Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Phone Call of the Wild

I'm not even halfway to 40 yet and I'm already becoming a cranky old man. That's the dark side of precocity. At five, it's cute. In your thirties, it's premature aging.

My first and only cell phone, an ancient Motorola Star Tac, passed away quietly on Sunday morning after a long life plagued with illnesses and abnormalities. I hated it. It had lousy reception and a dodgy LCD display. It kept a battery charge for about as long as a second-rate cowboy keeps his seat on the back of an angry bull. It combined the toughness of a Fabergé egg with the aesthetics of a dung beetle.

After buying it, every time I'd hear news of layoffs at Motorola, which is a local company, I'd think, "Good. Serves you right."

I might have mourned the demise of Ugly Phone a bit more if I'd had any clue how things have changed in the past three years. Apparently, a telephone is no longer a small appliance. It is now a fashion statement. A mobile office. An entertainment center. A status symbol. And possibly a sex toy, given the way the guy at the Verizon store was quivering as he showed me what was for sale.

He positively bounced from model to model, flipping them open and fondling them. Camera phones, phones with Global Positioning capabilities, phones that would allow me to play violent computer games and catch up on "Dawson's Creek," phones that would allow me to select any song from the oeuvre of 50 Cent as my personal ring tone.

He was visibly deflated when I didn't join in the orgy of phone love.

"I don't want a phone with a camera," I said. "I have a camera."

"But you probably don't always have it with you," he said.

"I'm more likely to leave the phone at home than my camera," I said.

He got that "does-not-compute" look on his face.

"And I don't need the games, either," I said. "I don't play computer games."

"But hey, man, what do you do when you're waiting for the subway?" he said.

"I knit," I said.

"Okay, man, that's cool, that's cool, no games," he said, as I helped him up off the floor.

"And I want a phone that just rings. I don't want it to play music. I just want it to ring. Just ring, ring, ring. It could beep, maybe. But no music."

He was still smiling broadly, but I think he was wondering whether I might be dangerous or deranged.

"So, okay. No camera, no games, and you don't want it to play music."

"Nope. I just want a phone. I want to call people and get calls, but I don't need to hear from Gladys Knight and the Pips every time my mother wants to chat."

"Gladys? And the what?"

"Never mind. What do you have that just acts like a phone, and not a Chuck E. Cheese?"

He had completely ceased to vibrate. He pointed to one small, unassuming phone in the corner. It looked like a geek phone, a phone that never gets invited to cool parties, a phone that would rather stay inside and read than go play baseball. I felt a kinship with this phone.

"This is the simplest phone we got," he said. "It, um, doesn't do much. It has a color display. They all have color displays now, is that okay?"

"That's fine," I said. "Charge it up and let's go."

Het set it up for me, sighing and looking a little glum. But he got his own back. I stuck the thing in my pocket and forgot about it until I was halfway home on the subway, sitting the middle of the usual comatose cubicle victims. A friend of mine called and suddenly, inside my pocket, an entire mariachi band began to play the "Mexican Hat Dance" in living stereo at full volume.

And I realized I hadn't figured out how to shut off the phone yet.

Progress. Olé.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not half way to 40 yet?

Seriously?

Margot said...

Haha, that was great. Sometimes a phone is just a phone, you know?

And I had no idea you were still a teen. You're very maturea nd um, well-developed for someone who is so young. *giggle*

Sister Sue said...

I have had pretty a rotten day (week?), but when I got to the bit about Gladys Knight and the Pips I burst out laughing, and it felt awesome. Thanks for the cheer-up. You are ever my super brother.

Christopher said...

I decided I needed a new ringtone one night so I went to my provider's website. I spent hours downloading songs that in the end I would be embarrassed for anyone to hear. Total buyers remorse. Did I need the theme for "Facts of life" ?

Kris said...

I hated every cell phone I ever had until about 4 years ago when I got my nextel i90. Since that time, Nextel keeps telling me they have bigger and better phones, phones to do this and phones to do that. But...I don't even use everything that's on my current... out of date.... four-year-old phone. Why can't the cell phone companies be happy that I'm a satisfied customer and just leave me alone!

Love the "Gladys and the who". Thanks for the giggle.

Marilyn said...

My ringtone is "Sharp Dressed Man" for the boyfriend; "I Want to be Sedated" for all others.

Franklin is my longlost son. I'd gladly take Sue in as well, even though I have two daughters already. Always room for more. With Joe as a brother, my family is complete.

JoVE said...

I am still resisting even getting a cell phone. I'll need to prepare a spiel for when I finally do have to go buy one.

M-H said...

I feel your pain. Last new one I got, I thought I'd turned off the ringer but it rang in a public seminar at work. I pushed the off button but it went off again. I pushed the off button again and held it, but it... you get the picture. I had to push past a whole row of people to go outside and answer it to stop the pesky person ringing me yet again. That night I sat down with the manual and mastered the bastard.

Cheryl said...

it could have been "the Macarena".

Jen said...

I'm with you, Franklin. My husband and I got new phones this spring, and we had to make it clear that we didn't need text messaging, walkie-talkies, e-mail, web browsing, paging, or any of the seemingly endless alternative methods that a single cell phone can communicate with these days.

I think we get less of a confused reaction from the salesperson for it here, though, since we're in small town New England, and I think the Verizon store gets lots of curmudgeonly Yankees, young and old, who know what they need and don't want one darn thing more.

Thanks for sharing the story, Franklin, it's the best laugh I've had all week!

knittingwoman said...

I laughed a lot when I read about the mariachi band. My new phone whinnies, it was the quietest thing i could find. I would have to pay to get something that actually sounded like a phone ringing. My 8 year old daughter calls it my horse phone.

stephanie said...

I had this exact conversation with a phone geek a few weeks ago. Exactly. The only difference actually, was that when my phone went off, it played the theme from Flashdance.
I had to get some cute young thing to make it stop.

Norma said...

Yeah. I'm not "halfway to 50 yet," and OHMYGOD DID I JUST SAY THAT? Excuse me. I need to go hit my head against the wall. I was going to comment on your post, but now....

doloreshaze said...

I'm with you about simple phones, Franklin, though I have to confess that mine is also my Palm Pilot. And while I am generally a Luddite to the last, my Palm Pilot has Changed My Life (I actually mostly show up where I'm supposed to, actually can find people's contact information, etc.). Other than ordering my life, though, my phone just does a simple "ring, ring", I have no games, it doesn't take pictures, walk the dog or fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

Marion, on Long Island, NY said...

I, also, had to replace my cell phone. When I went to the T-Mobile store and was asked what kind I wanted, I said free. I got what I thought was the most low tech phone. I rarely use the cell phone and this is so full of buttons and screen displays I don't know where to begin. Showed it to my 11 year old granddaughter and she started pushing buttons and changed the "wallpaper", now if she will explain how to make a call and answer one I'll be set.

Jean K said...

What a great post! I am cell phone clueless. My husband and I share one between the two of us, and it is generally more than we need. It takes me a couple of tries to figure out how to make a call on it.

On the bus the other day, I heard one that sounds like an actual phone ringing (you know, old, Western Electric, when they had actual, phyisical bells in them). It made me jump.

Carol said...

Oh, how dearly I love you.

Yes, Christopher, yes, you did need the theme from Facts of Life. I would love to find the theme from the Greatest American Hero for mine....

Carol said...

Now my mind reels with the possibility of downloads for my cell phone ring. "8-6-7-5-3-0-9- {Jenny)"? The Addams Family? The opening guitar riff from "Crazy Train"? The theme song from "Days of our Lives"?

I used to work with someone who had an old-fashioned, fifties phone "brr-ing" on her cell phone. It would have been funnier if she hadn't been born in the 1980s.

My word verification says "Pez" in it. Do you think it's a message?

Colleen said...

I could probably dig out an old bag phone and mail it to you if you'd like.

Buzz said...

Of course, I live on the other end of the spectrum, I want a phone that picks out my clothes in the morning, tells me I look good and picks winning lotto numbers on the side. In fact, I'm in the process of buying a new one, the Audiovox 5600 (i can just hear reader's eyes rolling back in thier heads) it has Bluetooth, infared, usb connection, it will text, page and web browse, plus synch up to my home and office computers. Ok, fine,I'm a geek, but they pay me well for it. And, turth be told, isn't it better to be ahead of the wave, rather than behind it?

Juno said...

That was a cruel and clever vengance. The son of a friend of mine managed to change the message tone on my phone to something he liked - he's 8 - and it took me months to figure out how to turn it off. Everytime I missed a call and it let me know I had a message I had to fight the urge to drive over the phone.

But I recall those distant days when the motorola was the apex of consumer desire.

Maeve said...

wait until you have to change your service plan, and you get to explain over and over that you don't want picture mail, or text messages, or wireless web, or anything else. you just want to TALK ON THE PHONE. I swear that's what I said, but apparently it came out as "I like to kill small children with medieval torture implements." Sometimes, just to listen to their heads expload, I explain that I don't have cable. It's a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the 21st century - it's not all fun and games! I'm over 50 (!) and have young friends who play video games for hours on end. I tell them if they spent that much time knitting they'd have something beautiful in the end. And then they ask me to knit socks for them - I don't think so! btw - I received my Venus de Milo bag the other day and it was the hit of the office. It took some people a few minutes, but then they laughed like crazy. Dorothy (http://www.missouristar.typepad.com)

goblinbox said...

L O fucking L!!!!!!

Wanda said...

freaking hilarious! The salesman definitely got you back.

birdfarm said...

Loved this post! I'm in the public library again and when I got to, "they all have color displays now, is that okay?" I literally laughed out loud, then couldn't stop (muffled, half-suppressed) giggling as I finished the rest. It made me feel like I was back in LoHo dining hall with you & Sylvia...

I knew you meant "halfway from thirty," but maybe that's because we almost have the same birthday. And/or almost the same brain.

xoxo

nadine said...

My old cell phone had a great ring - the gentle sound of crickets. Fairly innocuous and yet it was one of those sounds that made people look around and wonder if they were hearing things.

My new phone doesn't have a single ring that I like. Maybe I should try to find I'm A Little Teapot. The brain truly changes when one spends a lot of time with a toddler.

Judith in Ottawa said...

Now, Franklin, don't be defaming dung beetles. If you could see the range of metallic colours and the amazing variety of horn and antenna shapes...

Adele said...

My sister bought a new phone/palmtop computer/all in one gizmo for work. She put it down when she got home and, by the time she looked at it an hour or so later, her son had already programmed it.

He'd recorded himself singing What's New Pussycat, taken a photo of his face, and set both of them as her ring tone.

All by a just-seven-year-old who couldn't read the manual.

Yvonne said...

My dear Franklin...I was drinking my morning tea when I read the last paragraph of your blog. My computer keyboard and monitor thank you, for your wit enabled them to partake in the tea also...albeit after it had been swirled about in my mouth for a second.

I love you. You are SO fun.

Sahara said...

Oh lord, Franklin why did I click on this post?

I too need a new phone, as mine's waiting for an inconvenient moment to die. I am completely dizzy at the new array of phones, out there. The local phone store doesn't want to deal with me. They said "they're AREN'T any phones that don't do nothin.'"

Wish me luck

escorts barcelona said...

Thanks so much for this article, quite useful piece of writing.