Columns

2014.03.12 That buzzing in my pocket

on . Posted in By The Way

It finally happened sometime last summer. I bought a used a cell phone and now I've become one of those people who reach into their pocket, pull out a small electronic device and begin pushing buttons.

I didn't really want to do it. I didn't mind living as some strange anomaly from the past. When asked why I didn't want one, it was simple to look at the people around me and conclude: Why would I want to be able to talk on the phone anytime, anywhere? Are you nuts? I enjoy walking around unconnected, free of anyone wanting to pester me.

So why did I take this plunge? I'm sure it was because of credit cards. The old-fashioned Observer has never had a credit card machine, but when several companies began offering the ability to read a credit card via a cell phone, I knew that was a good solution. We could take people's money without the hassle of a special machine and I would have a cell phone to mess around with. It's not that I'm opposed to new technology. I thought it would be interesting to learn to use one.

So how is the credit card reader working out? I finally got around to successfully setting it up in January. It seems as though the only time a customer has asked about using a card lately is on a Monday or Tuesday when I don't even want to mention the option that's in my pocket. I just allow my colleague, Kim, to give the embarrassing explanation that we are unable to leave the 1980s and therefore need cash or check. Or eggs or something.

One of these days, some lucky customer is going to be the first person in the Observer's 143-year history to pay for a classified ad by credit card. Won't that be an exciting and noteworthy day? I should have a prize in the waiting.

Back to my cellular phone…. A friend of mine was my advisor in this matter. He suggested a company called Ting because it's really cheap if you use it correctly and they even sell refurbished phones. The catch is that Ting uses Sprint and everyone seems to know that places such as Morenci and Fayette are not Sprint-friendly. There are exceptions, of course. If you live in the old Baptist Church parsonage, you should be happy. There are a few spots around town. 

I really like Ting. I like its customer service and I like its sense of humor. I had my mind set on Ting and I wasn't about to let lack of coverage get in the way. Besides, I planned to use the phone via a wifi connection. At home, at work…I'm all set. On the road? Remember? I don't really want people to call me all the time.

This situation has not proven all that popular with certain family members. The cell phone’s value should be that people can reach me anywhere, not just at work and at home where wifi is available and I'm standing next to a landline telephone. I have relented. I've given my real Ting number to family members and they can call and hope I took the phone off airplane mode to save on battery juice.

If I get a call on my Ting number, it's going to cost three bucks. No, not for one call; for the month. I know, I don't deserve to have a cell phone, but to me, it's a little hand-held computer. Lots of fun.

So if I'm not giving out my Ting number, what am I doing? I give out my Google number that's associated with Mt. Gilead, Ohio. If you ever get a call from Mt. Gilead, it is probably me. I like my Google number and I love getting voice mail on it because the written translations are so fascinating. Here's a school closing announcement from last month:

"This is a Marin C area schools alert message currency area schools are closed today aboard 5th, 2014. Dude increments mother again currency schools are closed today. Thank you."

I never wanted to be one of those people messing with their cell phone when they just as well could be staring off into the distance, bored, but I'm doing it. 

But here's the worrisome thing: Many times at work I will have the phone out of my pocket and on my desk, and I will still feel a mysterious vibration now and then, as though an important message just arrived. What is this little ting? Does anyone have an explanation for Phantom Vibration Syndrome?

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