Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blue Bayou

Some apologies are in order.

Victoria, you are a dear friend and a great dame. I’m sorry I hung up on you three times in ten minutes.

Jill, you are a dear friend and a great dame. I’m sorry for shouting “WHAT? CAN YOU HEAR ME? DO YOU HEAR ANYTHING AT ALL?” at you.

Consort, you are not a great dame, but I think you’re fine with that. I’m sorry that while reaching into my purse to turn on my iPod I also hit “Redial” on the phone. It can’t improve our relationship for you to have heard my a capella interpretation of “Son of a Preacher Man” in its entirety.

As usual, my freakish lack of skill with electronic objects means one more labor-saving and stress-reducing tool has reduced me to tears and kicking. I have no one to blame but myself. I had to write a blog bragging I had owned the same cell phone since the Earth was being formed (three years). Within a week of crowing over such frugality my phone started to make a noise. Initially, the noise wasn’t the problem; when you’re cheap, a death rattle from a mobile phone is just something to talk over or, whenever possible, incorporate into the conversation:

QUINN ON THE PHONE:…I told them we needed at least six weeks’ run-up time for a manufacturing change, and he said -

PHONE: Vaguely intestinal sound, followed by a hoot and then an assertive beep.

QUINN ON THE PHONE: - Add an obscenity to that, and that’s pretty much it.

Annoying but manageable. After a few days, though, the phone just simply stopped working. I couldn’t get it to turn on at all. I tried the strongest tool in my arsenal of repair; I hit it against my open hand. Oddly, this failed to fix it so I went to my fall-back therapy: the charger. I put it in the charger and left it there for three days, assuming the problem had been caused because the charger wasn't working very efficiently. If anyone is thinking about offering me a position as head of an Intensive Care Unit, I want you to reconsider.

(A body, covered in a sheet, is being rolled out of a hospital room . Quinn, walking down the hallway, accosts the orderly.

QUINN: What are you doing?

ORDERLY: Taking him down the morgue.

QUINN: Did you ever stop to think he might just be breathing really slowly and shallowly?

ORDERLY: Uh. The doctors worked almost an hour trying to bring him back.

QUINN: Two words: Heavy. Sleeper. Put him back in that room and order him some breakfast. He’s going to be fine.

Back to the phone. After three days being force-fed voltage, the phone still refused to rise from the dead. It was hot to the touch but it still wouldn't make a call. I broke down and went to Verizon where it was established the battery was fine -- the unspoken implication being, of course, everything else on the phone was not only dead, but starting to smell. I wistfully inquired about repairing the phone, only to have my sales-drone laugh at me in a not-entirely unkind way. It seems repairing a phone of such antiquity would be about as practical a suggestion as heart surgery on an elderly hamster.

I caved.

I bought a new phone.

Considering the only telephonic device as obsolete as my old phone is now on display in the Smithsonian, this was already a quantum leap. But I didn't just acquire a new phone, I upgraded. I got a Bluetooth phone.

Yes, I have chosen to become one of those jerks walking around with what appears to be piece of the Skylab dangling from my ear. I was prepared to go through life as I had always gone through life, jamming my phone into my shoulder to talk to people, but a couple of things occurred to me:

1. My cervical vertebrae are starting to make noises I associate with Jiffy Pop. Neck-cradling my phone several hours a day can’t be helping.

2. If I can talk without having to wedge the phone into my clavicle this also might increase my ability to pay attention to what’s going on around me, and that would mean walking into mailboxes less often. Instead, I would become one of those people who appear to be ranting to themselves. Weighing the relative costs of a bruised ego and a bruised shin, a worthwhile trade-off.

I returned home with a densely packed bag of gizmos, all of which promised freedom from want and back pain... Just as soon as I managed to open the Seal of Eternity used on all electronic devices (and My Little Pony boxes).

The next morning, I left the house a proud owner of a state-of-the-art phone and a dangly-ear thingy. I turned to shut the front door and my Bluetooth sprung from my ear and bounced along the pavement. I replaced the Bluetooth, got Daughter to the car and leaned over to unlock the door only to see the Bluetooth make another break for it, this time into the street.

This was starting to look deliberate. I don’t know what Bluey was hoping for in an owner, but I was clearly not it. Apparently, death was preferable to having to transmit my fund-raising entreaties. I took the earpiece off and put it in my pocket, where it struggled but remained trapped.

Of course, this now meant that every time the phone rang, I would automatically unhook the phone from my waistband (taking five seconds to remember how to undo the latch) and say, “Hello?”, only to hear some very faint “Hello?” in response.




And then it would occur to me, Bluey! I must talk into and listen through earpiece! This would entail frantic seconds of mildly obscene fumbling in my own pocket shouting “HOLD ON, I’M FINDING MY THINGY!” in the direction of my lap while avoiding the glances of strangers. I would finally locate Bluey, affix it to my ear, realize it was upside-down, reattach it, turn it on…

and disconnect the phone call.

The voice-recognition tool and I aren’t having such a grand time of it either. I don’t believe I mumble more than the average person and I don’t think my needs are excessive, but Bluey and I are simply not communicating. In fact, we might need some kind of counseling.

I tap my earpiece and Bluey's voice says brightly, “Say a command”.

I answer crisply, “Call”.

The phone parries with, “Signal strength high.”

Well, okay. Glad to know that you’re feeling up to this. Can we call someone?


“Say a command.”

Is this because I didn’t say please? Because I thought that would just confuse you, Bluey.

“Call Amy.”

“Did you say call Cleve?”


“Did you say Wendy?”


“Sorry, no listings for Andy.”

I miss my old phone. Sure, it was ugly, but it had a certain homespun appeal and a real personal integrity. We had developed the kind of relationship that only comes after years of commitment. This new one is all high heels and fluffy hair, but Bluey is a lot of work. Her accessories are pricey and she’s incredibly high-strung. She’s already hinting about us spending Christmas in Aspen with her friends.

The worst thing is, I think she’s seeing other people and letting them play with her address book.

I don’t know anyone named Cleve.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laugh out loud stuff Quinn. Your head piece making a break for it the second time had me laughing so hard. Thanks

6:20 AM  
Blogger houseband00 said...

Hi Quinn,

First things first: Thanks for your comment.

Second: I have the same reservations about my 3-year-old phone. The familiarity, comfort, etc. makes it so irreplaceable.

Lastly: Thanks for making me laugh. Again.

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last year, as I was recovering from a car accident that left me with severe injuries, Verizon said that my contract was up and I had to pick out a new cell phone NOW. I wasn't very motivated, since my cell phone hadn't been very helpful after the car wreck. I had a concussion, and the very nice woman that pulled me out of the car kept trying to get me to use the phone to call my loved one or next of kin. Turns out that with a concussion, I don't know what a cell phone is, much less how to use it, or phone numbers of anyone I have ever met. So apparently I just randomly pushed numbers and listened to the beeping sound...Verizon, as I recovered, continued to insist that I pick out a new phone and wouldn't I like a camera phone? With a broken elbow and a sling, I just didn't see myself as a budding photographer at that point. Finally, just to end the Verizon phonecalls so that I could deal with the even more annoying insurance people, I told them to send me the cheapest phone they had. They sent me...a camera phone. I've never used it intentionally, though somehow, every time I go grocery shopping, I somehow photograph the car window or floor board. Anyway, thanks so much for your great column. PLEASE let us know how it is going with Ursula.

9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps you'll get a laugh from this latest cell phone weirdness. And maybe someone out there could explain it. My husband left three messages on my phone last month telling me he was waiting at a particular restaurant and where the #$%@ was I. Each message got progressively more annoyed in tone, or so he said. I eventually met up with husband and informed him I had received no calls and no messages were on my phone. We moved on. A few days ago we were vacationing at a hotel and I had the cell phone next to the bed in case of emergencies and all that. At two in the morning the phone began to vibrate - I checked and there were three voicemails. Thinking someone must have died I immediately called in and heard what I realized were the three messages that husband had supposedly left me a month ago. They were finally coming through, but here's the kicker - they came through on my husbands cell - not mine. Since I don't believe it is possible that he could have accidentally called himself and left messages on the phone he was calling from, my only conclusion is that those messages took on a life of their own and hunted me down. Waiting to spring on me through whatever phone I was near at the exact moment when they could most freak me out. I'm now afraid of my phone. Very afraid.

6:15 AM  

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