January 08, 2014Although retired, I advised Roadrunner editor Kim Harris that I might be inspired to produce another column (No. 8) after my two-week vacation to visit my family in Texas. Something did happen. I had an out-of-body experience. I received an I-Phone for Christmas.
If puzzled, please try to understand that an I-Phone in the hands of 76-year-old retiree is otherworldly. It's a brave new world, an Orwellian experience. For me, progress started and stopped with the land line telephone. The desk-top computer was a challenge but I mastered it – well, parts of it.
I had been complaining to my two daughters that I did not hear enough from my 4 grandchildren. They were frank. Text them or quit complaining, which meant buying one of those "gadgets." I pleaded that the kids could e-mail me or, heaven forbid, call my land line or even my cell phone. They shrugged. Then I got mean. I mentioned a possible change in my will. They didn't think that was funny.
Here's some advice for oldsters seeking or receiving new toys. Prepare to be humbled. When I entered the Verizon store with my 16-year-old granddaughter, the new normal hit me. I was not in charge, despite my obvious wisdom and 60-year-old age advantage.
The sales person said there would be a 20-minute wait. He also invited me to browse. High demand usually means higher prices. Any adult knows that. For teens, convenience trumps cost. The walls were filled with phones and accessories and the word "sale" was nowhere to be found. I have never seen so many dollar signs. At least there was no price on the carpet.
When the sales guy asked how he could serve my needs, I thought my need was to find the exit and run like crazy. However, I didn't want to embarrass my Jolie. All questions went to her and she had all the answers, which consisted of yes, no, plan A, plan B, Model 4 and not 5, and go ahead with the accessories. Her mom approved a certain price point. When that was breached, she shrugged and said okay, money is just a 5-letter word.
I intervened only when the sales person said he could offer me 1,000 texts at $10 per month. I meekly sought a senior rate, or 500 texts for $5. Better yet, how about 300 for $3? He looked at Jolie and wondered who this dinosaur was. I tried to imagine needing 1,000 of anything in any one month. Seniors use the potty more as they age, but I calculated that would max out at maybe 200 "uses" per month. One thousand texts? How stupid.
I was grateful to leave the store with the I-Phone in my pocket. This apparently is allowed for Men of a Certain Age. I was certain that these gadgets were grafted onto the right hands of all youth. I am an observant guy. I have never seen my grandchildren, or other young people, who didn't have these phones in their hands, day and night. I used to carry books and newspapers. Oh, well.
Okay, let's move on. My daughter filled in phone numbers, shown on screen as Contacts or Favorites, and re-arranged the vast array of icons so I could have Weather, Stocks, Clock and Maps easily at my disposal. Smartly, she realized these are icons worthy of my intelligence. I told her I didn't need Safari because I wasn't going on one at my age. She smiled.
Smugly I asked for the impossible -- the midday weather in Uzbekistan. One scroll, one flick and the appropriate number appeared on the screen. Darn, I said, this gadget could be fun and perhaps fearful. Data is everywhere. No wonder this country worries about Edward Snowden.
However, I digress. The whole point of this exercise was to text my grandchildren, so I sent a message to my 19-year-old in Oregon. It was rather pithy, I thought. I said, "Hi Dude, What's Happening?" His answer was "Not Much" and it came in a matter of seconds, proving my grafting theory to some extent.
I then tried my Oregon granddaughter and wondered whether I needed to say Hi Dudette. But apparently Dude covers all bases, even with animals. I tried it on my dog Maizy. She jumped up and came over for a pet. I'm kidding, of course. I have a 91-year-old friend named Ben. Somehow calling him Dude does not fit.
I feel good. I completed two texts, 998 to go. Now one week later and I still have 990 remaining. I will never get my money's worth. Did I mention that the phone was a gift but the monthly payments belong to me? I also had to sign a two-year commitment. What if I become senile and can't manipulate the I-Phone? It doesn't matter, if you sign you pay. End of discussion.
By the way, Verizon is a money-making machine. When I asked for an Instruction Manual, I was told they don't print those anymore; however, classes are offered every other leap year. What a putdown. Still, trial and error is a proven strategy, although the error rates increases with age.
I refuse to be deterred. In my dealings with Mrs. Harris the past few months I have sought finer eating establishments and a modest stipend for my writing services. Now I'm more armed and dangerous. I'm going to text Kim daily. Heaven's knows I've got plenty to spare. I sent her one today that said: LTS. She should know that this means Let's Talk Salary. I am hoping for a CITM response.
All I have received thus far is YSWLC—SN, which any writer knows all editors use as leverage. It means You Sure Write Long Columns – Stop Now! She is probably correct in saying this, although I am tempted to fire back with TPIRS, which of course means The Price is Right Scroogette.
So here's the deal. I will continue my I-Phone Follies Story next week. That means yet another freebie for my editor but perhaps some joy for my readers. As for CITM, figure it out Kim. If you do, please don't respond with LOL. I know what that means and it doesn't address my financial concerns.