The Last Straw

It’s been really cold this week, and it’s supposed to get even colder by this weekend.  I’ve been preparing by stocking up on essentials, breaking out a jigsaw puzzle and this morning, I decided to fill up my gas tank before the truly frigid weather set in.  I pulled into a station I don’t normally use, and was amazed to see that there was a little screen on the gas pump, right next to the slot for my credit card.  Not the usual screen that provides instructions on operating the pump, but an actual little television screen, airing real commercials.   I was dumbfounded, to say the least.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t generally make decisions regarding my bedding when I’m filling my car with gasoline, so why anyone thought I’d want to see a mattress commercial just then is beyond me.  By the time I was done and replacing the pump, it had progressed to an ad for insurance, which made a bit more sense.  But I still found the whole thing terribly annoying.  The sound was turned up loud, and I actually had to wait for the commercial to end before I could print my receipt.

I’ve been feeling a little out of touch with the world for a long-time now,  but this might well be the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”  Because I think I’m done.  I’ve tried my best to keep up with our ever-changing world:  adapting to the endless new technologies, trying to keep up with the latest trends, and accepting things that I don’t even begin to understand.  Isn’t that what we’re told we’re supposed to do, if we want to stay young?  Be willing to learn new things, embrace change, pay attention to the latest fashions, and invest a small fortune in skin care products?  Because otherwise we’re nothing but a bunch of useless old fogies with one foot in the grave, right?

But I no longer care.  I’m done pretending that I don’t sometimes struggle with technologies that weren’t invented until decades after I was born.  I’m willing to admit that I think a whole lot of our current trends are just plain silly, and that they’ll go the way of the naval contemplation of the Sixties and the green shag carpeting of the Seventies.  I believe that it’s okay for houses to have walls and that body hair isn’t always something to be afraid of.  I admit to preferring printed receipts, real books, and brick and mortar stores.  Most of all, I believe that time spent by myself, off-line and unplugged, is both valuable and necessary for my basic sanity.

When you’ve lived as long as I have, you’ve seen too many things come and go to be terribly impressed with whatever the “latest and best” happens to be.  And you realize that although the world is always changing, basic human nature mostly remains the same.  You’ve figured out what’s important and what’s not, and you try very hard to embrace only the changes that are actually for the good.

So I’m okay with admitting that I have no use for gas pumps that try to sell me a mattress, or anything else other than gasoline.  From now on, I’m not only accepting my inner old fogy, I’m embracing her……

122 thoughts on “The Last Straw

  1. Ann, the idea of an advertisement at a gas station is so laughable, I don’t even watch the ads on tv so why I would pay any attention to them while I’m filling up is beyond me. On the other extreme however I had a wonderful interaction a few days ago at a rural patrol station, where a lovely old man filled my tank up for me. Now that’s a courtesy of the past but one I absolutely love, human interaction. 😊

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    • I know! It’s just crazy how we can’t get away from them now. But I love that someone filled your tank for you. That is absolutely the best kind of interaction: with a real, caring person. Thanks for sharing that, Miriam!

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  2. We were warned this was coming…on gas pumps…above urinals and on ABMs. Pretty soon, we will all be treated like Tom Cruise was in Minority Report. Whenever we are out and about, eye recognition software will recognize us and target us with sales ads. I am with you on this one Ann. I want to choose when I shop and when I view ads. And do not get me started on all those workers hiding their ineffectiveness behind computerize customer service and phone voicemail. All this is, is an endless loop of work avoidance. What do you do if you do not have or use a computer nowadays, you are lost and must find a proxy to help you. This all falls under…Just because you can, does not mean you should!! Allan

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    • I missed that warning, but I’m not surprised. So many of these changes are good for companies that want to sell us stuff, or governments that want to keep an eye on us, but they aren’t actually good for us. I do hope we can get to a time when we realize that privacy is a basic human right, but we’re not headed in that direction right now. I also agree on the ineffectiveness of workers: why can’t we just talk to a live person when we call? Not everyone wants to be dependent on technology. And yeah, just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Thanks for that comment, Allan!

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  3. Hi Ann, I was just scrolling back through your older posts, one caught my eye “Talk to me” I saw that your comments were closed, but wanted to say, I was thinking about this very issue this morning, even have something in my rough drafts on this very topic. It is refreshing to be able to have those type of conversations. Those kind of relationships are rare. (saw a “like” on a recent comment on LA’s post, which is how I wound up here just now.) That’s it! DM

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  4. Yep. The ads are everywhere! We even had them in the fortune cookies we got with our last carryout order! We are a society based on consumerism… I’m of the opinion that if it isn’t broken I’m not replacing it! Probably why I’m now on the lookout for a new hair clip. I dropped my only one and it broke. Lasted nearly 30 years… so I guess I got my money’s worth!

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  5. I’ve run across mattress-selling gas stations, Ann. I also had a What the… response. Honestly? Lol. I’m with you on enjoying the day and not trying to keep up with technology. I’ll just call my 8-yr-old grandson if I get stuck. Be happy being you. ❤

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    • Thanks! That’s kind of my motto too. If I really need help, I just ask my kids or their spouses, and they can always take care of it. Today was my first experience with the ads at the gas pumps, but my husband told me he’s seen them too. This is not a good trend at all! No wonder we’re always tired, it’s too much to keep up with. So, like you, I’ve decided to stop trying!

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    • I got a Nook about twelve years ago as a gift, and I think I only used it once, when we were on vacation. I didn’t like reading for that long on a screen, so now I’m back to using real books. I have shelves of them, but the ones I don’t want to keep, I simply donate. Plus, the library is still a great source of real books. Good for you for resisting that too, Neil!

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  6. Things change so fast with technology .. and it isn’t surprising to feel left behind bemused or ambushed.
    Time to reach out to the younger generation who are taking this as the norm and in their stride. You are so lucky to have them … and I’m sure they are happy to help you step up to all the interruptions and stimuli that are a part of new challenges and the world we live in.

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    • Yes, they help whenever I need it. I do wonder what the future will bring, but only time will tell. I suspect there will be both good and bad when it comes to technology. Thanks for the comment, Val!

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    • This is the first one I’ve seen, although my husband says he’s seen a few. It was hard to ignore, because it was so loud, and I also had to wait for the commercial before the screen went back to doing what it’s supposed to do….help us through the process of buying gas! I hope you stay immune….

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  7. I agree, Ann. Those gas pump commercial screens are annoying. What makes them even worse is that the pumps don’t have a mute button. You should at least be able to fast-forward so you can get your receipt. Maybe its time us old fogies start driving electric cars?

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    • I know! It was so loud, and I had to wait for my receipt. What’s the point in that? I’m thinking an electric car is sounding good right now…until they put the ads in them as well! We old fogies are going to have to brainstorm some ways to dodge all these ads!

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  8. You speak for a lot of us, Ann! I haven’t yet seen the screens by the gap pumps–maybe Costco is saving that for later–but I plan to tune out when they arrive. I’m ready to do a lot of disconnecting….and reconnecting with real life.

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    • That’s the best way, Donna! We need to retain at least some control of our immediate surroundings, and the ads are intrusive and unneeded. (Seriously, I don’t even remember which mattress company was trying to sell me a mattress, only that I was annoyed. And thinking that I’ll never visit that particular gas station again. Joe’s suggestion to buy an electric car is sounding better by the minute!)

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  9. Ann, I’m not as old as you are, but I have to tell you, you’re not alone. I HATE those gas stations. I think they’re Mobil or Chevron or something like that. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in modern technology. To think that someone paid money and made an effort to market things to people at a gas station is ridiculous.

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    • I only wish I were 35! But I’m glad to know that even someone who is not yet an “old fogy” feels the same way. Sometimes I think it’s just not worth the effort to keep up with it all…. And honestly, taking control of our own lives is always a good thing, I think. Thanks you so much for your supportive comment!

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  10. I just did a blog post about the cold too. It has a funny video about how Environmental Canada tells you that it is going to warm up in 7 days… but they only say that to keep you from sinking into despair… anyway, it was supposed to warm up here by the week-end, but that forecast has been delayed by a few days…
    Speaking of commercials, we watched about half of the Super Bowl game. Totally didn’t get the strangest part of the half time show. We also got really tired of more Covid commercials. As one person remarked on Twitter – I wanted to watch the game to escape for a few hours and what I got was more and more of the same hounding, reminding, virtue signalling… etc.

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    • I look forward to reading that post! And I know what you mean about the changing forecast…are they just trying to keep us from getting too depressed, or what? And I completely agree about the constant Covid ads. We need escapism right now, not more lectures and “this isn’t so bad!” cheerleading. And those are on the opposite end of the spectrum, doing all they can to make sure we stay both scared and depressed, goodness knows why. People need hope if they are going to continue to cope with this situation in a rational way!

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  11. Identifying is something I have come to expect from my old blogging friend, Ann. I have also found that I’m okay with admitting I’m an old coot, slowing down on all things. I’m glad I’m not the only one. God’s grip – Alan

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  12. Oh I am SO with you on this one! I’m very happy to be the grumpy old lady muttering about technology while I weed my veg garden before making a fresh pesto pasta dinner for my similarly old-&-grumbling friends 😎

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  13. I am totally at your side against this uncalled intrusion of naked commercialism disguised as ‘digitisation’ and advancements in technology. I am not a Luddite or something, having had dealt with Unix servers and mazes of RDBMS in my younger days, but I am done with the Internet of Things where everything in your house right from the doorbell to the morning newscast, kitchen and bathroom appliances and window shades have to be in communication with each other.

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    • I know! People don’t realize just how intrusive (and downright scary) it can be to have so many “smart” appliances in their house. Who needs a mattress that is sensing your every move, or a water faucet that can be turned on by your phone? It’s ridiculous at best, and creepy at worst, because that means everything in your house can, and probably is, tracking everything you do. We’ve become like caged animals in a zoo, living our lives in full view of others, without an ounce of privacy.

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  14. I’m with you, Ann! I don’t have perhaps as much issue with technology as much as the relentless advertising. I hate even searching something up on Google, because the next thing I know – all the ads for what I searched for will follow. It’s beyond annoying!
    Sometimes I play Words with Friends, and they’ve found a way to blast an audio ad – If I forget to mute things, it literally has me jumping out of my chair. Hating it is an understatement.
    So being assaulted with ads at the gas station is just further annoyance. What will they think of next?

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    • I sometimes play solitaire on line, but I’ve learned that if I play too many games, then an ad will pop up, filling the entire screen. It’s annoying, and also makes me wonder if I’ve been hacked. Heck, during the last election, Joe Biden popped up twice! I don’t like political ads on my TV, I sure don’t want them in the middle of my solitaire game. That’s the downside of technology, in my opinion. It allows ads to infiltrate every facet of our lives.

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  15. So agreed! A trend that annoys me most (presently) is news venues whose blurbs are videos without a text option. I detest videos and podcasts — one cannot skim through them! I’m sure it’s aimed at sucking in younger people to even more time spent screen-scrolling, but it’s one more way of dumbing down (and further disengaging!) the world. Already, handwriting (and correct spelling!) has bitten the dust, and I fear that reading text will go next.

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    • I agree! I want to read a news article, not sit through a video of it (which is always preceded by at least one ad). I also fear that the written word will eventually go the way of cursive writing and any pretense of correct grammar. Our technology may be getting smarter, but humans are definitely getting dumber.

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  16. Our gas stations used to show news clips. As I no longer go anywhere, I don’t know what is currently playing. I thought technology was to get easier. Just wait until you sign up for medicare. I have so many more passwords to remember.

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    • I honestly think that part of the anger we see so much in our current society is a direct reaction to our frustrations with the demands that technology has been making on us. Yes, it gives us a lot, but it comes at a very steep price. And sometimes I’m just not sure it’s worth it.

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  17. Unfortunately, so many of these things exist simply as a means to sell us more things. It is as if someone were on a loudspeaker admonishing you to do this or that. It is very distracting and annoying. I very much believe in the ‘unplugging’ from it all. I think it makes people of all ages tired and creates additional stress. There is already enough stress in people’s lives today. In the midst of this Covid 19 epidemic, we need to focus on a sense of inner peace…something not to be found at the gas pump!!! Great post!

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    • It is distracting and annoying! It’s as if our peace of mind is under constant assault these days. I can only hope that people figure out a way to make technology work for us, rather than redefine us, before it is too late. And yes, during these times we need inner peace more than ever. This is not the time to create even more intrusive ways of selling us something!

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  18. with you there on the ads at the gas stations. My regular station, no. The one near my office–they are annoyingly loud when I am simply walking past. A real noise polluter, just in case the petrochemicals we all use aren’t enough. Bah! Stay warm. Sub zero temps here by the weekend.

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    • This weekend will bring out coldest temps yet too! Thank goodness Spring isn’t too far off. And yes, the noise pollution is a real concern. When I first stepped out of my care to fill it with gas, I couldn’t figure out where the annoying voice telling me to visit a furniture store showroom was coming from….I actually thought some rude person had their radio on super loud and their car windows down. Nope, that loud obnoxious voice was on purpose! Hope you stay warm!

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  19. I agree wholeheartedly. The audio cues on the cell phone, the scrolling news feeds, the text lines that could be handled in a 2 min phone call, the advertising over the tv programs, the distracting bill boards, etc, etc, etc. It’s all so distracting and disruptive. My best friend is the off button literally and figuratively. I don’t even have call display on the land line (gasp!). I was asked, “How do you know who’s calling?” to which I replied, “I answer the phone.” And when I don’t want to talk, I don’t pick up.

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    • And here I thought I was the only one with a landline without caller ID! We just never got around to putting it in, and now I don’t bother. I do have the display on my cell phone, and that’s good enough. Still, I wonder where this is all going to end? Human interaction is so important, but that doesn’t mean we need to respond to every text and email the very second we get one. Besides, a phone call or face-to-face conversation is the best! And thank you for the comment!

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  20. First we develope technologies to make life easier. Now the life is so smooth that our physicians want us to do things manually 😃. Isn’t it a mess. In order to create solutions to our problems we created more problems 😃

    In my office we have automated curtains and that’s such an annoying thing. We are not able to feel the sunlight. We miss our freedom with old style windows and curtains.

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    • I agree! We do create one problem by solving another. And not just the physical side…technology makes it so easy to get in touch with each other that we’re almost constantly “on call.” And that is not good for our peace of mind. In the old days, if someone called us and we weren’t home, we just missed the call and they tried again later. There was something nice about that, as opposed to people expecting us to answer their texts and emails immediately. And I would be annoyed by those curtains too. People should be able to decide if they want the curtains open or closed!

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  21. The Last Straw describes just one of the many annoyances we encounter every day, Ann. Advances in technology have brought us many benefits. But when they are coupled with marketing strategies they also reveal a dark side. Here is one example from my online shopping that I consider an invasion of my privacy. I search for an item in order to compare quality and price among the various online stores. Less than I day later ads related to my search pop up on most sites I am visiting. It is obvious that Google passes on the information to those who are paying for the ads. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Ann! I am 100% with you.

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    • They absolutely do! What’s weird is that if I even visit an online shopping site, an ad for them will pop up immediately the next time I’m on Facebook or playing solitaire online. Our information is being passed all over, to anyone who’s willing to pay for it. Trip Advisor now sends me “updates” about current hotel prices in any area I’ve looked at online. I agree that technology has many benefits, but it also has a dark side. And I sometimes wonder which is stronger. One can only hope we figure all this out….. Thanks for the comment, Peter!

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  22. That is a surprise that there are advertisements now even at the gas station. The last thing I need when I am fueling gas in the cold is to wait for a commercial to end to get a receipt. It seems to me like the whole idea of an advertisement at the pump station is out of touch.

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    • That’s how it seemed to me too. When I’m at the gas station, all I want to do is buy gas, and perhaps a cold soda pop. I do not want anyone selling me other products, and am certainly not going to be influenced by buy them. I think the companies that pay for those ads are wasting their money, to be honest.

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  23. I hear you. During this *adventure* in living the pandemic lifestyle, I’ve let go of many of my ideas about who I am, too. Of course I’ve never been quiet about my love/hate relationship with computers, technology, and the ubiquitous screens that now dominate our lives. It is the dependence on the latter that drives me the most nuts.

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    • Yep, we have to have screens everywhere now! Even in church (because reading a hymnal is just too darned hard, apparently.) We need them in every room of our house, on our refrigerator doors, in our cars, and we absolutely can’t go anywhere without clutching our cell phones in our hot little hands. Or at least that’s what we’re being trained to think…..

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  24. Your post resonated with me. I often decry how self-serve we’ve become. Seems I’m forever logging on to websites to pay bills, make appointments, find healthcare providers, manage my finances and more. Even keeping track of the passwords feels overwhelming many days.

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    • Oh, Bev, don’t even get me started on the need for all those passwords! They must be complicated, they tell us, and shouldn’t be used for more than one site. In my darker moments, I think this is just a giant, government-funded social experiment to see how many passwords the average human can keep track of. Future generations will probably read about it in their Social Studies text books……

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  25. Oh my gosh…waiting for the ad to finish on the TV screen at the gas station before printing the receipt would put me over the edge too. You mention spending tons on cosmetics, or at least that is what society thinks we should do. I have not worn a spec of make up for almost a year. Due to covid and not going anywhere. Now I am used that that and not sure I want to go back. But I guess I will break down and put some on for my son’s wedding in September! We are really happy to still be in Arizona as the forecast back home in Fergus Falls, MN, for Saturday night is for a low temp of -30 (not counting the wind chill). Sunday night warms up to -24. I think our little dog is even more happy that we are not there.

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    • I’m so glad you’re in Arizona instead of Minnesota now too! (And a little jealous, honestly.) This past year has changed my perspective on the necessity for make up too. I never wore a lot, but I did put in on each morning. Now I rarely do, because I don’t go many places, and when I do go to a store, I’m always wearing a mask. I have a feeling that putting on makeup isn’t going to be a part of my morning routine again, and I’ll only do it for special occasions.

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  26. I’m surprised you hadn’t come across one of those gas pump video screens earlier. I see them every now and then. When I saw the first one, I thought, “Huh. That’s odd.” Then, I just started ignoring them. I’ve done so well at excising Facebook, Instagram, television, and Twitter from my life, those silly little screens don’t stand a chance of impressing me.

    My approach is basically this: if it seems it might be useful, or if I think I can make use of it in the future, I’ll pay attention. Otherwise? Not so much. I will be using TikTok in a future post, and in the process of exploring that, I learned about aux cables and a whole of of technology I wasn’t aware of. I’ll not be turning into a tiktoker, but on the other hand, I sure do understand the site’s appeal a lot better than I did.

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    • Honestly, it was the first time I saw it, but my husband and some of my other readers have mentioned that they’ve seen them before. And I think your approach to technology is a very good one. If it’s useful, great. If it isn’t, ignore it and don’t use it!

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  27. Ann, this is too funny — thank you for a much-needed laugh!! I, too, have come across those annoying TV screens while pumping gas, but after my initial curiosity, I promptly dismissed them as silly and irrelevant. I don’t watch much TV at home; why would anybody think I’d want to while pumping gas?? Sometimes it puzzles me just how much things have changed over the years, and I can’t help but marvel at the senior citizens I know who adapt eagerly to all the new technology. Before he passed, I had a 100-plus year-old neighbor who operated an i-Pad!!

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    • Thanks, Debbie! And good for you for dismissing those screens..and not just at the gas pump. I’m like you with TV, although I still watch it. But I mostly watch old sitcoms just to provide a distraction from Covid living, or HGTV because their house-hunter shows let me see the inside of lots of different houses (although the people on them get annoying after a while.) And I agree that sometimes older people do very well with technology. A good friend gave an i-Pad to his father who is 93, and his father uses it all the time! My mom, on the other hand, has quit trying to figure out the internet, and that’s okay too.

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    • Count your blessings, Anabel! I don’t mind the paper advertisements, as they aren’t intrusive. But having to listen to an ad (at top volume) while I’m pumping gas is so annoying….and waiting for the commercial to be over so I could get my receipt was worse. And I do wonder how successful they are, because they sure don’t influence me to buy anything!

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  28. Ann, I join the many here sending you hugs. And mine is a thank you.

    As you might remember, I struggle with tech. What comes easy to others, I trip over – and over. Just before your post, I spent the better part of nearly 2 hours trying to figure out an audio feature on an app I use for work. I asked my daughter to help me, assuming that younger people are tech hard-wired and that she’d be able to coast me through it – but to no avail. When I finally threw up my hands and gave up, I felt down and frustrated. Over the wasted time. Over my inability to learn what comes easily to many others.

    Then, came your post and with it, liberation. I realised that I didn’t need to know how to use that feature. Let others understand it and run with it. God didn’t make us all the same.

    The very minute I let go, an easier solution came to me and after a few tries, I got the hang of it. Whilst the feature I learned may not be as tech-forward as the previous one, it serves me well enough. I earned no bragging rights but when you’re in it to make it work for you, being on par with others means the least.

    So, it’s a big hug for you, Ann.

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    • Oh, thank you so much for that comment! It most certainly was a hug, and a much-needed one at that. We really don’t need to learn everything about the technology, which is constantly changing anyway. We can just learn enough to use what we want and need to, and let go of the rest. I especially loved your sentence, “God didn’t make us all the same.” That is so true, and a very good thing to remember when we make the mistake of comparing ourselves to others. We all have our unique strengths and weaknesses, and the very diversity of that is good for all of us!

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  29. There are so many new things out there that I will never use. I like some of the basic things but others just seem unnecessary. But I am ancient and fine with that. I seem to be rattling but old ladies do that. I would be distracted with a commercial while pumping gas. (Full service in the old days was better.)

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    • I’m with you! Just because something is new doesn’t mean we need to embrace it. We have the right to be discerning about what is truly useful to us and what isn’t. And I agree about the full-service gas stations of the past. They were great, because we could also get our windshields cleaned, our oil check, and our questions answered! Thanks for the comment….we “old ladies” need to stick together!

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  30. What? Where are you? I cannot remember NOT having TV/Commercials on our gas pumps. I usual grap the pump and before I stick it in my car to pump my gas I hit the button that mutes that crap! So here our screens have a MUTE button and I always use it. I don’t care if I am getting back in my car or what . . . i don’t want that crap dirtying up the air. And I realized a long time ago that I may seem older than I actually am because I cannot and will not suffer all that crap out there. Old fogy, oh well.

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    • I live in St. Louis, and I swear that’s the first time I’ve seen a commercial at a gas pump! But my husband says he’s seen them before, so maybe I’ve just been lucky. I’ll have to look for that mute button, because that would sure come in handy! And yeah, part of aging is being unwilling and unable to put up with crap, and I think that’s a good thing…so just own it! Thanks for the comment, Terre!

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  31. I haven’t been back to the States for a while, but commercials at the gas station? No! And…your forced to finish watching them to get your receipt. Grump. I’m in solidarity with you, Ann, in that I no longer care that I’m not up with the newest technology, I like stores where I can try things on, and I prefer books I can hold in both hands. Besides, screens (phones, Kindles, computers) are straining our eyes prematurely. Here’s to embracing our “inner old fogy!” ❤

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    • Isn’t that just the worst? I couldn’t believe it, but other readers have said they’ve been around for awhile. And I agree about the eye strain of all our time staring at screens…it’s not good for us. I much prefer books, and now I buy as many as I can. Someday, when e-books are the only way things are published, I’ll still have a house full of books I can read!

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