By Hannah Berman


For years, my son, Robby, has been making me, and anyone else who is fortunate enough to hear his performances, laugh. It isn’t always a performance. Just listening to him speak often causes riotous laughter. By all accounts, he is an engaging character with a superlative sense of humor and terrific timing. Computer-wise, he gives new meaning to the well-known three-letter acronym LOL.

While this doesn’t happen often, on occasion, I have been able to make him laugh. This is not always intentional, but that is immaterial. It occurred recently when I was doing work on my computer. Never having owned an iPad and not liking to do much on my cellphone due to the fact that the screen is small and my vision is not what it once was, I do everything on what my kids describe as an “old-fashioned” desktop.

I was in my den, sitting in front of the monitor of my antiquated piece of equipment, while my son was in the kitchen, a few feet from the den. Without giving it any thought, I opened AOL, which is my e-mail provider, in order to read my most recent e-mails. Suddenly, loud and clear, the words “You’ve Got Mail” pierced the silence. It meant nothing to me since I hear those three words whenever I log on to AOL. But clearly it meant something to Robby.

He laughed uproariously and raced into the den to deal with me. Planting his feet widely apart and firmly on the floor, and with his arms crossed, he stood right next to me and stared with an expression of incredulity on his face as he said, “Ma, I can’t believe it! You still use AOL? Nobody uses AOL anymore. I haven’t heard those three words [you’ve got mail] in years, and, in fact, just recently a friend and I were reminiscing about the good old days when just about everyone heard it. There was even a movie with those words as its title. But Ma, those were in the days before Gmail and Yahoo and so many others. I repeat, nobody uses AOL anymore.”

Irritated, my response was immediate. “Well, I do! And most of my friends use it, too.” My defensive words only heightened his raucous laughter. “OMG! Ma, when are you going to come into the 21st century?”

Sniffling, as I often do when I perceive that I am being insulted, I said, “I’m doing just fine with AOL and I’m perfectly happy with the century I am in, thank you very much.”

All I got from him was a loud and frustrated “OMG, Ma, I give up on you.” With what I presume was a smirk on my face, I said, “Well, baruch Hashem, I’m glad to hear it.” And with that he went back into the kitchen to continue doing what he was doing before he came in to ease me into his 21st century.

As the kitchen is close to where I sat in the den, I could hear chuckling from time to time and, without actually being able to see him from my vantage point, I knew he was shaking his head in amazement. But I ignored it.

Never one to be happy unless I have the final word, I shouted, “I am keeping my AOL, if you don’t mind. And just so you know, it works for me in a dual fashion. First of all, it’s user-friendly which is just what I need. And also, it bothers you and makes you laugh, albeit derisively. And I’m always happy to be able to provide you with a bit of light entertainment.”

In my family, that’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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