I am not a Luddite. Really, I’m not. I’ve had a computer–several generations of them, in fact–since 1984. I’ve used email since the mid 90s, and I love it. If I want to know something, I turn to Google. I love computers, and I get along quite well with them.
But cell phones are another matter. I’ve owned one for several years, a simple prepaid unit from Tracfone. It makes phone calls. It occasionally receives text messages, all of them from Tracfone wanting to sell me more minutes. I’ve never tried to send a text message myself. I barely know how to make a phone call with it. I bought it because I drive sixty miles a day, and I can’t deny that it’s foolish to do that without a phone. I use it now and then–the morning my battery died at the gas pump, for example. I called AAA. I give out the number rarely, mainly when I need to rendezvous with a repair man–and then I feel uncomfortably tied to the phone.
I marvel at–and not in a good way–people who walk around with BlueTooth receivers sticking out of their ears. All those people driving up and down the freeway talking into their phones make me very nervous. I once saw a man talking on his cell phone while zooming down I45 on a motorcycle. (He wasn’t wearing a helmet, either.)
But one can only resist the tide for so long. When I started to think about keeping in touch while I’m in California for the RWA conference, I considered buying a tablet or a laptop, but I couldn’t work up much enthusiasm for either. Then I saw a much more modern Tracfone than mine on a rack at Kroger, and decided to investigate an upgrade. Maybe if I had a better phone, I thought, I’d actually learn to use it.
So I went on line, of course, to research the idea. I’m not ready to sign up for a long term contract, my service with Tracfone is paid through next February, and I’ve accumulated more than three thousand unused minutes. So I checked out the phones on offer, picked out an LG with a touch screen, a camera, web and email access, and lots of features I don’t understand and may never use, and ordered it directly from Tracfone. I don’t know the technical definition of a smart phone, but this one is clearly far more intelligent than the one I have, a Nokia with a monochrome screen the size of a large postage stamp.
The first minor hitch was the web site’s insistence that someone be available to sign for the package. I knew I wouldn’t be if I had it sent to my home, so I had it sent to the office, where it arrived right on schedule Thursday morning. It sat safely in its packaging until yesterday afternoon, when I excavated it from all that plastic and plugged it into its charger. The instructions said to let it charge for five hours the first time, so I left it on the kitchen counter and went back to an exciting evening of doing laundry and watching old Star Trek episodes.
This afternoon I went on line to follow the simple instructions for transferring my account to the new phone. All went well until I got to the point where they told me what they were transferring–1100 minutes. Whoa! I may not use the phone much, but I want all my minutes. The screen gave me a phone number to call, which I did. Apparently the automatic transfer system can’t handle people like me who don’t actually use their minutes, but a helpful woman on the phone found my account in the computer system, confirmed the total minutes my old phone was reporting, and walked me through a number of code entries on the old phone designed to move the account to the new one.
Now my old phone has no minutes and my new one won’t be activated until tomorrow, hopefully with all my three thousand plus minutes available. If not, I have a ticket number that should show the next operator what the total should be.
Once I finally managed to turn the phone on–it came with minimal instructions, and even the manuals I found on line seem to assume the reader knows a lot more than I do–I spent some time learning to input my short list of contacts. I accidentally moved a whole bunch of (mostly unidentified) icons onto the main screen, and fumbled until I figured out how to move them off again (not explained in any of the instructions!). I hit the camera icon and waved the phone around, marvelling at the pictures, none of which I tried to save. (The phone accepts an extra memory card for such activities, but I had to resort to Google to find out what said cards are called and where one can purchase them–good old Office Depot, as it turns out).
Tomorrow I may be able to make a phone call. Or even send a text message!