Monday, November 2, 2015

Can I Phone a Friend?

Greetings, WYMOP fans!

So, for those of you who do not yet know, I am the (not so) proud owner of a dumb phone.
Yup. That’s right. No apps, no social media, no browsing the internet; nothing but telephone and texting—and not even that, if the phone doesn’t want to. It’s an old phone, and somewhat temperamental, and has apparently gotten the concept of calling in sick on occasion. Some of my friends . . . okay, all of my friends, make fun of me for it. One in particular likes to hold his smartphone out toward me as if warding off a vampire with the cross of technology, saying “Look, Rob: it’s the whole internet, in the palm of my hand!” The smile on his face makes it all worthwhile. I’m just so glad I give him such joy. I just grin, and bear it, and tell him I don’t want to have a phone that’s smarter than I am.
Since I have begun writing, however, there is a new issue associated with my phone that I can simply ignore no longer. In the past, it had nothing to do with me, and I didn’t care that I couldn’t do it. Now, though . . . now that I go to book events and shows, trying to sell my books to the public, it’s becoming a problem. I . . . I . . . I just have to come right out and say it.
I can’t turn my clunky old phone into a neat, portable POS.
It's called a square because, well, it's square!
For those of you who, like me, assumed that POS still stood for Piece Of Shit, a phrase I thought eminently applicable to my dumb phone, I’m here to tell you the acronym now stands for Point Of Service—what some of us old fogies still refer to as the cash register. So no, I can’t attach a square to my dumb phone and turn it into a wireless credit card machine. I’m limited in these events to cash-only transactions, which has led to quite a few sadly shaken heads and lost sales.
Needs I must upgrade, it seems.
Now, here’s the thing about working on a phone upgrade when you have a thirteen-year-old boy (or girl, I suppose, but I’m working with what I’ve got, here): there is no way—no way—that I could get a smartphone without upgrading him as well. And he, when he found out about it, made a case for his mom to get an upgrade too. I was okay with it—he was right, she could use one, and we’re all still on the same plan—but before I could even tell him that, the little bastard whipped out the Big Blue Eyes on me. Big. Blue. Puppy. Eyes.
“Smart phones for everyone!”
So this afternoon I stopped by the Verizon store to discuss my plan: I wanted to make sure they weren’t going to try to gouge me for more data for upgrading to a smartphone. I’ve already been paying for a mandatory 250 monthly megabytes of data for three phones that can’t use it, because I’m independently wealthy, and—oh, wait, that’s not me. I’m the one who’s just an idiot.
So this idiot stopped by to talk to them and make sure they weren’t going to use the upgrade to siphon more money out of me; it would have been embarrassing when their contract started making that “bottom of the empty cup” sucking noise. I was met at the door by a guy with a name badge reading Tom, a customer service tablet, and a big, wide smile.
“Welcome to Verizon. How can I help you today?”
So I told the bright and cheerful Tom about my dumb phone dilemma, and that I was just there to check and see that my data plan wouldn’t have to be upgraded simply because I was suddenly going to use
“Oh, no, we won’t be upgrading your data plan just because you’ll be using a smartphone.”
I was starting to like this Tom. If I sent out Christmas cards, he would have just made the list.
“We’ll be upgrading your data plan because the plan you’re currently on isn’t even offered from Verizon any more.”
Burn in Hell, Tom. I never liked you anyway.
“So what we’re going to do is quadruple your data, but save you fifteen dollars a month.”
I went a bit blank.
“Uh . . . excuse me?”
“We’re going to quadruple your data,” he said again, “but save you fifteen dollars a month.”
I blinked a couple of times. “Excuse me,” I said. “But just how is that going to work?”
Tom was ready for this—hell, from his smile, he might have been looking forward to it. He whipped out a printed worksheet and a pen, filled in a few numbers in the spaces provided, then threw some other figures in above them. “Here’s your old plan,” he said, tapping some of the numbers with the nib of his pen. “And this is the new one,” he said, tapping all the other numbers.
Then he took a hard right turn, and left the English language behind. I heard terms like on plan, and off plan, then Tom slid right into words like sampsonium, and razzafraz.  Symphodatus strolled by, and then—I can’t prove this, now, but I swear to God—Tom said “Bippity, boppety, boo.” I looked at the worksheet, and saw it was now covered with more numbers, and arrows, and all kinds of symbols. The arrows, I think, were showing what could be applied where, and how things would change with the different plans, stuff like that. The numbers could have been prices for different plans, or options—Christ, they could have been The Lord’s Prayer in some sort of number-substitution code for all I could tell. And the symbols? All I was looking for were dollar signs, but I didn’t see a whole lot of them in that mess. Was this a good sign?
“So,” he said, tapping the worksheet with his pen again. “Do you see how it all works?”
I gave him a blank stare, concentrating to keep from actively drooling.
“The savings?” he said. “Because of the on-plan phone option?”
I still stared. I think I may have made a low grunt.
“Do you want me to explain it again?” he asked, with a hopeful smile.
“No!” I said. I pointed to the ink-covered paper in his hand. “I . . . uh . . .”
“Basically,” he said, a little deflated, “you get more, for less.”
“That!” I said, finally enthusiastic about the proposal. “I want that!”
Ten minutes later I was driving away from Verizon. Tom had given me the worksheet, and I’d folded it in thirds and stuck it above my sun visor. I pulled out my trusty (unless it’s decided to call in sick that day) dumb phone, and called Handsome’s mom.
“Hi. It’s me. I just left Verizon.”
“And I just wanted to explain the new plan before I forget it all. I have a worksheet I can show you later, but at the moment it’s fresh in my mind.”
“Okay,” she said. “Shoot.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but my mind was suddenly awhirl with arrows and figures. The words sampsonium and razzafraz flowed through my head, and I looked at the folded paper sticking out from the sun visor above my head: something looking vaguely like the alchemical formula for turning lead into gold stared back.
For just a moment I thought about saying Bippity, boppety, boo.
“We get more for less,” I shouted into the headset, then hung up before she could ask any questions.
I tell people I don’t want to have a phone that’s smarter than me. Sometimes, I think it’s too late.

Talk to you later!

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