What have I done?

>> Monday, January 14, 2008

Well, my time with AT&T is nearing history's dustbin, though it appears they finally did get my phone on-line again--there was a dial-tone when I came home. We'll see if they bill me for whatever it was that was wrong with their service. But that doesn't matter too damn much: I called TimeWarner and they'll be setting me up with digital phone service and RoadRunner in a couple of weeks.

Digital phones don't work when the power is out, and this latest escapade with AT&T convinced me that, ironically, you have to have a backup phone for your regular phone. Which seems strange: my whole life, phones were just one of those things that were always around and always worked unless a storm took out a telephone pole. And if that happened, the phone company always seemed to be pretty good about getting a crew out to get the lines back up. That was back in the day when a telephone lineman was something you saw around, keeping the phones online, before the phone company's idea of customer service was giving you DIY instructions. These days, it really seems like the phone companies could give a fuck. So, all in all, I did something else today that I swore I would never, ever do.

See, I've been a curmudgeon and maybe even a luddite when it came to cell phones. I swore I'd never get one. Not ever. Number one, they seem to cause a lot of socially annoying behavior--people taking calls everywhere and anywhere, having loud public conversations about private matters, using the built-in cameras to block the view at concerts, texting all through lunch, etc. Number two, I like the idea of being unreachable at times. Say I'm driving in my car: nobody can call me, I can call nobody. I'm free. Anything that happens, I can't be bothered with. I can't be touched. I'm in a little bubble, free from the world.

But then there was this fiasco with my phone being out for two days. And there's also the fact that pay phones are now obsolete. It used to be that if you were on a trip and you actually did need to call someone, $.15 or $.25 or $.50 (or more depending on time and place) would allow you to reach out and touch someone. I remember when I was in college at Appalachian State, when I didn't have a telephone at the little shitshack I rented, I'd go down the hill and use a pay phone to call a girl I was erroneously dating at the time, who was at Chapel Hill (one of the ways my dad chipped in to my college education was letting me use some of the minutes on the phone card he had at the time), something I could do because there was a trinity of phone booths right there at the bottom of the hill, next to the stadium and a cluster of dorms. But now pay phones are nowhere--there's going to be a point in the not-too-distant future when some kid who sees an old Fleischer Superman cartoon or Richard Donner's Superman on the satellite TV is going to wonder why Clark Kent changes clothes in a TARDIS.

And I needed a new PDA, too. I have a great little Dell Axim X50, but it's old and nearing the end of it's expected lifespan. That is to say: I could probably go on using it for awhile, but the battery life isn't what it used to be, and it's now a low-end processor (relatively speaking) and an old (and increasingly unsupported) version of the Windows Mobile OS.

So what did I do? I ordered a smart phone from Verizon. I surrendered. I will be getting a cell phone, joining the horde, giving up a little bit of that freedom and independence I stubbornly clung to for no particularly good reason.

I tell myself that I don't actually have to turn on the ringer, and that I won't: it will be a one-way connection to the universe. I have a bad feeling about this. I have a feeling that it ultimately won't be true. That at some point I'll decide that I need more minutes than the minimum contract I signed up for, that at some point I will be standing in the line at a McDonald's chatting loudly to someone far away from me, that I will feel obligated to turn on the vibrate mode and then to check who might be rattling at me from afar. As trivial as it may seem, it feels like some bit of my identity has slipped away: I was "never gonna have a cell phone guy," as silly as that identity may seem, and now I'm just another guy tethered by radio waves.

Next stop, I suppose, is standing slack-jawed with the unwashed ranks in an athletic stadium while muzak plays on a boom box in the stands. There is one plus, however: the phone has a little camera that I can use to take pictures of my cat.


Michelle K Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 2:05:00 PM EST  

You really don't have to be an ass with a cell phone just because you own and use one.

I refuse to answer my phone while driving (and everyone knows this), and walk outside (or to a lobby) if I receive a phone call in public.

Of course I also thing that the perfect phone call consists of "I'm done. Meet you in five minutes. OK bye." :)

Wellsian,  Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 3:39:00 PM EST  

Oh by the way, I had the Time Warner digital phone with Roadrunner service, and my phone went out on at least 3 separate occasions - once for 5 days. Good luck, dude.

MWT Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 6:53:00 PM EST  

I've had a cell phone for 6 years now, and thus far none of those fates have befallen me. So have hope! You can still prevail!

I don't generally use my phone for much of anything, actually. It's extremely useful on long road trips (assuming you're not going through mountains) and family travel ("where are you?" "I'm 20 feet away in the opposite direction of where you're looking!" "oh" *hangup*). Other than that, I mostly talk to family and friends online. So the only incoming calls I ever get are either doctors confirming appointments, or wrong numbers.

Eric Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 8:54:00 PM EST  

Thanks for the encouragement!

Most folks I've spoken to about TimeWarner digital phone have been positive, but my experience with AT&T has been discouraging enough that it's part of the reason I'm getting the cell phone for backup--which is one of the most bizarre parts of the whole thing: getting a phone for in case the phone goes out.

I'm not a TimeWarner fan. I was actually frustrated with them back when I had cable. But AT&T's aggression will not stand; they peed on my rug! Or they found a stranger in the Alps! Either way, I'm finished giving them money... at least until TW pisses me off....

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