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Re: AUTOBIOGRAPHY of a USER (Telephone)

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Re: AUTOBIOGRAPHY of a USER (Telephone)

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY of a USER (Telephone)

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY of a USER

I grew up in an era when telephones were positioned properly in the living room, on a side table, next to a vase of flowers, for a bit of sass with class. It was the iconic Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, enjoying a glass of champagne before breakfast, cigarette-holder in hand, who answers the telephone with her modish and elegant, “hello darling”.

In Alfred Hitchcock’s sinister thriller Dial M for Murder the killer, Mr. Swann is hidden behind the curtains in front of the French Doors to the garden, when the phone rings Swann, the killer, advances. Grace Kelly (Margot) answers the phone, “Hello, hello, hello?” Swann has been instructed to strangle Margot when she answers the phone.

 “Don’t hang up Margot – the Killer is behind you!” the audience screams.

And then there was my Grandmother, who fell under the alluring spell of Hollywood during its Golden Age, fascinated with her soap operas and actresses, she somehow acquired a lovely tufted telephone settee, specifically designed for holding lengthy phone conversations by lamp light. Her over-sized rotary phone rested on the extension of a shelf beside her. Below the shelf was a cubby hole to neatly house a humungous Minneapolis telephone book.

Grandma’s telephone was a weighty block of machinery that was tethered to a phone jack along the baseboard of the wall by a leathery black umbilical cord that disappeared inside the walls of my Grandmother and Grandfather’s home and shot out over their yard, above my Grandmother’s flower garden and high above the neighbor’s fence. The phone lines soared over miles and miles of highway supported by hunks of trees which doubled as telephone poles. Birds would settle on the telephone lines and rest, with an aerial view of cornfields -- a virtual landscape of prairie – a far cry from the Hills of Hollywood – but still the fascination and usefulness of the telephone was compelling.

 Grandma’s hand would hover mid-air above the finger wheel before selecting a number from the dial plate. Then with one finger, she entered a number, Jackson 9 – 1412, connecting to a telephone exchange; she listened to the mechanical click, clickety click and the returning rotation of the wheel. Once connected, the phone rang the caller loud like a school bell – BRRRINNNNGGGGG!!! It was intrusive and abrupt and always sounded somewhat urgent.

 

My Grandmother loved talking on the telephone; however I don’t recall my Grandfather ever speaking into the receiver. It was Grandma’s phone. Besides, he had nowhere to sit.

 

As an adolescent, I was told my cousin Amy had received a Pink Princess Phone for her Sweet Sixteen Birthday. It was a prop designed for a glamorous debutante, living on the East Coast, a popular high school cheerleader with lots of friends. I imagined her new princess phone placed fashionably at an angle on her mirrored bedside table next to her white canopied bed and ringing with invitations to parties. That was so-o-o “AMY”, I thought, but too much pressure to be perfect. With a Pink Princess Phone came great expectations.  

When I married John, cell phones were not yet commonly used, and like everyone else, we waited until we got home and retrieved our messages from the answering machine that was connected at one end to our landline phone sitting on the kitchen counter, and at the other end to an electrical wall outlet. We both worked in New York City, me uptown, John downtown, so we would arrange to meet and commute home together. We frequently missed each other, me, waiting for my husband on an agreed upon platform at the World Trade Center, him, just a few feet away on another landing. I watched, as a blur of several thousand dark business suits brushed past me to catch the E or F Train home. Wall Street was emptying out, and I was in an island of bewilderment and aloneness, waiting end-of-day tired and anxious, on a landing, in the World Trade Center for my beloved. At that moment, I would have traded a winning New York lottery ticket to be able to contact him.

When I moved back to MN, my Sister added me to her family cell phone plan – so I had two phones. A cell phone, and a landline phone -- which was crammed daily with telemarketing calls and misdialed phone numbers. So I disconnected my landline phone and junked it. Looking at it my old landline phone, lying forlorn and rejected in the trash, I felt a bit nostalgic, but was soon past it, flying solo with my new cell phone in one hand and a steering wheel in the other. That’s all I needed. I felt “safe”. If my car broke down, I would call for help. If I wanted to chat, I could talk “anywhere” at my convenience. Life was good for at least a decade or so, – until Smart Phones were invented and my humble cell phone - almost overnight -became antiquated, inadequate, ridiculous, and yes, even to be pitied. While others were reviewing weather forecasts, news blasts, snaping impromptu selfies, and laughing at FACEBOOK postings, I had my oddly oval-shaped, semi-useful cell phone which mimicked the antics of a child with behavior problems. My phone would often “ring”, when it was turned OFF, and it would beep for hours if a “MESSAGE” was left unattended – an annoying beep – not charming and soothing like my friend’s programmed sounds of a tripping brook or the tranquil sounds of a night in the rainforest. I now looked at co-worker’s and even stranger’s Smart Phones with hesitation and envy. “Should I cross over?” I debated.

Then at the Mall, three days ago, on a whim, I upgraded to a Smart Phone. But when the phone eventually rang, and I attempted to answer it, by pushing the picture of a green telephone with my index finger, there was no response from the caller. “Hello? Hello? Hello?” I said repeatedly, just like Grace Kelly before she narrowly escapes being strangled. Not knowing that I have to swipe my finger across the screen to unlock the phone.  Now in hindsight, I realize that I should have taken some initiative and asked my friendly Best Buy Sales Person, David, a few pointed questions, before taking this pretty shiny object home with me.

I visit the neighborhood coffee shop to unravel the mysteries of my new Smart Phone, surrounded by WiFi. I am at a café table struggling and swearing under my breath and later wandering around the café with my new Smart Phone in hand when a friendly waitress approaches me. Unaware of my effect on the café patrons around me, it may have appeared I was simply overly-caffeinated, but the astute waitress is kind and efficient, showing me how to answer my phone and pick up my voice mail messages. I am profoundly grateful for her assistance and leave a generous tip.

My phone signals that there are new voice mail messages waiting to be picked up, and following the waitresses’ instructions, I am able to successfully break the code and retrieve my voice mail messages, but instead of the “audible” messages I was expecting, they are texted to me in a strange language. My MOM who resides in a Nursing Home and isn’t able to travel without Medical Assistance leaves a message stating she is driving in a red car to Litchfield – I find out later – what she actually said was “I lost one of my red slippers in the elevator”. My SISTER’s message reads, “Hi, this is EASTER KAREN” rather than the audible version which is “This is Sister Karen”. This Voice Mail feature is picking up the phonetic spelling of words rather than the actual words as they are spoken. My Phone is now prompting me – “Do you want to Upgrade Your Voice Mail to our Premium Text Plan?” It presents two options, “SUBSCRIBE” or – CANCEL” Now I am caught in a loop. There is NO way to opt out. The message will not disappear from my screen. It appears to be blocking me. The Cell Phone is directing me to accept the plan that I clearly do not want or walk away from the phone.  I am looking for the button that reads, “Back OFF”, but unable to find it. I attempt to connect to WIFI for two consecutive days, but the phone defies me, ‘Unable to Download, Try Again”, it glares back at me.

Alone at my desk, at midnight, in the comfort of my home, I log into my desktop computer and find there is an email waiting for me from SPRINT congratulating me on my new SMART PHONE, and informing me how to extend my new SMART PHONE plan, add features, warranties, etc. I search frantically for a reply button and discover “CHAT”. So I text – “Hi this is Mary. My new phone will not connect to the WIFI, I am unable to download any of the features you offer. No, I don’t want Candy Crush or Coca-Cola Freestyle, or Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire, or any of the other time wasting, addictive games you are offering. I am very frustrated with this user unfriendly device and will be returning it as soon as the stores open tomorrow morning. I WANT MY OLD FLIP PHONE BACK!”

Immediately I receive a response from a SPRINT representative, who can type at the speed of light:

Aanda M. : We received your information and will connect you with a Chat Specialist soon

Amanda M. : Thanks for contacting Sprint. I am happy to help you today.

Amanda M. : Hi Mary

Amanda M. : I apologize for the inconvenience caused

Amanda M. : I will check it here, we need to activate it first

 

Amanda M. : No worries

 
 

 

The Sprint Chat Specialist walks me through some basic setup questions and I admit to myself that I am feeling a little warm and fuzzy on this end knowing that at least someone cares.

Feeling as though I am describing an abusive relationship to my Sprint Chat Specialist I consider saying, “the phone has a Narcissistic personality disorder, is a classically poor listener, who misinterprets what I say and is trying to control my life by withholding FACEBOOK and CONTACTS from me?” Instead I text the Sprint Chat Specialist that the waitress at my neighborhood coffee shop helped me somewhat, but I live alone, and the Lobby of my building has WIFI, and it’s late so I don’t want to go down there, and I am in my unit alone, feeling scared and frustrated.

Yes, it’s true. I am feeling somewhat vulnerable.

The Sprint Chat Specialist apologizes on my phone’s behalf. “I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you”, she writes.

This could be an actual Smart Phone Therapist disguised as a Smart Phone Specialist but at this point, I am desperate, and I don’t really care how I am helped, and so I try my best to be genuine and cooperative. 

Amanda M., the Smart Phone therapist soon reboots my sadistic phone, and miraculously I am able to connect to Google.

Next day, I return to the Café, to show the waitress progress made. She rejoices with me.

Then, I linger at the front desk of my condo building and Victoria, the Assistant Property Manager informs me that she has helped many of the residents (the word “elderly” is implied with a wink) with their SMART PHONES and would be happy to help me with mine. It seems to be a universal understanding that there are those of us who understand technology (under 50 years of age) and those of us who do not – the members of AARP.

“Don’t return the phone”, Victoria advises me, “I will help you.”

Victoria shows me how to add the WEATHER app, and how to take pictures and send them to FACEBOOK. Suddenly I am ecstatically hopeful, and a spirit of joy swirls around me as I hold my new phone to the light and snap a picture of Victoria to commemorate this remarkable day. I replace the phone carefully in my bag, with the new picture of Victoria intact.

I will take it one day at a time I decide, and now, in honor of my Grandmother, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn I set my Ringtone to ROTARY DIAL.

Enchanted Traveler