By Hannah Reich Berman

There are times when I wonder if people are watching me and if they are out to get me. That must be it, because if nobody is watching me, how is it that they know what I like and then decide to take it away?

When I had a favorite shade of lipstick, that color was suddenly retired; it was not such a big deal but it did mean that I needed to select a different color. I searched until I found a shade similar to the old one. While missing my old lipstick color is not exactly an earth-shattering tragedy, it disturbs me since these things happen too often, which makes me suspicious. My problem is not specifically about lipstick color. The real issue is that I do not like change; I always stick with the same product. This is also true of the appliances and electronics that I use.

For many years, I have used AOL as my online service provider for everything. I selected it when I was new to computer use and learned that it was the most user-friendly of all service providers. That was all I had to hear! Anything that was user-friendly was definitely the one for me. It remains that way today. Few people need as much friendliness as I do.

All that was long ago, but I remain loyal to AOL. I have to remain loyal, as I so often call them for help with a problem and ask for tech support. Occasionally, I think that maybe the technicians are all sitting together in one office and that they know exactly who I am. When they see who’s calling, they probably flip a coin to see who gets stuck taking the call–the loser of the coin toss is the one who has to deal with me. However, I must acknowledge that every one of them has been patient, polite, and helpful even though I may be a three-Xanax customer. The technician would take one pill at the start of our conversation and two more when it ends.

But all of that is history, since a solution recently came to me and makes me easy to deal with. I now make the following request: “Sir, how about you take over my computer and you do what has to be done?” This means that the technician does not have to answer my many questions and does not have to repeat his instructions. It was one of my more brilliant ideas, because each one has agreed to do it, and I get to sit back and watch my monitor as they make the necessary adjustments. I love watching the little cursor go here and there as I sit with my hands folded and a smile planted on my face.

AOL software is not the best, but I stick with it despite the protests of my children and grandchildren. Some of them regularly tell me that nobody uses AOL any longer. They tell me it is only for old people. My response is always the same: then it’s perfect for me, because I am old! The reason I am often urged to give up my AOL is that before I call tech support, I sometimes call the kids for assistance. One of them was so frustrated with my frequently asked questions that he took the liberty of hooking me up with Gmail. He assigned a password and a new screen name for me and then informed me that I was good to go.

I hear my kids in my sleep: “Mom, just give up on AOL already and use your Gmail account.” I hear them but cannot bring myself to do it. Everything on Gmail is new and unfamiliar to me. And I do not like new and unfamiliar.

But last week, I came close. AOL threw me a curveball. When I went to log on, a window popped up and informed me, “This version of AOL is no longer available. You must now switch to AOL Gold.” The message contained an explanation of what I had to do to get AOL Gold. I needed to uninstall the AOL I was using and then install the new one.

I immediately called AOL for tech support. The helper didn’t get further than his first sentence before I told him that I would not be able to do what had to be done and asked him to please take over my computer and do it for me. He did not hesitate for a minute. He probably realized that life would be simpler and quicker if he did the work.

So, without doing a thing, I now have AOL Gold. And, true to form (my form), I hate it because it is new and requires getting used to different things. Not only are there changes to deal with in this AOL, but my favorite font style is no longer available. But the worst of it happened when I attempted to send an e‑mail message to a large group of people. A window popped up and said that there were errors with my addresses so my e‑mail could not be sent. As always, I called tech support. For some reason, when my addresses were transferred from the old AOL to AOL Gold, changes occurred. The poor guy who agreed to help me had to go through over 200 of my addresses in order to root out what had changed due to the transfer. It took almost an hour for him to locate all the discrepancies and then make the appropriate corrections so my e‑mail could be sent. There remain other changes for me to deal with, and I am not happy about it.

Who asked them to make this change? There was nothing wrong with the old AOL. I was doing just fine with it. But like my old lipstick color, my former AOL is gone. Possibly some highly paid individual at AOL decided that this was progress. Or, as I so often suspect, maybe somebody was watching me, and–like the nasty soul who took away my favorite lipstick color–he was out to get me. 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 516-902-3733.



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