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Telephoney-Part Two

How e're it was he got his trunk entangled in the telephunk...

Now we have cell phone stores. They combine the worst of Radio Shack with the very worst of automobile dealerships to produce perhaps the bleakest shopping experience anyone's ever devised. Shopping for a new kidney couldn't help but seem refreshing in comparison.

The modern cell phone 'provider' offers 'plans' comprised of various combinations of damned whatever you do choices, and an array of actual telephones which, by the way, sometimes even involve telephony, though they much more prominently feature MP3 player, camera, GPS, and web-accessing technologies. Even the lowliest offerings tout ring tones more than usability, and the highest-end feature a dizzying library of 'apps,' which seem to be little more than opportunities to turn the ...ahem... telephone into a terribly expensive video game unit. "Hello? I'd like to place a telephone call." Fergetaboutit!

Well, we all know these features of modern communication. We understand that if we want to play, we'll have to do more than simply pay, we'll have to agree to a technological indenture. Two years before this mast seems most common because, as the folksy CEO of Sprint explained in a recent interview, the modern cell phone is a six or seven hundred dollar investment, and no one wants to pay for these machines up-front, so the cell 'provider' needs the indenture of a two year contract, with heavy penalties for early cancellation, to even hope to turn a profit. In an industry that changes technology about as often as the average person changes socks, a two year commitment seems, well, rather onerous. Who could help but imagine that the day after I sign, the company will declare moot the technology I've just committed to carry for fourteen dog years.

Anyway, my wife continues to be after me to 'upgrade' my phone. She has two Blackberries: one for home and one for work, on two different networks, Verison and ATT; both pirates. She agrees that the ATT network sucks more than the Verison network, and we have our current 'family plan' (ohhhhhh!) with Verison. So I could have any phone I want as long as it works on Verison's network.

So I spent some time this week, attitude bucked up by a recent success, browsing through their 'offerings.' And reading the reviews associated with each. I concluded that none of the phones actually work, though some seem to suck a lot less than others. That new Palm phone features the 'best mobile OS,' but also a battery life of nearly ninety minutes. The Android phones are damned expensive, app-ridden, and require a $29.95 monthly 'data surcharge' on top of the regular toll. Blackberry? I've tried to pick up calls for Amy on hers; failed. Windows phones? A joke, right?

My research leads me to tentatively conclude that I might well hold the very best of telephone technology available. My Jazz is tiny, it easily fits in my pocket. It's way too complicated and seems to have been programmed by morons who's idea of usability came from early facility with chopsticks. It texts like the proverbial monkey's typewriter. The calendar requires only a few minutes and several retrys to 'encode,' and reliably beeps or burps at the expected time. True, the ringer's intermittent, sometimes mysteriously turning off seemingly all by itself, just before an important call comes in. I suspect that with more diligent study, I might resolve this small mystery.

I might try to try out some newer model, use it for a week to see how it treats me before agreeing to any renewed indenture, but then I might not. Amy will undoubtedly encourage me to shift technologies the next time I fail to get her urgent call, and we're both certain that this will happen again and again and again. I've grown accustomed to the stereo headset where only the right earphone actually works. ("It was designed that way," the salesman told me after I'd dropped in to complain just after I'd indentured myself to the phone.) Once the ink dries on that contract, every problem quite magically becomes a feature.

Who couldn't love technology like that?

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