Old People walked into my store and asked for help with looking at porn
I work at a store that deals with technology. I won’t be specific, but it’s a pretty big store, and a family store with things for kids to play with and little classes for them. We do sales and repairs, so we’re pretty full-service and often busy and crowded.
The other day, I was approached by a coworker with a question about the parental controls on a device. I’m one of the people who is very familiar with software and interfaces, and parental controls are one of my knowledge points that a lot of the younger workers aren’t familiar with (even though I’m not a parent myself), so this wasn’t unusual. The questions centered around removing them. My coworker asked if I could take over, and I said okay. This was all very normal, right up until he said “It’s this old guy. He wants to watch porn.” That got the requisite “WTF” look from me, and my coworker stifled a laugh. “Thanks for dealing with it,” he said. I kind of shrugged. I mean, I like porn, I’m not shy about browsing it, and that people have “needs”. I had no problem handling it, though I bet other coworkers might say I should just send him to a manager to get “politely declined service for that subject.”
He takes me over, and introduces me to this very old man. He looked like he might have had Parkinson’s, with the tremor in his hand. His iPad was also very old, as was the software on it. I could tell at a glance that his system had a version from before 2013 (because I’m a nerd who can tell these things at a glance). His iPad would not even be compatible with newer systems.
The old man didn’t say anything about porn, but he said that his grandkids had been over, and he thought they did something to his iPad, because it wasn’t working like normal. He said he thought that they’d set some parental controls “to block stuff so kids can’t see it”.
I smiled, and sighed, and began to tell him the usual speech about how parental controls work, and how we’d need the passcode if one was set up, and if he didn’t have it, it would require deleting the device and beginning without a backup to get things working again. His iPad didn’t appear to have much on it. But when I got to the settings, I was surprised to find there were no parental controls turned on.
I stopped, and I let him know that it appeared there were no controls or limits set. I turned them on and off just in case. I had to ask him. “So what wasn’t working?” I was starting to worry it might be a software incompatibility due to new web standards, and that his old iPad might not be able to be updated to match them. Internally, I did not want to have that conversation. People his age were often on fixed incomes, and could not afford to get a new device.
He began trembling again. “I’m 93,” he said. “My wife died. I have nothing left. And the...the videos I’d watch, they aren’t working anymore.” He took the iPad and started to go to a webpage. “I go to xnxx, and the images are there, but when I...”
I stopped him. “Sir, uh, our WiFi blocks that,” I said. I remembered using that site myself. It was one of the regular sites I’d used to go to for many years.
He nodded and closed his eyes. “Please, I don’t have anyone. I just...need something.”
I was struck. It stopped being funny. He was so fucking lonely, and the videos he watched online were important to him. I could see in his eyes, it was something he needed, to just keep existing. And I could see just how ashamed he was to come in, with such a subject and a need, but his loneliness was too much for his shame. He was practically in tears.
I acted like what I did next was a big decision, because I thought I had to put up the act, even though it was a quick decision for me. I pulled out my phone, and I turned on the hotspot, and I put his iPad onto my phone’s WiFi. This would bypass the content restrictions our WiFi had. He thankfully had a cover on the iPad. I held it at a low angle, and positioned it so we could see but hopefully there’d be as little a chance for anyone else to see. I typed in xnxx.
The porn site came up, and I kept furtively looking over my shoulder. He said “This is how it comes up, but when you tap, it doesn’t play anything...”. So I tapped. While the page changed, I remembered to turn down the volume, and I did.
The video came up and started playing. A-okay, no problem.
He began to say it wouldn’t do that at home, but still started thanking me. Still, I wasn’t satisfied. If there’s a bug, and it works sometimes but not others, it’s not fixed, it’s just a clue to find it. I tried other videos and they all worked.
I closed the webpage and the iPad. He looked so thankful. I told him I didn’t do anything, so I wasn’t sure it was “fixed.” I considered that maybe his kids, the grandkids parents had put parental blocks up on his own ISP, but they’d block the entire site, not the vids. I told him to try it again at home. I didn’t know why it hadn’t worked, but at least we’d proven that his iPad could play them.
He left, and even as I told him that I wasn’t sure we could help further he kept thanking me. I just stood there for a moment, and then I started tearing up and had to leave the sales floor.
It struck me how lonely he was, how the porn was one of his only ways of just having moments of satisfaction. I felt that hard. I’m serially single. I’m very lonely, and porn is my escape, and I’m just 42. I realized the state he was in, that’s something that is likely coming. For all of us.
I know that a lot of my coworkers would laugh at the guy, the pervert coming in, needing his porn. But I felt sad. Sad for him. Sad for all of us. I know that loneliness. It’s waiting for us all.
I don’t know if there’s a moral here. I just thought I should share. And please, I know porn is something we laugh about and make fun of, and it’s deserving of that. But sometimes...let’s take away the shame of it. You’re lucky if you don’t need it to get those little moments. Don’t take it for granted. And allow whatever moments others have, however they get them, without shame or looking down.
I want to thank you all giving me compliments and sharing your experiences as well. It warms my heart to see that love.
I also appreciate the guilding...but if I were honest, please take the little bit of money that goes to these internet medals, and give it to charities that support the elderly or forgotten.
Or better yet, please give a couple of hours of your time. Time is the most valuable resource we have. We think it’s unlimited, but it’s very, very limited. Giving the gift of your time to someone is the most valuable thing you can.
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