Budget cell phones and technofear

So you’ll recall that my Wonderful Pumpkin got laid off from his job last Thursday, and along with the paycheck, health insurance, and company PowerBook, he lost his cellular phones. Not just one, but two: A Crackberry and an iPhone.

Heh! I just thought about the title of my last post, “From two incomes to none” and realized that THIS post could be called “From two phones to none” as well! Aren’t I a card?

Anyway. Rick went to drop off some paperwork today and do some banking, and I realized after he left that I had no way to contact him when he was away from the homestead. No cell phone, no pager, nuttin’. And before you ask, no, we haven’t kept any of our old cell phones–we just a few months ago donated the old ones (the remaining phones that I haven’t destroyed) to charity. Isn’t that timely of us??!

So today we went in search of a cell phone for the Pumpkin. He’d LIKE an iPhone. Well, I’d LIKE to have a pony, and a Jeep Wrangler, and an ofume bathtub–but we can’t afford any of the above just now. We popped into a local AT&T store, because my cell phone is through them and we thought we could pick up a (free) bare-bones phone for Rick and add a line onto my account. Simple and low-cost, right?

Yeeeaaah. The guy at the store told us there really aren’t any free phones anymore. The very CHEAPEST phone we could get Rick (from the store) was $100, before tax. And it was NOT a great phone. I thought “Heck, if we’re gonna drop a hundred clams on a cell phone, why not drop two hundred clams and get him what he wants?”

I said that, and his eyes lit up, but then adulthood caught up with enthusiasm, and we agreed that we really couldn’t spend that much money on a cell phone. We decided to go home and noodle on it a bit. And search the web for cheaper alternatives.

We looked, and Rick tried to find an inexpensive phone that would also sync with his Macintosh, while I checked into pay-as-you-go phones from Target. As we looked, I commented it would be pretty ironic to get him all set up with a new phone and a new number on my account, and then for him to find a job at which they PROVIDE him a cell phone. He said “Then I could give YOU my iPhone!”

Dear Readers, you must understand that I do not need (or even really want) an iPhone that badly. I am very happy with my Motorola SLVR. I know how to enter phone numbers quickly into the address book, I can make my own ring tones and transfer them with a minimum of fuss (here’s one of my favorites) and I’ve learned the phone’s OS pretty thoroughly. My SLVR has survived several violent trips to the sidewalk/asphalt/tile as well as a dip into the (as-yet-unused) toilet, and has outlasted even a custom-made Vaja case. It has endeared me with its stoic nature. It is my electronic hero.

Plus, I fear that my reluctance to part from the familiar SLVR means that I have outgrown my nascent geekdom and become my mother. My darling mother, Norma, had a negative technological capacity–if we (her children) changed her radio from AM to FM to listen to rock & roll radio stations while we did dishes at night, she couldn’t figure out how to get it back on AM the next morning so that she could listen to the local news on WHAK (Radio 960 AM in Rogers City, MI, if you’re curious). We explained numerous times, but she never ‘remembered’ how to do it.

The clock in her car was always off, too. In order to find out what time it actually was, you had to know the algorithm that was currently in effect. One afternoon I checked the time in her car and said “No WAY is it already 10 minutes after five!” And she said “Well, of course not–it’s only 2:17.” I turned to look at her and said “Where did you get THAT from? Shadows on the ground? An invisible sundial? A little time-telling gnome that’s living in your earring??”

And she explained that the last time she tried to change the clock to the accurate time, she accidentally put the hour forward two instead of back one, and set the minutes seven too far in advance, and she didn’t feel like messing around with it any more at that point, so she just remembered how far off the time was and applied that formula with those variables every time she checked the clock. Er…wouldn’t it be easier just to figure out how to set the damn thing correctly?

Where things got cagey was when Daylight Savings Time ended or began, and she’d have to remember if she were adding or subtracting hours and if so, how many. Sometimes, in the spirit of making a fresh start for the new season, she’d try setting the clock again–and then she’d end up having to remember a new set of variables for the time formula. I’d like to think it kept her mind young, like doing crossword puzzles and word searches.

Anyhoodle. I feared I was becoming like my mother when I began to eschew technology. A few years back, when camera phones became popular, I found that I had a strong prejudice against them. Same for organisers that were supposed to do triple duty as your digital camera/videocam, and your telephone, too. NO. I want my Palm Pilot to do only planning, my telephone to be a telephone, and my digital camera to take pictures–and that’s IT. What if I were on the phone with someone and wanted to check my calendar and make an appointment? How embarrassing would it be to put someone on hold to find a telephone number or set an appointment time, and inadvertently hang up on them? And God forbid if I were driving or carrying grocery bags or doing anything else at the same time. If you have something that does everything, does it do any of those things WELL?

I told my sister Mary about the Jitterbug, a basic cellphone that’s aimed at senior citizens. It even offers a DIAL TONE. Isn’t that quaint? I thought it was a great idea, particularly for people like me who don’t want or need texting capability or camera phones or streaming video. She agreed. It’s official, I am a technophobe. Or at least, I don’t covet technology the way I used to just a few years ago. Or maybe I should sign up for a revival of The Golden Girls.

That’s why getting an iPhone isn’t the end-all, be-all for me. I just wanted to get Rick a PHONE, so I could call him if necessary, rather than setting a piece of furniture on fire and sending smoke signals from the front porch. I understand that he’s still in love (lust?) with technology, and I’d love for him to get an iPhone for his own self, but that will have to wait for a little while.

Fortunately, I’d sent out a plea to my Freecycle brothers and sisters here in Knoxville, and tonight a wonderful woman replied with an offer of two AT&T cell phones which she and her husband no longer use. We can just buy a SIM card for Rick and add a line to my account, and he’ll have a cellphone in case I flip out and need to hear his voice when he’s away from me. 🙂

Comments are closed.