Needed: gizmo dorks

You say you’re stuck in a job that is Dead End City? You say you’re desperate for a career change? Well, friend, I suspect there are fantastic opportunities awaiting you in the field of “techno-toy setter-uppers and gizmo-explainers.”

I make such a claim after recently forcing my dad into the strange new TV world of Tivo. Now, if you’re like 98 percent of America, you’ve heard of Tivo but really don’t have much of a clue as to what the heck the dang thing is or does. I could waste the rest of my space explaining it, but suffice to say it’s a terrific doodad that allows you to pause live television, record shows at the push of a button, plus 342 more nifty little tasks.

Most people think Tivo sounds great until they hear the unit costs 300 bucks, with a monthly charge of $13, and then they quickly punt and say, “Well, you know, the VCR is fine.” But in the case of my old man, a 77-year-old TV fiend with plenty of disposable dough, the Tivo was a seriously cool and potentially life-changing techno-purchase. He was intrigued but shy about pulling the purchase trigger, since he was vaguely aware this was some kind of snot-nosed modern thingie with a hard drive, and he avoids hard drives in the same way he avoids black light Blues Traveler posters. So I stepped up and ordered one for him, had it delivered (he’s 300 miles away) and then realized that the collision between him and this modern technology would be sorta like matter colliding with anti-matter, possibly endangering an important agricultural section of the San Joaquin Valley.

There was, however, a solution. Get a professional nerd/dork from Best Guys to come over and set it up for a nominal fee. Perfect. Well, almost perfect. The pro came over, wired everything up, then said, “Here’s your manual. Enjoy your Tivo,” and vamoosed. Instantly, he achieved the opposite of perfect. Dad was expecting some sort of introductory session to get him goin’ in this brave new world; what he got was a slipshod shuffle from a flatfoot who had two-for-one margaritas at the top of his list.

A week later, I’m getting the old man through it. We concentrate on one new Tivo function a day, combined with a lot of deep breathing and highballs, and I think we’ll be OK soon. He’s making steady progress, although the stress factor of the first few days probably guaranteed there are now big black Sharpie lines in the will where my name used to be.

As for career opportunities, well, something tells me my dad ain’t the only fogey getting zoomed like that. If you’re good at setting up computers, home theaters, stereos and Tivos, and you’re willing to stick around to show the geezers how to operate this stuff, I’m guessing there are a heckuva lot of old folks out there who would throw fistfuls of cash at you to do just that.