The Thrill of it All

The highs and lows of my late-life digital retail transformation
By André Morriseau
As we continue to ride the ongoing waves of COVID-19, our world has acquired new spending habits while rolling with the immense challenges of changing times and technology. Before COVID, I had never really purchased anything online. Once the pandemic arrived, however, I was buying cases of wine from Wine Online like a pro – anything to stave off my early paralyzing fear of going to the liquor store. My first purchase was a case of wines from around the world. Resplendent with five whites, six reds, and of course a sparkling, it was an adventure in isolation. Each new bottle was like taking flight without ever leaving home.
Before long I discovered Amazon and found myself increasingly indulging in online retail therapy. I became addicted to the sound of my door buzzer. Looking out from my second-floor Victorian bay window (my new work-from-home office), I felt like an anxious pup waiting for my new best friend – the Fedex delivery man.
Also new, at least to me, was keeping up with all the latest shows on offer with the countless streaming services out there. Amazon Prime Video gave me Pose and It’s A Sin, Netflix provided the oh-so-elegant Halston, while Apple TV delivered Schmigadoon! Don’t let the name of the last one scare you – it’s an amazing parody of musicals from the Golden Age. When better to enjoy such camp than in a pandemic?
Each show was better than the next, and they all conveniently added to my growing list of monthly charges. My rationale was firm: What else would we have to talk about during the seemingly endless COVID lockdowns??
I had never been interested in gift giving either, but I am now. A renewed faith in consumerism has guided my fingers like a Ouija board on fire – much to the delight of family and friends. Another new indulgence became buying flowers online for, well, just about everyone – from the vet to family members who I’d never before gifted with flowers, or even thought to do so. Trendy shops in the Village with play-on-word names like New Leaf and Lady Bug Florist brought rainbows of colour into the ‘locked-down-and-out’ in my precious world.
And the thrill of UberEats made dining for one a far tastier affair than Kraft Dinner in a darkened room lit by the pale blue screen. It also increased my interest in supporting local restaurants like Hair of the Dog and O’Grady’s. Yes, my burger habit was altruistic in nature, I reasoned.
COVID ultimately forced oldish people like me to embrace the wonder of the online world with all its glorious convenience. I learned how to do online banking so I could track the slowburn nervous breakdown of my own economic awareness, not to mention my bulging Visa bill and corresponding broadening waistline.
Another exciting pastime was attending online galas and shopping the silent auctions. The creativity of some of these virtual venues, and the entertainment they delivered, has been impressive. The Mayors Evening for the Arts was amazing, especially when experienced from the comfort of my own couch. The truly winning aspect of these events was that you could bring your own booze, bypass hailing cabs in the cold and, best of all, you only had to dress one half of your body.
The organization I work with had the foresight to buy all its staff across Ontario a link to an amazing evening of Comedic Meditation with the indomitable Carla Collins – ajewel of Canadian comedy if we ever had one. On a dark, cold winter’s night, Carla regaled us with an hour of laughs followed by a calming introspective hour of meditation. Not one to sit still for more than a minute, I found it surprisingly therapeutic.
My increased awareness of how incredibly lucky I was to remain employed, especially as I watched the bleak news of so many people out of work, brought charitable giving to the forefront of my selfish cloistered existence. From Feed the Frontlines to the ArQuives, I knew I had to do more than spend each day staring into the endless abyss of screens everywhere in my home.
This strange new world may have many bells and whistles and shiny buttons, especially for those of us who grew up watching Mary Tyler Moore on the only television network available, the mother network CBC. But there’s always a nightmare lurking just beneath the surface, and this was no exception. My computer recently died on me, and with it a way of life I’d become so accustomed to during the pandemic.
Suddenly I needed to make phone calls to tech reps in South Carolina (don’t ask), and then I had to order a new interface or ‘in your face,’ or whatever. Next, I had to go into my real office (where’s that?) so the IT man could install the new gizmo, only to discover the operation was a failure when it turned out that my computer was bitlocked!
This ugly new word entered my vocabulary and tore a gaping hole in my sheltered screen-savvy life. It put me on the path to a complete personal breakdown – and this was only week one of a two-week process. All my passwords had to be retrieved or updated, I had to buy a new printer/scanner, and the list went on.
Sadly, it’s hard to explain to a generation of digital junkies – or at the other end of the spectrum a dwindling group of geriatric luddites – just how immobilized and vulnerable someone of my vintage can become when my digital world goes off the rails. Especially when I’ve happily immersed myself in every possible tantalizing product or service that lit up my screen each time I pushed my ‘on’ button.
Happily, my two-week off-grid nightmare is over, and all is good again. I’ve got my flowers, I’ve got my wine, and my sanity is slowly returning, one byte at a time.
And that’s the bottom line.