My first cell phone came in a black bag. A 1992 model, it had a receiver, an attachment to connect it to the cigarette lighter in my car, a battery pack and a plug for a wall socket. The numbers lit up, and you could increase or decrease the volume with a button on the side. It was a 3 watt bag phone and you could call from virtually anywhere with that kind of power.

Simple. Easy to operate. You could call from anywhere. You could answer from anywhere. That was about it.

Then somebody broke into my car and stole my bag phone.

Of course when I went to replace it, I walked into the new world of cellular technology and because I was trying to just get what I had, I settled on an older model, a secondhand hand-held number that was never entirely satisfactory. It did the job, but the printout window didn’t show who I’d called because the numbers were kind of broken up. Lately, it’s been cutting out whenever I’m in mid conversation, and at least half of my dialed calls didn’t reach their destination.

Time for a new cell phone.

So, I toodled in to visit Steve Posluns of Wise Advantage whose modest office on Collier Street opens into a mecca of technology and tried to give myself a simple, easy to operate out-line to the world. Cell at its best.

They all looked simple in Steve’s hands. He set me up with the best deal considering I’ve signed on practically for my whole life to one cell network. He explained all the cost savings and advantages of continuing with my current provider. He even ordered a zippy electric blue face for my new phone just so I can find the thing inside the black interior of my car. You know... black interior, black phone, aging eyes... it could be a problem.

Steve grabbed the phone, ran through its myriad of options, and satisfied my plea to just get me up and running and let me go. I’m not in for all the fancy stuff, I said, while he’s gesturing to the side ports for sending and receiving email, the wonder that a tiny telephone screen can actually transmit a message to me, the fact that I can figure out who I’ve called in what order for the past three months.

And on and on.

My electric blue phone and I settled in to the car. I plugged it into the lighter socket, set it in the drink cup crevice, and took off.

And then I tried to use it.

There’s no send or end button. So what’s this button here, I wonder? What phone entries do you mean? What’s silent? What selection? Who’s that at the other end? How do I get out of this email thing? I’ll just shut it off and start again. I turned it back on... 1 call missed, it read. For the next three days, the calls missed mounted up, but I never once heard the thing ring, though Steve had selected a ring that I liked at a volume I could live with. And where’s the voice mail? Can I check my voice mail?

It didn’t matter what I did, I ended up in a labyrinth of technological hobble-gobble that trapped me, until I was ready to scream. I kept turning it off and then turning it on and trying to call again. Still no calls for me... just calls missed.

Steve had made it look so simple. But I think my own internal motherboard is missing a mega chip because I’ve decided I’m the one who’s simple. There’s probably a logic to this... a couple of keys that scroll you through your options, and a couple of others that help you select the option you want. I’m sure that some seven year old could probably set me up in about 10 minutes flat.

It wasn’t until I ran into my friend Paul and handed him one of the manuals that came with the phone that things started to look up. I thought it was really nice of the phone manufacturer to give me two manuals. One for the car. One for the office. I thought. That was really considerate. So I left one manual at the office. I put the other in my car. Turns out I put the French manual in my car. Ah... that’s why there are two!

So, Paul listened to my horrible translations while he zipped through keys, unknowingly calling a friend of mine again and again and again as he kept activating the re-call button. Just as she was poised to phone the police with a harassment charge, he broke the code, figured out how the menu button worked, scrolled through 33 different ring options (including the William Tell Overture), grazed past the games section, pointed out the calculator option, and hinted at the phone’s ability to make coffee and act as a daytimer. I was beginning to have hope. We selected a ring option. Then we struggled to find the menu selection which would turn ‘silent’ to ‘sound.’ My teenaged daughter, who’s in year seven of Extended French instruction at school, quickly translated the codes to English, Paul snapped in the sound key and bingo! The phone rang.

“Were you just calling to harass me?” my friend demanded... “cause it wasn’t very funny.”

This is a lot of stress for a person who grew up with “Number Please” and a Central Operator who frequently scolded... “Donna, this is your father’s business line and you two have been talking far too long. I’m disconnecting you in 10 seconds!”

Now, that was a chip if ever there was one.

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