By Leslie Rampey
"Oh, Dad, for heaven's sake!"
Lennie could hear the exasperation in Julia's voice from a thousand miles away, and he sighed. "Hey, the post office has been around since Ben Franklin," he grumped. "If it was good enough for him, it's good enough for me. And it should be for you, too."
Now Julia sighed. "We're just talking about a couple mouse clicks here. What's the big deal? And, for your information, Ben Franklin would have loved the Internet. Heck, he'd probably have invented it."
"And I think he probably had lots better things to spend his time on. Look, Julia, just stick them in the mail, okay?"
"Oh, you say that like it's so easy. The pictures are on a digital camera, Dad. I'd have to print them out, find some kind of right envelope for them, drive to the post office, probably stand in line for stamps, and. . .
"What? You don't have stamps in the house?"
"Paying bills. See, I've got you there. You gotta pay bills."
Julia growled in frustration. "We pay our bills online, of course. What do we need stamps for? And even if I did mail them, it'd be days before you could see them. Ah, look, Dad," she said in that softer, especially daughterly tone that let the daddy in Lennie know he was done for, "he's getting bigger every day - every hour it seems like - and he's soooo cute, and you're missing it all."
Lennie closed his eyes in silent acknowledgement. He knew she was right. "Okay, okay - what do I have to do?"
"Just tell me your e-mail address, I'll upload the pictures and send them right now, you just click on the attachments, and in just a minute you can see this gorgeous little guy."
"Uhhhh. . . "
"What's the matter, Dad?"
"I think you lost me."
"Lost you? Where?"
"Um, at e-mail address."
"Oh, geez, Dad." She was back to exasperated again. "Surely the Department gives you guys e-mail accounts, doesn't it?"
"And you use yours, right?"
"You are hopeless!" Julia wailed. "Hopeless, hopeless, hopeless! What do you do? Just not open e-mail from your boss?"
"Hey, my boss' office is ten feet away. She knows where to find me. She doesn't have to get on some crazy electronic gizmo to tell me what to do."
"Dad, you've got me banging my head on my keyboard here! Look, what about your partner? Rey, isn't it? You told me that he's big into computers. He'll help you, won't he?"
"Oh, I suppose so," sighed Lennie. He really didn't want to look like an idiot in front of Rey and get him going on some long techie spiel. He really wished he could just continue avoiding computers until the damn things got obsolete and went away.
"Okay, so give me your e-mail address, and he can take it from there."
"Um, honey, I'm gonna have to get back to you on that one."
"You mean you don't even. . . "
"Oh, just a minute - here comes Rey. Hang on. Hey, Rey, c'mere - do me a favor, will you?"
"Sure, Lennie. What's up?"
"This is my kid on the phone. Will you get on and tell her what my e-mail address is?"
Rey stared at his partner with his mouth open. "You mean you don't. . . "
"Yeah, yeah -- I don't need to be hearing that from both ends. Just get on and tell her already. It's long distance."
Shaking his head in disbelief, Rey took the phone. "Julia? Rey Curtis. . . . Yeah, he's something else, isn't he?"
Lennie rolled his eyes as his daughter and partner concurred in lamenting his ignorance.
"Okay, Julia. . . . Yeah, we'll look for it right now. . . . You're welcome. Hey, just in case, give me your address. Let me jot it down. . . . Okay, here's your dad."
Taking the phone, Lennie said. "Okay, honey, I'll call you after I see the pictures."
"No, Dad," she sighed. "Don't call me - e-mail me."
"Aw, Julia," he griped.
"It's nice to talk, but we've done that for now. Just hit the reply button and e-mail me back. It's a heck of a lot cheaper than calling."
Lennie hadn't considered that. "Hmmmm. . . ," he said. "How cheap is it?"
"For you it's free since you have the Department account. You can't get cheaper than free, can you?"
"True," Lennie replied. "How about for you?"
"$19.95 a month for all the e-mail I can send or receive. Look at your phone bill, and you do the math."
Lennie thought that definitely might be worth considering, but he wasn't about to admit that to Julia - not yet. "Well, I'll get back to you however. Love ya, kid!"
"Love you, too. Bye, Dad."
As he hung up, Rey said to him, "Okay, Lennie, let's do this."
"Yeah, fine." Lennie got up and went and stood next to the desk by the computer.
"What's this?" asked Rey.
"What's what? You said we were gonna get this e-mail."
"Not we, Lennie - you. Generally, people don't use computers standing up."
"Aw, Rey. This would go a lot faster if you would just. . . "
"Unh-unh, partner. You're coming out of the Stone Age, and it starts right now. Sit down."
That was the last thing Lennie wanted to do. He really couldn't see himself as one of those people who sat around tapping a keyboard and staring at a screen - tapping and staring, tapping and staring. So far, he'd gotten away with it. When anything came up where they really needed to use the computer, Rey just naturally took care of it.
Noticing his partner's reluctance, Rey said, "What's the matter, Lennie? You got a phobia or something? It's not gonna bite you. And you do want to see those pictures of your grandson, don't you?"
"Yeah, I guess." Lennie gave up and sat down. "What do I have to do?"
"See that icon that says 'mail?' Just click on it."
Fortunately, Lennie did know about clicking since he had tried the solitaire game when the computers were first installed, but he'd given it up in disgust after losing 28 straight games. Thank God for that, thought Lennie. Otherwise he probably would have to sit through Rey going on and on about the physics, electronics, and God-knows-whatics of the mouse.
"It says 'login.' Now what?"
"All Department logins are the first letter of the first name plus the last name or first seven letters of it if it is longer than seven letters. If there are two or more people with the same first initial and same last name, then instead of the seventh letter there's a number. It's kind of neat how this program uses an algorithm to assign. . . "
This was exactly what Lennie had been wanting to avoid. "Rey," he interrupted, "What's my damn login?"
"Oh, um, it's lbriscoe. Easy enough, isn't it."
"Yeah - once you get done talking about it. Password - what's that?"
"It's your Social Security number. You can change that later."
"Hey, I can't see what I'm typing."
"No. You don't see it when you type passwords. That's for security so that someone hanging around can't see what you type in. Some places you log in to, however, you'll see asterisks instead of blank. . . "
"Re-ey," Lennie said warningly, "I don't care."
"I'm just trying to explain."
"Just keep it simple. All I wanna do is see the kid's pictures - not get a degree in computer science."
"Oh, well," sighed Rey, "I guess you have to start somewhere with some pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It may as well be these pictures. Okay, click or hit the 'enter' key."
Lennie looked at the new screen that appeared wondering just how many layers of complication were going to be involved here. "So, what's this?"
"It's your e-mail account. See the icon there that looks like a tray and it says 'In?' Click on that."
Lennie did so and recognized something that looked like a list, but then another something popped up partially obscuring the list. "Warning? What's it warning me about? I haven't even done anything yet."
"Ah, hell, Lennie," sighed Rey. "I forgot - you've never checked your mail."
"Yeah, we all know that - so what?"
"Well, what do you think has been happening to all the stuff people have been sending you?"
"I don't know, and I don't care. Who's been sending me stuff anyway?"
"Click okay on that warning box. Now, see? It's general stuff from the Department, from the PBA, from Van Buren. . . ."
"Any of it important?"
Rey snorted. "Not anymore it's not. Your mailbox filled up over four months ago."
"Is that bad?"
"Yeah, that's real bad. It means that no one can send you any more e-mail."
Privately Lennie didn't think that was such a bad thing but figured it might not be the right time to say so. "Well, then, where's the Julia thing?"
"I'm sure it has bounced back to her."
"Oh, well," Lennie shrugged. "It was a nice idea, but I guess she'll just have to use the good old U. S. mail after all."
He started to get up, but Rey put a hand on his shoulder and pushed him back down into the chair. "Oh, no you don't. You created this mess, and you're going to clean it up."
Lennie groaned. Now Rey was getting stubborn - just what he didn't need. "This isn't worth it," he muttered.
"It will be - you'll see. But first you are going to learn how to manage your mailbox."
"What do I do?"
"Well, there are several ways you could do this, but. . . "
"The quickest way, please?" Lennie interrupted.
"That's just what I was going to tell you."
Under his breath, Lennie said, "For once."
"See where it says 'Edit' in the upper left? Click there. In that new box that opens, click on 'Select all.'"
Lennie did so and saw that the list of stuff all turned blue.
"Now, see that trash can icon? Use your imagination."
Lennie clicked, and the list disappeared.
"See? Now your mailbox is empty, and people can send you stuff."
"Great. So, is that it?"
"Of course not. Don't you think Julia's going to wonder why her mail bounced back?"
"Uh, I guess so. Should I call her back and. . . "
"No, Lennie - for crying out loud! You're sitting right there - just e-mail her. She's probably figured out what's happened and is still online."
"And I could have been to the post office and back by now."
"Don't grumble - just type."
Rey pointed to an icon of an envelope with a sun on it. "That means you want to write a new letter."
Lennie wondered what other kind anyone would write, but he certainly was not about to ask for fear Rey would tell him, so he just clicked.
"There. See you're right at the "To:" line, so you type in her address."
"But I don't know it."
"Fortunately, I asked her." Rey flipped open his notepad. "Here it is. Just type it exactly like I've written it."
Lennie had to search a couple seconds for the @ key, but he found it and copied the address.
"And click in the subject box and fill it in."
"What should I put there?"
"Oh, why don't you try something original like 'Please Resend?'"
"You don't have to get sarcastic. Now what? What are all these other lines for?"
"Don't worry about them. Just click here." Rey indicated a field of white space. "From here on out, it's just like a typewriter. Type your message, and when you are finished, right there is the 'Send' button." Rey retired to the other side of the desk and opened a file.
"Wait a minute," said Lennie quizzically. "Where are you going? What do I say?"
"She's your daughter, Lennie. Say whatever you would have said to her on the phone."
Lennie thought and then typed:
Julia honey, it's Dad. I'm on this e-mail thing, and Rey is
helping me. It seems that I screwed it up before I even started and
you must have gotten what you sent returned to you. Rey helped me
clean it up, and he says you should try to send it again. Sorry to be
such an idiot about this stuff. I don't know if I'll ever catch up.
"Just hit this 'Send' thing?"
"Just hit the 'Send' thing."
"Okay. Now what?"
"What am I waiting for?"
"You'll know when you see it. Meanwhile, you could surf the 'net if you want."
Lennie grimaced in distaste. "No, thanks. I remember what happened the last time we did that. Found that bunch of gun-nut crazies."
"That's because we were looking for them. They don't just pop up at you. Read the sports or something."
"Maybe next time." Lennie glanced back at his screen and sighed. He didn't see anything yet. Great, he thought - just great. Exactly what I didn't want to be - someone staring at a computer screen. And then he gave a slight start. "Hey, Rey - something's happened."
"There's a new box here that says I've got mail."
Rey smiled. "Aw, Lennie - your first e-mail. I'm so proud. Is it from Julia?"
"How do I know?"
"Click 'OK' on the box, and then click on your inbox, just like we did in the beginning."
Inbox, inbox. . . Lennie scanned the icons and found it. "Okay, it says here that same thing that I typed as her address, so I guess that's her. How do I open it?"
"Just click on it, and you'll see her message."
Hi, Dad. I sort of figured it might take a couple of tries. :)
Let me know what you think of the pics, and tell Rey thanks for
helping. Love you! Julia
"Okay, I've got her message, but there are four things in blue here. Looks like some sort of code."
"Those are the photos. Just click on the first one."
Lennie did so and really gave a start as a picture of his grandson filled the screen. "Hey, Rey! Rey!" he said excitedly. "Come back over here - you've got to see this!"
Rey laughed. "Well, now I really have seen everything - Lennie Briscoe excited about something he's seeing on a computer screen. Never thought I'd see the damn day!"
"Quit kidding! Come here - you've got to see him!"
Rey went around and bent toward the monitor for a good look. "Oh, Lennie - he is really cute. Great-looking kid. Bet you're proud."
"Yeah. Yeah, I am," Lennie said wonderingly. "This looks so good - better than a snapshot."
"These digital cameras can do some great stuff."
"How about the others? What do I do?"
Rey pointed at the 'Back' button. "Just go back, and click on the next one."
They looked at the second picture and agreed that it was even cuter than the first. And then, on his own, Lennie clicked back and opened the third and the fourth.
"This is all I have to do? And I can keep going back and forth just like this as often as I like?"
"As often as you like. See? I told you - it's really not hard. Just remember to go back to the message and find the 'Reply' icon to let Julia know you've seen them." Rey went back to his work. "Let me know when you're ready to log out."
"In a few minutes," said Lennie, still gazing at the screen. And he reached out to the monitor and gently ran the back of his index finger down the image of his grandson's cheek. You're going to have to admit it, Lennie, he told himself, maybe these gizmos are good for something after all.