Friday, April 16, 2010

The (Cell-Phone) Man

I would be shocked, even dismayed to find out that other, maybe even all other writers (authors implies salary), have not written about mobile phones. Okay, maybe not all of them, but certainly all of them who are over 40… or 45… or definitely 46 for sure.

It was a beautiful day in April. I’m in the middle of Agriterra, WV, obviously writing. Never put a manic in front of a typewriter (whoops, dating myself, that is not to say that I'm mastrubating, but I mean typewriters aren't in fashion anymore). This is a translation for people who are either slow on the uptake, or from Agriterra, WV. For the record, I am not from there, but instead from a town where there is real theater, damn near domestic squirrels and designer dogs. There were no deer where I lived. None, zip, zero, get the idea out of your head. We had squirrels, rats (squirrels with sucky PR agents), and designer dogs. That's it.

This essay is about a technological dichotomy, much like my dichotomous life. From city (we have an airport and everything there!) to a farm in a matter of an afternoon. We have the occassional squirrel, no designer dogs and animals that are designated "farm animals". This includes any type of animal that requires feeding, some kind of shelter, and generally has 4 legs. I understand that some people make money from the stuff that comes out of, or off of these animals. We are not in that particular circle. So, anyway, I’m now stuck in a black hole between major technology and tractors that share the same birth year as me.

Note of interest for city dwellers; roosters crow all day, not just at dawn. But that’s a separate story all together. I just thought it was an interesting farm fact that many may not know. I'm not sure how they don't get laryngitis.

Regardless, I was on the computer in the basement where I write. It was nighttime, so I’m speculating on the details of the aforementioned beautiful day, however; it was beautiful not necessarily in the traditional sense of sunshine and a warm breeze, but because I happened upon the website of my cell phone carrier (Verizon) to see exactly what day/hour/minute I could upgrade to a new phone for a HUGE discount (their words, not mine). I’ve been carrying around a 4+-year-old cell phone, for well, 4+ years. Where I was born, this would be considered "ghetto" as it only made phone calls, took pictures and I managed to set the alarm for different times during the week and the weekend days, which I thought was pretty snappy.
Two years ago I was eligible for one of those free or HUGELY discounted upgrades, and I decided to partake (who wouldn’t)? Don't pay retail- it’s a myth. I was in retail for years in another life and I know that they (The-Retail-Man) can make plenty of money while still selling me items at "HUGE" discounts. I also have the patience of a saint when it comes to finding a good deal. If it’s a good enough deal, it doesn’t even have to be something I need. Shoes come to mind. I probably have over 60 pairs of shoes- most are black so they go with virtually everything, including each other. If you are a man, refrain from looking up this phenomenon on Urban Dictionary. I doubt it's there, and you wouldn't understand anyway, unless you're gay. In which case you are probably reading this because you know me. I rationalized every single pair, but I never, I repeat, never, paid full price for any of them. So you get the point. I like a deal.

Now, back to the phone- Two years ago, the new phone I chose was one of the latest and greatest. It played music- preventing me having to carry around my 2 oz Nano, (a huge burden). I think it had a calendar and a camera too. Ah, but there was a catch. It wasn’t compatible with Itunes! Though this music feature was why I was supposed to want this particular new phone. In reality, I wanted it because it was the most expensive one I could get for free. But subscribe to another program and purchase more music? I don't think so.
In my life, I’ve switched from albums (colored people), to 8-tracks (people of color), to cassettes (Black), to CDs (Afro Americans), to uploadable MP3s (African Americans), and now MP3-DVDs (back to Black). I have hundreds of CDs and MP3 and MP3-DVDs. I have car-compatible devices so I can hear 7-8 days worth of music without hearing the same thing twice. I also have a lot of friends who are Black, so forgive my obvious comfort in discussing things that panic people for a moment until they realize they are watching the Wayans.

Again, back to technology-- I confess, I do not have the ear to hear the subtle differences in any of these modes of melody, however, I am considered Victorian if I don’t upgrade, and then eventually, I can’t find all the previous choices anyway. Clearly this is a plot by the Large-Company-Man to make me buy the same list of songs by Janice Joplin more than 10 times in my lifetime; maybe more. So far, I believe I’ve replaced that “album” 5 times. She is, after all, an icon.

I digress (frequently)- we were talking about phones. I mean cameras, I mean PDAs, I mean a portable video machine with access to my calendar, email, and 250 contacts, many of whom I never call. I admit, I feel comfortable with the fact that I have these 250+ numbers and couldn't get rid of any of them. If they liked me enough to give me their number, certainly they will come help me if I get a flat tire or am chased by a villain within 3-4 miles of their home (20-30 miles in Agriterra, WV, because that's the minimum number of miles required to get anywhere- at all- seriously).

I realize that I feel comfortable having video capability; though I have no idea how to use it. In the event that the Incredible-News-Making-Man does something insane, I can catch it on video, and then go home, read the manual and figure out how to view said video again at some future date. I will then sell it to the NBC. I would never sell it to Fox, who would edit it, and somehow turn it against the Obama administration even if it was just kittens up a tree.

Two years ago, this major new technology of the multi-tasking (played music) phone baffled me within minutes. I was butt-dialing, losing calls, and most importantly losing touch, on account of I couldn’t figure out how to call my best friend, or my parents. If I had a flat, or was being chased by a villain, I would have been no more protected than if I had gone the old-fashioned route of running wildly and yelling, or asking a kindly stranger for help, if these options still exist. Calling AAA from a payphone is not even an option anymore. What's a payphone Daddy?

After a few days I reconnected the old phone; now already two-years-old, if you’re keeping up; but functional nonetheless. Meanwhile, I dreamed of an affordable Blackberry. Imagine! Getting my email! Having my calendar accessible without having to write things down on 16 different calendars and hoping they sync themselves so I’m not at the dentist when I’m supposed to be, say, picking up the kids from a Siberian school field trip! Disaster could ensue if there was mis-synchronization, and if there’s anything I’m good at, it’s predicting, realistically or not, potential disaster.

On this recent beautiful day/night (now another 2 years later, and me, obviously two years older) while on the cell phone site, I realized I was indeed eligible for a Blackberry, and now it would be FREE! Well, free except for the applications I might want to add, and the $30 a month I pay to connect to things like my calendar, email, and now Facebook (which, shockingly, I “get” in spite of my age). Wow, what a bonus. But wait! There are now Droids! They do even more and you don’t have to go through the terrific calorie expenditure of pushing buttons! You slide your fingers around and things happen! Without lubricant! I get this terrific discount, plus wonderful things like instant weather for too those unfortunate enough to be nowhere near a window; and directions for people who can't read street signs, yet were allowed to get a license (eek)! It was a little less than free, but hey! I could have it all! This thing would do everything but vacuum the house!

This "phone" lasted 2 days. I felt like someone just dropped me off in Reykjav√≠k and told me to hold a seminar on the cultural expectations of Icelandic dinner parties. Shake hands or bow? Which forks do they use for salad? Do they use forks or some kind of ice sticks? Do they speak English? I have no idea. I’m not big on “North”, finding anything further north than Manhattan to be too chilly to consider visiting. I even went for a lesson in this phone (a nice service offered by Verizon). Approximately two minutes into the lesson I said, “So, what else have you got?" to the 16 year old Mobile-Technology-Man.

Today I have a Blackberry. I don’t "get" it either. I can make a phone call, and I get some texts- do I get all of them? I don’t know. I think I’ve synced my Yahoo calendar, but I don’t trust it to use the right tone to tell me the difference between all of these never-ending alerts. Do I need to be reminded by a bong-gong-dong that someone I haven’t talked to in years is having a birthday? Well, maybe, just in case I get chased by a villain or need to find a bargain in their neighborhood- but I do not need this information “live” and during a meeting with my boss. Further, do I need to hear ding-dong-ping while I’m in said meeting with my boss, telling me I am 5 minutes late for the meeting that I’m already in? I think not.

I’m scheduled for another meeting (lesson) with the Phone-Carrier-Man-Boy. I have perused the booklet in both English and Spanish. By page 4 (section 4a.XVii) I had 6 new applications that are hardly useful on a daily basis, but I kept getting distracted by the possibilities and I figured I’d better do it now that the book was open and the instructions were in front of me, God forbid I have to crack open the book again, which I will surely misplace before my next birthday- or the day after the return policy expires, whichever comes first.

Advice from Suki- The Jones’ are just another version of The Man. Don’t try to keep up with them. They are an unstable group of people with too much time on their hands, spending upwards of 8 days learning to save 5 minutes a day, which means they would have to save 2,304 minutes before there was no more deficit of time spent learning. Go ahead and use your fancy microwave, buy your American Idol songs off the web and then try to access them on a computer that is no longer “registered” although it’s the same computer you’ve always had, but has been wiped 4 times for various Computer-Man problems. But don’t come crying to me when you can’t figure out how to slide your finger to the application that tells you what cross streets you’re on when you could simply look out the big glass thing in the front of your car and figure it out yourself. The sun rises in the east; sets in the west, streets still have signs, even out here in Agriterra, WV. If you’re clothes are wet, it’s probably raining, if you’re hot, don’t wear a jacket, if you want music go to a bar or the mall, learn to play an instrument, or stay home and play one of those dusty CDs you spent $20 for because you had to have it at that very moment (or the cover matched your outfit).

Ill tlk 2 u l8r whn I figure oUt how my BB wrks.

Copyright Suki Eastman 2010

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