Faith in technology restored

Technology is great.  I love technology; when it works.

When mum died, one of the things we realised was that mum and dad only had phones that attached to the walls – one of the first things we purchased after the event was a phone with a number of handsets, so that dad had one in the bedroom, and a handset he could take around with him, and an emergency alert, which hung around his neck.  The idea was that if he was in trouble or had a fall, he could press the button and it would call five numbers in order; mine being the first.

Periodically, I would check that this still worked – in various rooms of the house and out at the clothes line. However, in the last seven years, on the two occasions he actually needed to use it, both recent, it failed.  The first time he fell and broke his wrist and had to crawl to the lounge from the kitchen to call me.  The company told me that the base station was too close to the phone which interfered with the system.

The second time he fell on the pathway to the clothesline and had to crawl to the stairs and pull himself up the stairs to get into the house.  Mercifully nothing was broken.  This time the company asked all sorts of questions including if the neighbours had installed any antennas that could interfere.  I couldn’t live with the anxiety of wondering if it would work or fail should he fall again.

Technology has improved over the last seven years and my sister found a new alert pendant, which operates via the 4G and GPS system.  It is kind of like a mini phone which hangs around dad’s neck.  Once purchased, five phone numbers are pre-installed into the SIM card.  If he presses the alert button it calls those numbers in sequence, and can talk into the device when the call is answered.  It is GENIUS.  AND – because it operates on GPS it will recognise a sudden fall and each of those five numbers receives a text alert from his pendant, saying his name and the words ‘Fall alert’.  Again – GENIUS.

Unless of course, there has been no fall.

So…last Friday my husband and I were engrossed in a new (for us) and gripping Netflix TV series called Broadchurch.  It is a murder mystery set in Devon.  We had previously finished one called The Fall set in Northern Ireland which required a lot of concentration because if the thick accents.  We like Devon much more.  Easier to understand.

Anyway, as I said we were engrossed, as it was reaching a climactic moment, when both our phones beep with the message “:Fall Alert”.  We both leapt up from the couch and bumped into each other (our couches were all crammed into the centre of the room because of painters having been in).  Me, panicking about getting to dad,  also with a broken toe going “ouch” a dozen times, almost falling over the dog,  to rush to the key hook to get my car key.    My phone then rings from the emergency alert and I answer but dad is not talking into the pendant.   Meanwhile my brother and sister, having both received the alert, are both texting me, and trying to call as well. So I am shouting at my husband to text them to tell them I’m on my way, at the same time as trying to speak to dad via his emergency alert.

My stress levels increase to the max as anxiety girl here manages to leap to the worst case scenario in a single bound, imagining dad at the bottom of the stairs.  So I hang up. Which then causes the cascade of phone calls to my husband, sister, brother and brother-in-law.   My husband and I are both in the car at this point, it’s pouring with rain and I speed down the driveway and then down the road.  Breathing deeply, gripping the steering wheel.  We get to Dad’s and my husband accidentally starts shutting the garage door as I am driving up the driveway.  More shouting from me.  Because it is pouring with rain, when the garage door is finally open, I hit the accelerator causing the wheels to just turn around on the steep driveway, so I have to back down and roar up again. My husband helpfully says something like ‘Well, that’s one way to get up the driveway”.

We race up the stairs and unlock the study door.  There is Dad, shirtless and without his alert button, sitting in his chair watching TV.  “What’s wrong” he said – “I wasn’t expecting to see you tonight”.  Husband and I both collapse into each other.  It turns out that with the hot weather we have been having, Dad had taken his shirt off and thrown it on the bed.  With the alert.  Which triggered the fall alert.  He was oblivious, even to the screeching of wheels, slamming of doors and a bit of shouting.  We started laughing.  He started laughing. We messaged the others that all was well.

As we drove off back home my husband just said “I bet you wish you hadn’t given up drinking this month”.  Never a truer word was said.

Still crazy here.

Fall alert

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