One of the things that annoys me about living in the twenty-first century is that the technology has come so far and yet it still fails to meet my expectations. How is this possible? Am I really that fussy? Apparently so, because I bought this new cell phone (to replace the one that is dead), and it is driving me nuts because I can’t figure out its black magic.

This is the first phone I have bought for myself. My husband bought my last two phones. I have always heard that buying a cell phone is easy. You walk into the store and say, “I would like to buy a cell phone,” and the person behind the counter guides you through the entire process. I suppose that is true, to some extent. I walked into the T-Mobile store and said, “I need to buy a new phone,” and the person behind the counter asked me what kind of phone I wanted, and I said, “One that is like this dead one I am holding right here.” I considered getting a fancier phone than the one that was now dead, but the dead phone, before dying, had always served me well and I really don’t know what I’d do with a phone that was smarter than I was. My husband has owned two Blackberries, and they make me crazy. I can’t stand them. He asks me to look something up on his phone while he is driving (since it is unsafe and also illegal to use your own phone while driving), and I can never do it right, and he gets exasperated, wondering how he ever managed to marry such a big dummy, and I want to throw the phone at his stupid head because to paraphrase Forrest Gump, I may not be a smart man, but I know what user-friendly is. A really smart phone would be idiot-proof, but instead he has a phone that likes to taunt idiots, which I think is kind of mean. I don’t like bullies, never have, but anyway, that’s how I came to be in the T-Mobile store asking for a phone that will at least pretend to respect me.

So the salesman pointed me toward the three phones in the store that were primitive enough to be comparable to my beloved now-dead phone, and I asked him what the difference was between two of them. He said, “This one has bigger numbers and a bigger screen.” Being that I’m old and my eyesight is going, I figured I should opt for bigger, so that’s what I did. I was a little bit sad because my old phone was lime green, which matched my iPod that is lime green and my Kindle cover which is also lime green, and I am just superficial enough that if there had been a lime green phone in that store, I probably would have bought it no matter how smart it thought it was. But there weren’t any green phones, so I settled for this midnight blue one. I felt a little mismatched when I left, but I was still excited to have a new phone because a) presumably this one worked and b) I might just find I liked it better than the old one (no disloyalty intended, but it’s not like the old phone can hear me, being not only merely dead but really most sincerely dead).

You see? I had an open mind.

Anyway, I do not like this midnight blue phone with the bigger numbers and the bigger screen better than my old phone with the adequately-sized numbers and screen. It is not as easy to use as my old phone was. It’s not impossible to use, like a Blackberry, but it’s just not easy. More to the point, I believe it is harder to use than it has any business being, given that it is allegedly not a smart phone. I don’t mean that it is putting on airs, but I think it is being deliberately annoying. I blame myself, because I believed the hype that it is really easy to go into a store and just buy a cell phone. I know better for next time. Next time I will ask the important questions. At the top of the list will be “Which phone requires the fewest steps to access my contacts list? Ideally, I would like something under three. One would be just super. There was this lime-green phone you used to carry that only required one step to access the contacts list. That was so convenient. And intuitive. You opened the phone and the word ‘contacts’ appeared right on the screen, and you pushed a button and there were your contacts, just as if you’d requested them special. Do you have anything along those lines?” I will sound matronly and old-fashioned, but it won’t matter because old ladies don’t care what other people think; they only care about getting what they want. That’s the sort of person I aspire to be.

But that’s in the future. For now I have to live with this phone, on which it is actually easier for me to just memorize all the numbers I need and punch them in myself than it is to access my contacts list. A phone number is ten digits, eleven if it’s long-distance, and that is about as many buttons as I have to push to access a particular number on my contacts list, and dialing the number my damn self will give me a sense of accomplishment and also have the side benefit of not making me want to kill someone because who the crap invents a phone that is this ridiculous? What’s the main reason anyone owns a phone? To call people! At least that’s what I’ve always assumed. Perhaps the twenty-first century has left me behind. Who knows what the kids are doing with phones these days? I don’t even want to know. (And it’s good that I don’t want to know, because I probably couldn’t figure it out even if I wanted to.)

There is another, secondary function that I like my cell phone to have, and that’s a camera for taking pictures. This phone has a camera, and after an entire afternoon on my part and ten seconds on my husband’s part, I have discovered how to access the camera in fewer than twelve steps. The problem is that there is this additional feature on the camera part that allows you to enhance your photos with these cute backgrounds–like, the actual photo part is this relatively-small circle/square and the rest of the picture is this cute background giving your subject animal ears or putting them on Mount Rushmore. The default background is a milk carton with the slogan “Got Friends?” And when I say that is the default background, what I mean is that that particular background is the default setting for the camera. I have to scroll to get to the no-background option. And there doesn’t appear to be any way to change the default setting. I’m sure there is a way, because it just seems that if there weren’t a way, that would just be too asinine for words. My head would literally explode if someone informed me there was no way to change that setting. But there doesn’t appear to be any way to change it, and if you haven’t gotten the idea yet, that is my number-one requirement for a technology device: there must appear to be a way to change it. Otherwise, there really may as well not be. And that’s where I’m at now. There is no way for me to change this setting. I have to do it manually every single time I want to take a picture, until such time as I want to make it look like I’ve taken a picture of a milk carton.

Naturally, I have some questions. To begin with: Am I SEVEN? Why would I want this feature AT ALL, let alone have it as my DEFAULT SETTING? And to end with: Why? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY???

That’s my main complaint about the camera. My other complaint–minor by comparison–is that there is no zoom on the camera. My old phone camera had a zoom. Not a great zoom–almost an inconsequential zoom, really, but at least it was there and made me feel like it was at least making an effort. So fine, I have no zoom. I’ll live. Instead of a zoom, I can adjust the brightness. I guess. That appears to be what those controls are for. They’re probably going to be about as consequential as my old phone camera’s zoom, but at least it’s something.

My only other complaint–and this is the last one so far–about the phone in general is that I like to use my phone as a way to tell time because I no longer wear a watch. I used to wear a watch a long time ago–wore watches for years, actually–but one day my watch broke and it took a long time to replace it and by the time I did, I was used to not wearing one, so wearing one now actually bugged. I tried to get used to it, but then the watch stopped working. Then my mother-in-law got me this cute Snoopy watch (I love me some Snoopy), and I was willing to try to get used to wearing it, but that watch never worked. It was only cute. And thus ended the watch-wearing chapter of my life. I would say “but I digress,” but the digression is already over, and I’m back to the phone now. I want my phone to tell me what time it is. My old phone, which was a flip phone, had this button on the side that you could push and light up the clock on the outside. This new phone, also a flip phone because I wanted a phone just like the one I had before, also has a button on the side, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the clock. I have to open the phone up to see what time it is. That bugs. And now I have my number two question for when I go in to buy my next phone.

My number three question will be “Which phone comes with an actual instruction manual, containing actual instructions?” This phone came with a “health and safety manual,” which explains in English and Spanish how to use your phone without causing a car accident or getting brain cancer, and a “start guide,” which is sort of like an instruction manual, except that it’s useless. I will summarize its contents for you: “If you are so STUPID that you can’t figure out how to use a PHONE, here’s a quick tutorial: 1. Open phone. 2. Push the buttons that correspond with the numbers you wish to dial. (Note: If you do not push the buttons in the correct order, the phone may not dial the party you wish to reach.) 3. Talk.” That’s it. Don’t do drugs, stay in school. That’s all it’s got for me.

You know, I don’t mind being condescended to, as long as I receive useful information in the process. Otherwise, have some respect.

Incidentally, I’m sure I can find solutions to all of my phone problems on the internet. Or by letting my husband fiddle with it for 15-25 seconds. But this was more emotionally satisfying. And now I’m going to take a shower.

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