Thursday, October 6, 2011

Go climb a pole.

In order to establish perspective, let me tell you:  I hate the telephone.  I don't like when it rings, I don't like calling people and I don't like getting the bill.  Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to live without one.

I'm one of the growing number of the population that does not have a traditional land line.  I didn't think it made any sense to pay for a cellular phone and a land line, so many years ago I ditched the hard wire.  The problem with that is that now, people who call me expect me to pick up the phone because they assume that I'm sitting on my cell phone.  Most of the time the ringer is off or it's in a bag or on a table somewhere.
"Where were you, I tried to call you?" they ask.  When I had a regular phone, they never had any trouble leaving a voice message.  Now, they expect me to answer every call.  HINT: Sometimes I'm driving on on the toilet or reading or watching a TV program.  Your call is important to us. Please hold until a representative is available.

The phone I have now is a misery I can barely hear people and the interface is a mish-mash of poorly conceived icons and buttons that cause me to disconnect the relatively few calls I answer.  When I get a text message, I have to push the "Read" button twice, for some unknown reason.  I would like to throw it in the river, but I can't because I got it 4 months ago and my contract has 20 more months to go before I can cheaply replace it.  Otherwise, I'd pay full price and may wind up with yet another horrible device.

I've been searching Ebay for a replacement.  Each one that I find that appears acceptable has some odd issue.  One has poor call quality. Another has no 3G service. One has good call quality but is poorly constructed.  Another is well built but the keyboard is difficult to use.  It's impossible to know from these subjective reviews whether or not I would like the phone.  Most of the reviews for the phone I have were positive, so I can't count on someone else for an opinion when they think it's great and I think it is a piece of junk.

So far, I've found 4 probable replacements.  Each one has a minor flaw, but the selling point of each one is that I can get them for less than $90.  I'd hope that I could sell my existing piece of junk to an unsuspecting boob for about $50, so perhaps I could mitigate the cost somehow?  Even so, how do I know that the money I spend for a new phone will make me any happier?  Something tells me I'll be playing my own game of phone tag trying to find one that is acceptable.

You'd think it would be fairly simple to find one that has a loud speakerphone, QWERTY keypad and decent sized screen, wouldn't you?  It isn't, or else I'd have one by now.  The other issue is dealing with Ebay.  The inexpensive ones come from China and the postings don't have any actual photos of the phone I'll be receiving.  Some of them don't come in the original box, don't have the manual and will arrive just in time for my old contract to expire.  And I can't help but be skeptical of a phone that retails for $300 being sold on the Internet for $80.  It doesn't seem right.

But it falls into place with the giant mass of crap that accompanies the cell phone.  Hidden fees, outrageous costs for texting and other charges that somehow turn a $39 plan into a $79 monthly bill .  I could read through my bill, but I'd have to set aside an 8-hour block of my day to figure it out.  Like the cable TV bill, we pay it.  It all seems to make sense, because when we were signing up for the plan it sounded like such a great deal.  Then, the first bill comes and our eyes spin around and we get a quizzical look on our faces like we just smelled something but we're not sure if it's coming from the trash can or the cat farted.

"Did I sign up for this?"  And "What's a state usage tax?"  But boy, they sure are fun.  Texting and web surfing and all that mindless chatter.  How did we ever survive without them?  Quite well, as I recall.  I'd get home at the end of the day and check my messages.  Zero.  If someone needed me badly enough, they would call me at work.
I used to know phone numbers.  Now, I just look for their name in the directory.  I couldn't tell you anyone's phone number except my mother - and that's because it's the same one I had before I moved out.

In the meantime, I'll keep looking for my ideal device.  Meanwhile, I thought all this junk was supposed to improve my life?  So far, it's cost me more money and complicated my life.  There is a whole new set of rules and laws governing when and where we can use cell phones.  Phone etiquette is still being learned and those of us who have it want to smack those of you who do not.
Here are two things you can do to start:  Stop the walk-and-text and talk in a normal volume.  Don't bump into me while you're texting and stop yelling into your hand.

Now, I'm going back to my shopping, because I know that someday I'll be happy with technology.