Cell phone problems plentiful

Sunday, September 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:14 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

I don’t consider myself an old fuddy duddy. I try to keep up on the latest technology. My coffeepot is on a timer that promises fresh-brewed java upon my arrival in the kitchen each morning. The only problem is, I haven’t learned how to set the timer and I forget to load the coffee beans at night.

I have a lovely lightweight camcorder that my husband gave me for Christmas. It was on Oprah’s “must have” holiday gift list. If you’re thinking that I haven’t taken it out of the box, you are wrong. It’s out; I just haven’t used it.

With all of the latest gadgets come the instruction manuals. And they’re not the old two- or three-page pamphlets, but hefty texts. Almost all of these booklets are printed in English and Spanish; I could read the directions in either language and not understand most of the words. I’m a visual gal. Give me a videotape with a real person showing me how to turn the gadget on and off and I’m good to go. But, alas, the techno geeks think I can just read their words of wisdom and become proficient.

Of all of the modern miracles, I adamantly resisted purchasing a cell phone. I was excited when the cordless phone came into vogue, and now I can’t imagine actually sitting in one place while talking to a pal calling from Peoria. But the driver’s seat of my car was my sanctuary. I could drive around town all day listening to talk radio or, if I preferred, total silence.

Once I caved, my life took a dramatic turn. Now I never leave the house without my cell. It is my constant companion. I take calls in the grocery store and the beauty shop. I even fumbled in my purse for the darn thing while perched on the throne in a public restroom. I draw the line when in church, as someone actually announces before Mass that all cell phones should be turned off. And I never take calls after 6 p.m., unless something major is happening in the family.

Well, this cell phone business has gotten out of hand in the Harl household. My last three bills each edged close to $200! It was time for a change. Recently, I ventured forth to check out all of the providers and get the best deal. I first went to my current company and found out that I was no longer on “contract.” That is a good thing because I can either continue with them on a month-to-month basis, or I could find a new provider. The salesman sensed my eagerness to jump ship and proceeded to try to wow me with the latest “deals.”

“I can bring that bill down by $100,” he said. “However, your phone is a little outdated. We have changed the basic technology.”

My phone, for which I paid $150 because I couldn’t figure out how to send in all the needed paperwork for the rebate, is less than two years old. It’s also a flip phone that I have hated since taking the darn thing out of the box. I watched as the young man one-handedly flipped the phone open. And although I practiced for hours, it always takes two hands for me to get it open. I can’t seem to find the tiny groove at the base of the phone. And I’ve broken many a nail trying to unwedge the cover.

At the time, the salesman also pointed out the compactness of the tiny telephone. At the time I thought that I could carry the phone in my pocket (that didn’t happen; it made my already tight slacks bulge at the thigh) or store it in the little pocket that all of the latest purses offer. But I have a habit of just throwing the thing in my bag as I trot out the back door. When I get a call I have to start hunting through the purse to find the metallic instrument, and by the time I find it hiding in a corner under my billfold, I’ve missed the call. I also forgot my password for my voicemail, so if you left a message during the past year, I couldn’t retrieve it.

The salesman showed me all of the latest wonders. There are phones with digital cameras. No, thank you. I can’t imagine pointing a phone at someone and yelling “Smile!” Same for the ones with video cameras. (Remember my camcorder at home?) Whoever came up with the idea of text messaging had too much time on her hands. The buttons on even the largest phones are so small that you have to use a stylus to peck out the letters. Why would anyone go to all that trouble when all they have to do is dial the number and talk to the person?

I finally chose another company that offered a low, set fee for my long-distance calls on my land phone. I now have another problem. My husband just bought a new car that came with a cell phone that isn’t compatible with mine.

SIGH! Here we go again.

If you have a comment or want to show me how to work this new phone, please e-mail me at

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