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My Old Man and Gmail Calling: A Short Story

now that is a badass shop job, ain't that right “Hey Dad,” it started, and my Dad’s in his seventies I should add, “you know, seems like each week Google’s rolling out something new and great, last week being no different. You may now call anyone in the US or Canada as much as you want from your computer for free.” “Really. So what does this mean for that Skype company?” “It’s bad news for Skype, Dad. Bad news.” “What about international, can you call other countries?” (My dad’s heavy on the international calling thing so I knew I had him sold at this point.) “Affirmative.” “How much money we talking?” “Well let’s fire up your computer and check out those rates which you’ll find rather enticing – they beat the hell out of AT&T and Skype too.”

We go to his machine, I pull up the rates. “How about the UK? “Two cents a minute.” “Singapore?” “Two cents, Dad.” “Japan?” “Two cents.” “Greece?” “Dad, are you not getting the picture? Two cents for Greece. Here watch this, let me pull up your Gmail and click this thing over here.” I type in Doug (I’m Doug) into the phone dialing thing, brings up my number, rings my phone, I go in the other room and show off that he can hear me, though at this point he didn’t have a mic so it was kind of a one-sided situation yet in spite of that it got quite a nibble. Hooked him good and in only a few minutes.

“So you get the idea, this thing works and the price is right. The free domestic thing is going to stay free at least until the end of the year, getting-acquainted prices for now, but I bet that will go on past your death when they become confident that international revenue will comfortably offset their overhead on the free beer for the domestic service.” “Past my death, not bad. So this will show up on my AT&T statement?” “No, this has nothing to do with AT&T. It goes over the Internet and you already pay for that.” “All right, so how do I talk with this thing?” “Well you need a mic. Want a Mic? Radio Shack’s two blocks away and I can grab one for twenty bucks.” “Yeah get me a mic, let’s take this sucker for a spin, though I’m taking your mother to the museum in twenty minutes.” “This is going to be easy enough to squeeze into fifteen minutes; be right back.”

I get Dad a mic, tweak the volume levels a little, check the modulation, good to go: “Okay Dad why don’t you sit back down and call Mother in the bedroom on her new Google phone, though the landline is also an option. Again, you click that thing over there on the left and dial either with the mouse or keyboard.” Dad calls Mom, a can-you-hear-me kind of dialog, each of them both impressed and excited and Mom’s jealous already. Dad asks, “So what do I have to do to make an international call?” “Google’s comping you ten cents but since you appear to like this already give me your plastic and I’ll buy you a ten buck credit from Google which will give you 500 minutes for your countries of interest.” “[Amex number omitted, sorry hackers].” “Okay Dad, you’re all set. I’ll go into your contacts later and add in phone numbers to the family members you got on your contacts so you don’t have to bang in everyone’s number each time which will sync up with your phone.”

“I’m impressed, Kid. I’m lucky to have you as my son.” No Dad, we’re all lucky to have Google, I thought.

“By the way Dad, that Roth IRA cash I had freed up, called the broker and pumped it all into Google, eleven shares – up seven bucks each already.” (News received well by my father who is generally conservative when it comes to investing, shunning non-diversification and tech stocks, having been primed by this Google demo.) “I’d be up more if you could short the Blackberry company but you can’t do that in a retirement account. By the way Dad, I write for some Internet website, and I want to do a thing about how easily I managed to get you of all people onto this new Google thing which, as you were the subject, it would help highlight how, well…” “Yes, I know this computer stuff is ahead of my time, go ahead and use me to emphasize how simple it is.”

“Oh, Mom, I apologize for letting this visit just become about Dad. It ain’t right that I come over here and just help him. That ain’t right, Mom. You’re the priority next time.” “That’s okay Dougie. Can I do that Google calling on my computer too?” “You sure can Mom, Google does everything including supporting Linux.”


Doug Simmons