Dragged into the 21st Century

October, 2006

Greetings from the tenth month!

I got a letter from my cell phone provider, stating that they could no longer 'support' my cell phone, that it was no longer viable technology- and that they were going to 'pull the plug' on it at the end of the year. They told me to come in to their store and pick out a new phone- and a new plan.  This to me was mildly distressing. In seven years my cell phone had never let me down. I had enough batteries to make it last another 3 years- and I was happy with it.  Granted -- it was about the size of an Italian beef sandwich- and it weighed half a pound--- but it worked wherever I switched it on, and it survived a two story drop (without losing the call, mind you), and I could throw it at least a hundred feet- even from my car (ask me how I know---- okay, I'll tell you.... in business, I deal with consultants, suppliers (suppLIARS) and customers. You figure it from there).
  

 Anyway, Cingular told me that the end was near, and that I needed to do something about it. So, like a human sacrifice, I went to the cell phone store, seeking peace, fulfillment and cheap communication.  I asked the store clerk, "Do you have anything like this?", and handed him my phone. He stared at me as if I just handed him a loaded diaper, and then said, "I've never seen anything like this in my entire life." I guess the rotary dial must have thrown him off. JUST KIDDING!   But the old phone had to go.

So I went over to the giant display wall full o' plastic, to try to choose a new phone that didn't look like either a crib toy or Star Trek prop. It was a tough job.  There were dozens of cell phones to choose from.  The salesman stuck something in my hand and said, "This is one of our smaller phones."  I looked down at something about the size of the cap from a ball point pen. I asked, "Do I swallow it or is it an implant?"

I made a quick survey of the avaliable choices, some of which are noted here:

The Motorola 'Razr'-- a little black plastic doorstop that unfolds to become-- a little tinfoil covered plastic doorstop.  The "LG phone" with pinhead sized buttons for pinheads to use. The 'Nokia' - which if you say it loud enough- sounds like a Samurai warrior sneezing.

Now, even though Allen Funt is dead, nearly every cell phone has to have a Candid Camera built into it-- to capture the world's most embarrassing and disgusting moments. Some phones come with 'MP3' (portable music) players-- where you can download the equivalent of your entire collection of Beatles CDs - so you have something to listen to (entire albums)  when you are placed on hold while calling your doctor's office. Almost all phones include games you can play, giving you hours of entertainment while simultaneously cramping fingers and draining batteries.

I think to myself, "What else can they possibly fit into this little Turd of Progress?"  Why bother to ask?  E-mail of course! Text messaging! You can get all of your e-mail conveniently delivered to a full color video display the size of a commemorative postage stamp-- which you can't read without squinting. Today's teenagers spend hours sending pictures and text messages to each other instead of doing 'old fashioned' communicating -- like standing face-to-face and talking to each other.


Then there's the 'blackberry'.  The blackberry is a cellphone and small computer blended together into a case about the size a half-slice of bread. It is easily distinguishable by its little gerbil- sized QWERTY keyboard. But it's not popular with gerbils-- they prefer the half-slice of bread.

If we have 'black' we need to have 'blue'. We do. It's called 'Bluetooth. This is a system that allows the cell phone user to clip a little gadget onto his ear and communicate 'hands free'-- while appearing to wander about, aimlessly talking to himself. This reminds me of the guys at the asylum (I did volunteer work there- OK!) who would stick mini- marshmallows in their ears and talk to the Space Shuttle. Then again, maybe Bluetooth was their idea.
 

 Don't get me started about cell phone ringtones--- TOO LATE! There must be a contest held someplace where the world's most irritating people decide the world's most annoying tunes, tones and sound effects- then distribute them freely to cellphone companies. Phones just don't ring anymore-- they chime, pulsate, squawk, squeal, play movie themes, pop tunes and flat out blare a series of miscellaneous unrelated cacophonous sounds- that are supposed to be tailored to individual users' lack of taste. To me there are few things that are more aggravating than having some crummy tinny tune start playing from somebody's pocket in the middle of a quiet restaurant, theater performance or autopsy. Even worse is when
the selfish doofus answers the thing and in a PROJECTED VOICE- spends the next five minutes pooling ignorance with somebody else who is obviously also on a cell phone in an even noisier place.
  

One of the things that I would like to see in fancy restaurants is to have the matre'd walk around the tables with a bucket full of soapy water. When a
patron starts talking on their cell phone at a table, the matre'd grabs the phone out of the patron's hand, drops it into the bucket and informs the person, "Come to the desk when you leave, and your phone will be waiting, nice and clean."  'Bluetooth" users get a free shampoo.....

But I digress. I needed to get a phone, and I got one. The simplest one I could find. When it rings (sounding like a old- time phone when it does ) I open it up. When I am done, I fold it up. All finished. I open, I dial, I close. Everything else is disabled. Technology at arm's length- where it belongs. It's a good thing too,  any closer and it will cook your head.

I'd tell you about the contract, but even my lawyer can't understand it. 59 bucks a month, with minutes that 'roll over'. This I *do* understand.  I've
spent a lot of minutes rolling over- now that my boys are adolescents.


Gotta go.... it's the Bat Phone   (new cell phone ring tone)

Neil