone calls while others can only be reached with a "chat" feature. Regardless, our ways of communicating can be used to divide us – or unite us.

I will admit that I can be confused when confronted with new technology if you will admit that you can be confused when confronted with old technology.
Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Quick! Define literacy (without Google or Siri's help). Ok, finished? We bet that you may have stopped at the ability to read and write. Which, technically, isn't wrong. It just isn't completely right, either. Which is what Red found out when she discovered, much to her surprise, that it includes such critical areas as financial, digital, and health literacy.

Red even admitted to Black that she didn't understand all those terms, although she had another concern … was Black going to use her as a poster child for her lack of literacy skills in this month's column, "RED & BLACK … A Blueprint For Life?!"

P.S. – This month's column is in honor of September being Adult & Family Literacy Month.

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Underlying photo by mphillips007 on iStock


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I can't believe how quickly the year's flying by. And that tomorrow's already the fall equinox.


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I cannot believe that you know that but did not know when Rosh Hashanah fell this year.


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I got the dates mixed up. And I'll admit I had to look up the fall equinox date because it also varies slightly from year to year.


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Technically, the equinox is not a day, but rather an exact moment – when the Sun crosses the Equator.


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Picky, picky, picky. But if I remember correctly, although science class was decades ago, on the equinox, we have 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of nighttime.


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Not exactly, but close enough. But, why are we even talking about this?
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Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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Sometimes I really question whether we're sisters. I know you love research, but some of us, myself included, find studies and statistics boring. And tedious.


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Ah, but at least you can read and understand them; you just do not want to. Huge difference.


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Good point. Although I do struggle with statistics as, unlike you, I've never been comfortable with numbers.


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Is this going to be one of those philosophical conversations, or do you have something specific in mind? And, FYI, having skill with numbers and mathematics is called numeracy.
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