Monday, August 12, 2013

Free at Last!

So last week, Wednesday night, specifically, my cell phone adamantly refuses a recharge. I do the necessary fiddling--turn it off and back on, remove the battery, try a different charger, etc,--and nothing doing. In the morning, off I go to my Verizon store where the young man there essentially spends 20 minutes replicating my earlier efforts and comes to the same conclusion. “It’s not charging,” he said.

I answered, “Yes, I know,” and there followed that comfortable silence that comes when two men reach an understanding about something important. Sort of like when you get a bunch of guys around a car that won’t start, and one says, “It won’t start,” and the rest nod their heads.

“I’ll have to call Customer Services,” says the Verizon employee.

Hmm. I thought he was Customer Services. So, long story short, on Saturday I receive my new phone, charge it partially, re-download the apps, the address book, the wallpapers and ringtones and go to the mall, a frightening experience I try for the most part to avoid. Get back home, plug the phone in. Uh ho. No charge. 

Back to the Verizon store where the same young man now greets me with a slight frown. He is not happy to see me. I explain the situation as his eyebrows rise in consternation. A second call to Customer Services yields the information that this particular make and model of phone has indeed been problematic, and should have been--but was not--recalled. Interesting.

Cutting to the chase, I will be getting another replacement, but since phone, battery and chargers are coming from different warehouses across the country, I will not have a cell phone until Thursday.

My first reactions are all anger-based. My second reaction is resignation. I send an email to my friends explaining the situation and telling them that, tragically, I can’t be reached by cell or text. I feel sorry for myself. By morning a transformation has occurred. I’m jubilant. I realize I’m free!  I am no longer tethered to an electronic umbilical cord!

As the day wears on, I come to grasp that my cell phone is a nasty little piece of machinery, an emissary of my self-importance. My attachment to it is nothing short of a frightening self-centeredness that says the world as we know it might end if others cannot reach me right now! And that the lives of others may stop if I can’t reach them right now. The more I think about it, the more unrestricted I feel. Do I really need to be paying a hundred bucks a month so I can look up Conway Tweety’s birthday right now? How much of this instant gratification do I need?

I use my cell to communicate with others when I’m not at home, but whatever I have to tell them can probably wait. Occasionally, I’ll use the GPS. I don’t listen to music on it. I have used it from time to time to translate a particularly weird French word into English, and vice versa. My phone is not connected to Facebook, You Tube, Linked In, My Space or Tweet. Being a Luddite, I barely know how to use these services. Having never relied on them, don’t miss them at all. I can understand the phone’s use in case of emergencies. Others, I know, rely on their cell phones for business, information, and entertainment. I recently watched a bevy of young girls all watching what I assume was the same movie on their cells, and I’ve also been in restaurants and watched couples dining and paying absolutely no attention to each other, so intent were they on texting someone not in the room.

My first cell phone was a briefcase attached to a handset. My second one was the size of a brick. I took it to Asia and Africa because my boss told me to, and it never worked there, not once. I can’t remember what my third, fourth and fifth phones did, though I do recall an outrageous bill received after a trip to France.   

My present phone--before it went belly up--had features I neither needed nor understood, and frustrated me with useless apps I could not uninstall.

The future, I understand, is a Google-based set of glasses which will allow me to issue voice commands to do almost anything.

Great, I’m sure, but not for me.

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