Movie-Star Doppelganger
A Cookie Even Kendell Loves!

Snarky as a Shield: A Story

"Listen," she said, first thing after I'd answered the phone in my calm, quiet librarian voice. "You listen. I want something. Something about Franklin D. Roosevelt. The D. stands for Delano in case you can't find it."

I took a deep breath. Reference encounters that start out with a bossy voice and an insult are rarely my favorite. "OK," I said. "What kind of book do you want about FDR? A biography? Or something about his role in history?"

"Did I ever say 'book,' Honey?" she shot back. "I am 92 years old. I don't want any book. I don't have time nor eyes for books. I want a movie. Something I can watch, you know?"

92?  I thought. You sound like you're 32 and the boss of the world. Glad she wasn't asking for a movie about something obscure, I knew I could find what she needed. We have several movies with FDR in them. "Do you want a DVD or a VHS?" I asked as I sorted the possibilities.

And that moment was the one she lost her inner trenchant cat. "I don't understand that question," she said. Said softly, her voice changing into an old woman's. A 92-year-old woman who was a child in the roaring twenties, when radios, hair dryers, and movies with sound were the new technologies. For an instant I thought about how baffling the world might be to her, and wondered how it might be when am 92.

"Well, what kind of machine do you watch movies on?" I asked. "A VHS machine? or a DVD machine?"

"I don't know," she said. "Whatever my grandson set up for me. I just put the thing in and push the buttons and then I can watch movies on my TV."

"What shape is the thing you put in your machine? Is it round, flat, and shiny? Or is it a black rectangle?"

"Oh. Why didn't you say it like that in the first place?" she asked, vitriol back. "I have both of those machines, but the round shiny one isn't working so well."

So I gave her a list of call numbers for VHS movies about FDR. Now I have a story to tell about the sweet (deep down, she was sweet) old woman who didn't know her media type. It's a funny story, but it's also vaguely sad. How much the world has changed! Even just since I was born. It makes me wonder, really: what will the world be like in another fifty years? Where will technology take us? How will we live? I hope I will be able to keep up with progress and change, and not let myself get intimidated. I also hope that, when I am 92, someone will help me decipher technology. Even if I do hold up snarkiness as a shield against bafflement.



I love how you wrote this story. beautiful. It is a little scary, trying to keep up. I am kind of a holdout... i don't every jump on the newest techno thing. I wait and wait and sometimes they pass me by and sometimes I succumb and find they are really all they're talked up as being. We all have our snarky shield moments. You were good to be patient with hers and see through it. hope your headache is better. I am home. Hoping for Friday..... ;)

Monika Wright

19-year old watched movies on the black rectangle apparatus and asked for the new Sony Walkman for Christmas. 5- and 7-year olds watch their movies on the Blu-Ray PS4 round shiny thing apparatus and know how to operate our iPhones and iPods.

Thanks for your wonderfully told recollection and an idea for a layout, too!

You rock, in case I haven't told you that lately!


Oh my, too funny. I also like to look at the piercings and the tatoos and think how my grandchildren be altering themselves in 30 years time.


When I got out my old View-Master for Kate she called the disks DVDs.


This post reminds me of how horrified I am of Blu-Ray. I still use a VCR, and I'm ticked (SO TICKED) that you can't buy JUST a VCR anymore. DVDs are fine. Blu-Ray? Out of the question! It's too soon! We've only been using DVDs for 15 years. We don't need this Blu-Ray nonsense!


What Jamie said.

And my own thoughts:

I remember on my mission thinking, "I will never use a computer. They are dumb."


There is some great quote one of my professors had up on his wall about the learners vs. the learned, and how the learned will someday find themselves "remarkable equipped to cope with a world that no longer exists." Or something like that. I worry I'm going to fit into that category someday, I'm so old fashioned sometimes. But then I remember that quote and I make myself move on.

Chris S.

Great post! It made me think of my grandma and when we upgraded her rotary phone to a cordless phone. She could not understand that she could move around with it and even take it into another room. All in all she did quite well with all the technology changes she saw in her life. Right before she passed away one of her big concerns was "I've never seen an email."


Yes, I feel so with it as far as technology goes right now, but I know that someday I'll be the old person. What a scary thought.


Next time I call the reference desk to ask about a book with a lady who goes through time and ends up in Scotland and hooks up with this red-headed noble guy, I'll make sure to be really snarky about it. Because really, who wants to watch a movie about FDR?

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