D.L. STEWART: Older folks may answer the TV remote when the phone rings, but at least we can add

People of a younger generation can, and do, poke fun at their elders’ fumbling attempts to cope with modern technology. I do it all the time, although that’s getting a lot harder, because I don’t have as many elders as I used to.

When you need an easy laugh, you can’t go wrong joking about mom trying to Skype or grandpa putting all his passwords on Post-Its and sticking them on his desktop screen. I, personally, was known to snicker every time my late 96-year-old mother-in-law expressed amazement that photos can be taken with a telephone. And that you can see them immediately without having to take them to a store to be developed.

Sometimes, though, it’s satisfying to turn the technological tables in the other direction.

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Recently, for instance, I’m in an airport with time to kill, because it’s 8 p.m. and my plane, scheduled to depart at 7:15 p.m., still is on the ground. Somewhere. So I order a cup of Americano at a coffee shop and carry it to the cash register, operated by a young man whose name tag identifies him as William. The coffee costs $2.75 with an additional 28 cents in tax, making the total $3.03. I hand William a $5 bill, plus a nickel, and wait for my change. (I’ll pause here to give you time to calculate how much change that should be. If it takes you less than five minutes, you could have a promising future in airport coffee shop sales).

But when I give William the $5.05, it becomes immediately clear that I’m not dealing with Warren Buffett, because a look of confusion crosses his youthful face as he tries to determine how much change I’m due. He turns for help to the cashier at the register next to him, but that person is busy with another customer. Finally, in desperation, he pulls out his smartphone, taps some keys numbers, then hands me two singles – and, inexplicably, two dimes.

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Admittedly, not all employees of airport coffee shops need to be graduates of the Wharton School of Business. And, as a frequently honest person – depending upon the amount of money involved – I probably should have pointed out to William that $5.05 minus $3.03 equals $2.02. But he seemed pretty flustered and I didn’t want to embarrass him. Besides, there’s a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing that, unlike William, I belong to a generation that still can conduct a simple transaction without the help of modern technology.

And it makes me feel a bit less incompetent when my plane finally arrives and the gate agent has to show me how to use my smartphone’s boarding pass.

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