Phone Home

     If you want to feel old, go shopping for a new cell phone. Technological advances are happening so fast in the telecommunication world it’s next to impossible to keep up with changes.

     The cell phone I had was perfectly adequate for my needs. I could make telephone calls. I could text my children (and hope they text me back). I created numerous “to-do” lists and kept track of medical appointments. Everything was fine until I could no longer update my operating system so many new applications could not be installed. I would never be able to summon an Uber to get to Oak Grove. I couldn’t take a photo without deleting a photo to make room on my device. I could no longer use my phone’s GPS. I couldn’t video-chat with my son overseas. That was the breaking point.

     My wife’s telephone was also due for an upgrade. We began our online research on cell phone service providers. I asked everyone I knew questions about what carrier they used and if they were satisfied with their service.

     We visited Redstone Plaza to see what our local telephone stores had to offer. The first store we visited had a plan that sounded promising. We qualified for the 55-plus discount, one of the perks for being on the brink of elderly. The store offered a discount if you traded in your iPhone. Unfortunately, my iPhone was too old to be traded in. I knew I waited too long to upgrade.

     The clerk asked my wife about her phone. Your husband’s phone is not eligible. What type of phone do you have?”

    “A Blackberry,” my wife answered.

    “A what now?” said the dumbfounded sales clerk. Suddenly my ancient iPhone didn’t seem so bad after all.

     After hearing the exciting sales pitch, we moved on to the next store to do some comparative shopping. We were greeted by a smiling young salesperson who told us he would answer any questions we had. I told him I just wanted the bottom line price on a cell phone plan with two new phones.

     “Let me get a piece of paper so I can write this out really big for you,” he said. Ouch. I wanted to ask him for a blank piece of paper so I could write two big words for him. Instead decided to let him jot everything down so I would have it in writing. He was just trying to be helpful to a cute old couple who were technologically illiterate.

      In the end I was glad I let the clerk outline the plan in simplistic terms for for me. We ended up signing on with this carrier and happily walking out of the store with new devices in hand. We can now do things on our phones just like everybody else. I’m happy with my purchases even though the bottom line price I was given cost a lot more after my unnecessary add-ons. Let’s just say a “free” tablet device is not free when it costs ten dollars a month.

     Our new phones are great but there is a learning curve. I keep hitting the “Ignore” button every time I try to answer an incoming call. My wife and I spent Friday night calling each other from opposite ends of the sofa so we could practice answering the phone in a timely manner. We are now relatively up to speed, but we still have a lot to learn. Hopefully we’ll have our new phones figured out before they become obsolete. That may be wishful thinking.

     I’ve come a long way from the first cell phone I owned many, many years ago. Back then my state-of-the-art portable phone looked more like a military walky-talky – complete with wooden storage box and shoulder strap. To make a call, I had to remove the phone from its carrying case and pull up the foot-long antennae by hand. One night, I was at a Connecticut casino with a friend. I wanted to call my wife to let her know I’d be home later than expected. I extended the giant retractable antennae and said to my friend, “I have to make a phone call. I’m going to the roof to see if I can get a signal.”

     Ah, the good old days.

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