By Hannah Reich Berman

As previously acknowledged, I eschew all new technological gadgets. The worst part is that I need to give a reason for not having them. So I do! When I’m asked why I don’t have an iPhone, I say, “I don’t know how to use it.” This response is ridiculous, since if I don’t own one, how could I be expected to know how to use it? So people say, “Hannah, it’s so easy. Just get it and I’ll show you how to use it.” That’s my cue to say, “Okay, I will get one and I’ll call you for help. Thanks!” This is a lie, since I have no intention of buying that phone or of calling anyone for help! But that answer effectively puts an end to further discussion.

Sometimes, instead of giving the “I don’t know how to use it” routine, I go directly to plan B–“I don’t have one because I don’t want to pay the extra monthly charge.” That’s a sure showstopper, because no one would argue with that. Of course if I keep saying it, one of these days I may suffer the embarrassment of finding a care package at my door.

I also have a plan C–“I don’t want to be connected 24/7. I can deal with e-mails when I get home in the evening. I don’t need to read them during the day.” This explanation puts some people on the defensive since they obviously like being connected all day, every day. I know they disagree with my assessment, but, as everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, they usually give me an affirmative head-shake and say things like “I understand” or “You’re right.” This also puts an end to further discussion.

My children have given up on me, and I say amen to that. But my grandchildren, amazed that I don’t have any of the equipment that they consider vital to living on this planet, can’t grasp the fact that I muddle through life with my old phone and that I do not own an iPad, iPod, or Kindle. They cannot fathom how I live without such equipment.

Younger people are not the only ones who don’t understand my way of life. Some of my friends, people my age, feel the same way about my avoidance issues. Recently, when my Mah-Jongg pals learned that I was racing home every afternoon to watch the Jodi Arias murder trial, they were incredulous. “Hannah, are you kidding or what? Just DVR the program and watch it later!” That was my first clue that to DVR something meant to record it, just as I was once able to do with that now obsolete machine known as a VCR. When I said I didn’t own a DVR, every head turned in my direction and my friends stared at me. Now I know how a specimen under a microscope must feel.

After their shock wore off, all four friends began talking at once. A DVR isn’t a machine that you buy. It’s a service! If you have Cablevision you just order DVR and that allows you to record programs. I gave my usual answer about not knowing how to operate it and they gave the usual reply about it being simple to operate and that they would be happy to teach me how to do it. So I went to my claim of not wanting an extra monthly charge. That’s when they lowered the boom and explained that DVR costs only $5 a month. Astonished by how reasonable it was, and acknowledging the need to free myself from having to run home during the day to watch the high-profile murder trial that so captivates me, I decided to go for it! I would call Cablevision, order DVR, and get someone to teach me how to use it.

The following day I made the call and then waited while a woman looked up my account information. But when she came back on the phone, I got the surprise of a lifetime. “Guess what, Mrs. Berman; you don’t need to order DVR. You already have it,” she said. When I found my voice, I said, “I what? Are you kidding me?” She explained that not only had I had DVR for years, but that I was paying $10 a month for it instead of $5 because I had it on more than one Cablevision box. Clearly, the woman thought I was a moron. And I was thankful that we were not communicating via Skype but were speaking over a regular, garden-variety telephone, which meant that the lady couldn’t see my face.

When I next saw my friends for another game of Mah-Jongg, I came clean. I admitted that I’d had DVR all along and that I had it on two cable boxes and was therefore paying double. For a split second they just gaped at me and then they howled with laughter. From my perspective, it gave new meaning to the word embarrassment.

One of the girls stayed behind after the game that evening and taught me how to record. We did it together. But a few days later, I learned that nothing had recorded. So I called Cablevision to see what I had done wrong and, after checking things out at her end, the woman told me that there was a problem with my connection. Then she uttered words that struck fear in my heart. “All you have to do is reboot your Cablevision box.” In full-blown panic I responded, “There’s no way I can do that.” My hysteria got through to her because she told me to calm down; all I had to do was unplug something from the back of the cable box, wait five seconds, and then plug it back in. Easy for her to say! I remained in panic mode.

The cable box sits high up on a shelf, so I asked her to wait while I searched for a step stool. Then I climbed up and struggled until I was able to turn the black box around. As I suspected, numerous wires and cables hung out of the box and it took time until I yanked out the right one. Meanwhile, the poor soul on the other end of the line probably needed a tranquilizer. But, with her coaching, I did it. I rebooted the box. Then I thanked the lady and told her that I now understood how to operate the DVR. Then I terminated the call.

But it was a lie. I was as lost as ever, and I knew I would never be able to do it on my own. It was a combination of embarrassment and kindness that made me say that I knew what to do and then hang up. I didn’t have the heart to keep her on the phone one second longer. She doesn’t get paid enough to deal with people like me.

I also didn’t have the nerve to tell my friends that I still could not operate the DVR.

But luck is all anyone needs, and luck was with me. Two days later I bumped into Debby, a friend of my daughters’, who was also fascinated with this murder trial. When I confessed my problem to her, she told me that she DVRs it each day and views it later. Then, living doll that she is, she said she would be delighted to help me. And she did just that. I am now proud to say that I am able to DVR (record) any program I so choose. I feel like a million bucks. Just don’t ask me to get an iPhone. The answer is still no. That’s the way it is. v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.

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