Saturday, Mar 17, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Hanging up on new cell phone

If I could just figure out how to use my new cell phone with all the latest bells and whistles, I could join the legions of text-messagers. The phone certainly is handsome, with its bright blue case and a keyboard that slips out slicker than a whistle. But why did I select this model when all I need to do is send and receive messages vocally?

There is no chance that I will write a bestselling novel on the miniscule keyboard. Humbly I admit there is little chance that I will even send a text message. I only have two friends who are into the text message craze and I have little interest in joining them.

It may be because I have not mastered, or cared to master, the art of text messaging that I think it's rude to do in company. Adult friends who can't keep their fingers off the keys while driving, in conversation, or at dinner show disrespect. You have to wonder how important you are to friend or family member if he or she can't put the phone away and talk to you. And not just put it away, but turn it off. Obviously the message they received is more important than present company because it demanded immediate attention.

However, when I found the courage to tell one friend I thought he was rude by texting and talking to me at the same time, he said that it is equally rude not to answer his text messages in a timely manner, which he feels is immediately.

Who could have predicted 20 years ago that a minister or priest presiding at a wedding, funeral, or church service would have to announce, "Please turn off your cell phones"? With that request, those of us who have not had the forethought to do so in advance scurry to find the phone in a pocket or purse and dutifully turn it off. Otherwise, cell phones would surely ring in the assembly and it could sound like band practice.

When did we become so dependent on portable phones? A wiser question is, could we survive without them? I can remember being sure I had plenty of quarters for pay phones when traveling or when at airport terminals, standing in line for a turn at a phone. Now almost everyone is on a cell phone, spilling business and family information to anyone within hearing range.

As for my handsome blue phone, so far it is as useless to me as a sewing machine. Selecting such an advanced model was foolish, but buying a new one was a necessity after the old one rode through both washer and drier in a jeans pocket. No, I didn't have insurance, but I do now. Three years ago another cell phone met sudden death when it slipped off my lap and into the tub of water during a pedicure.

Several friends have judged the new model too advanced for my level of technical knowledge and believe it should be exchanged for a more elementary phone. That is not taken as an insult to my intelligence, but is accepted as sound advice for someone who gets lost in technology jargon. When making decisions on things that impact our budgets we should stay within our capability and need levels.

But the chance of returning or exchanging the new phone 15 days after the purchase date is about as possible as winning the lottery. Pleas for a different phone at the store and through the 800 number fell on deaf ears. An explanation that I had surgery during that period was ignored.

Cell phone companies have other rules that are hard to accept. Often, the sale price on phones is only available with a two-year contract. The difference between the sale price and the retail price may be $200 or more.

If I get mad enough about the return policy and cancel the company I am with, I will get a $200 cancellation fee. So far I am not quite that mad.

Am I surviving without a cell phone? Absolutely not. I found an old one in a drawer and it is activated until I master the blue baby or I sell it on eBay.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

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