BY RICH FOLEY
Back in 2005, a friend gave me one of those pre-paid cell phones that seem to be available for purchase virtually everywhere. At the time, I wrote a column titled in part: “Thoughtful gift or present from Hell?” Almost seven years and several phones later, I’m still not sure how to answer the question.
Lately, however, the evidence in favor of Hell seems to be piling up. Living in Fayette often means you’ll have trouble getting decent cell phone reception. Over the past six months or so, that has become the case in neighboring towns as well.
First my phone stopped getting service in Archbold, quickly followed by Hudson and Morenci, then Blissfield, and finally Wauseon. It still worked in Adrian and Defiance, but that’s a bit of a drive just to use the phone. It’s a good thing I still had a landline.
Besides that, I could no longer add minutes on the phone itself. Instead I had to go to the company website and jump through a series of hoops to keep my “service” active.
Last month, I finally purchased a new phone online. This one included a camera which seemed like a neat feature. After missing me twice, FedEx finally caught me at home on their final try. Then the fun began.
I actually managed to activate the phone without much trouble, but discovered I couldn’t receive or make any calls as a message advising me to call tech support appeared whenever I tried to use it.
The tech person had me try one thing after another, but finally admitted defeat and said he would send me another phone, asking me to return this one after the latest one arrived. But the phone still had some entertainment value in it as I waited for its replacement.
At 3:30 a.m. the next morning, I received a text message asking, “Shante still with y’all?” I couldn’t make or receive calls, but strangers in search of Shante were still able to reach me.
Along with the text messaging, the camera on the latest phone worked fine, so I took several photos of my Buick and of “Splinters,” the giant wooden bear at the Williams County Fairgrounds in Montpelier. I may not have been able to make calls, but my disabled phone had cool wallpaper.
The replacement phone finally arrived, complete with a broken charger. Since it was a different brand than my old phone or the one it was replacing, it was impossible to charge it. I called tech support again and was told it was about a 15 minute wait. After 31 minutes, I hung up, went to the library and emailed them, asking for a new charger.
The next morning, tech support called me. I can’t begin to tell you how tempting it was to put them on hold, then go grocery shopping or something. Instead, I took several minutes convincing the tech lady that I couldn’t turn on the phone and give them the phone number because it had no power.
She finally understood that I wouldn’t be able to turn the phone on until I had a working charger to charge it with and promised to send one to me. Six days later it arrived, inside a FedEx 2-day envelope with an “urgent” sticker on it. The 2-day package had taken five days to arrive from Indiana. Go, FedEx!
Once charged, the new phone seemed to work fine and all that remained was for me to return the previous one in the envelope provided.
The next morning, shortly before 6 a.m., I heard a short ring coming from my living room. Over the next 15 minutes, I heard it four more times. Figuring someone was texting my latest phone (Shante, perhaps?), I went out for a look.
I couldn’t find any messages, then I heard another ring—coming from inside the sealed envelope ready to mail back to the cell phone company. I carefully opened the package and found it was the low battery alarm going off. I changed the phone setting to “silent” and resealed the package.
As soon as I set the envelope down, it started squirming as if it was alive and I heard what I recognized from other phones as the “vibrate” feature. Not wanting to ruin the envelope, I decided to mail it and hope for the best.
I had planned to explain the situation to Postmaster Davis when I took the package in, but arriving after hours, I just put it in the out-of-town mailbox and said goodbye.
My only worry now is that I’ll soon receive a visit from Homeland Security regarding a quivering envelope with my return address on it. I wonder if I can make a cell phone call from Guantanamo Bay?