One little smart phone can shake the bejesus out of anyone over 65.
Last month the phone monopoly inexplicably canceled my phone service. Not once but twice in a week. I became really pissed. When someone cuts my connection to friends, family and the outside world, it’s a big deal.
After three hours of looping around “telephone hell” I finally got an appointment with Mr. Phone Repair Man. Days later he showed up at the door, tested all the systems and reported with a self satisfied smirk on his face,
“Nothing’s wrong with the phones or lines. They are all functioning perfectly. Good bye.”
He was already out the door when I called to him,
“Why can’t I talk to anyone if it’s all perfect? Where’s my dial tone?”
He seemed to answer in parables:
“You no longer own your current phone number.” he said as he was getting into his truck and starting the motor.
“Oh?” I wondered out loud with a slight foreboding. “After 45 years, suddenly this week my number vanished? You must be joking.”
Phone Repair Guy wasn’t kidding.
“Your phone number has been exported to some unknown place.”, he offered. “According to company policy, we can’t disclose why it disappeared. We no longer own it. It was given to another company so I can’t help you. Good bye.”
” Wait a minute! I’ve had that number 45 years and paid all my bills. Now you tell me I don’t own my number? That number is me to all my friends! It is my identification. That is how I present myself to the telephonic world! You can’t mess with me like that. If you didn’t take it then who?”
Off the record Mr. Phone Repair Guy finally whispered in a hushed voice,
“Verizon now owns your number. You should now look to them for your dial tone and service. Good bye.”
With that he was rolling away and happy to be gone.
Nothing was going to happen now until I could get Verizon and Comcast on the same line talking to each other. But these companies don’t like to talk to their competitors about mistakes.
More hours in telephone hell explaining pleading, and coordinating .
The joint summit phone conference day finally arrived and I asked incredulously:
“How can this be?”.
Verizon Guy jumped in,
“Someone has requested we port the phone number out of the Comcast domain.”
“And just who could that someone else be?” I asked
“That is confidential information” Verizon Guy came back, “but under the circumstances I will tell you that the request appears to be a Mr. Barclay Henderson. You made the request yourself when you joined your home and business cell services together.”
Oh shit! That was the day I purchased a new cell phone when my old one was stolen. I must have screwed up the reams of contract documents and signed the wrong one. Then came the dreaded Verizon words:
“You must go back to our Verizon Store to straighten out the matter.”
That was a knife thrust into my spine. I dread technology stores. Every time I had been in the cell phone store I heard exciting pitches for wondrous products, but left knowing less than when I’d entered.
Driving to the store I almost had an accident while pondering the argument I would use. I was sweating and asking myself if I should have gotten council or some representation. The endless communication option plans for me are like navigating an extraterrestrial landscape alone. Reluctantly I pulled the door open and walked in.
The store was well lit, hygienic and a wren of nerds under the age of puberty. What I saw were service reps, mostly shinny faced girls who looked like my 8th grade granddaughter. They knew the latest generation handsets, pay plans, apps and everything else communications. Miss Verizon Lady knew volumes about all that I was not interested in.
Worse yet, she spoke the jargon quickly with all the assurance and condescending words of a learned sage. What she knew nothing about, – what she wanted to know nothing about was “porting out home phone numbers to business accounts.” What she simply refused to fathom was why this grumpy old man wandered into her clean store ranting about … “Whatever?”.
I took a deep breath and started again. “I simply want to restore my dial tone. You know what a dial tone is, right? All I want is to be able to talk to people on the telephone from my kitchen… At home.”
This was beyond her. The Learned Sage summoned Ms Super Sage. The Supervisor approached with a brisk step. She had a stern thin face, and a wardrobe that said “unimaginative business casual”.
“You have the ability to call from your kitchen now!” she explained with equal measure of patience and condescension. “But first you must plug in the router we gave you. That will connect to your modem and give you Wi-Fi service through Verizon’s lines. We have already activated that service. You still remember the pin number we gave you, don’t you?”
So much jargon so fast. I felt the ground under my feet getting slippery. This was turning into an argument. I had no choice but to soldier on:
“No, no, no! I purchased package of TV/High-speed Internet/phone last year for my home from Comcast. I am already paying them for an extended phone service. I can’t cancel that home plan without a big penalty.”
“We agree with you” Ms Super Sage said, still condescending and reaching the outer edge of her patience, “but once you activate our superior service you will make up the cost. By combining your home and business lines you get four handsets at the three handset price. This combining services saves you a bundle!”
“That’s true if I wanted four phones. But I don’t. It also means my company pays my home phone and TV service. My company doesn’t want to change their existing contracts. Nor am I authorizing alteration of our business phone service.”
“What are you crazy? You’ve lost all your marbles or something? Don’t want our incalculably superior service… At a lower price. You must be a nut jobs?”
That is not what came out of her mouth. But the look on her face was clear. She knew I was a dirty bastard trying to take away her sales commission, snatch the bread off her table and food out of the mouths of her children. Since her kids were going to starve, she didn’t need to understand any more.
I too had reached the limit of my understanding and just knew I wanted out of that store.
After weeks of negotiations, an exorbitant cash penalty, and more frustration, they restored service. Now all the phones work fine. I’m happily calling friends and family. What is new is that I have gained an insight into the modern world of retirement. There are a variety of ways retirees can waste their new found leisure time:
Shuffle boards, park benches, feeding the pigeons. Smart cell phone shops is no longer on my list.