Aug. 26, 2009

There is a circle in hell, I am convinced, that is reserved for people who buy cell phones they knew they shouldn’t have.
   I knew better. I know what I am: A relic. An antique. Born a century too late. The works.
   The great thing about that level in Hades is that you don’t have to die to get there. You get to experience it here on earth.
   So here I am, all decked out and strutting around with my new touch phone. I am bad to the bone, having all the attitude and pomp of an Amish man with a Swiss army knife. Then, all of a sudden, this fancy-dancy, hoity-toity mobile Internet connection of mine stops working.
   I fight it, wrestle it, cuss it, but nothing helps. Only one option left to me, I grab a cigar, a Diet Coke, clear my schedule for the rest of the day, and call my service provider’s technical support.
   Amazingly, someone answered right away. I explain my problem. The gentleman, whom I’ll call Robert, was in Ontario and about the nicest technical support person I ever talked to.
   Robert ran me through a few hoops, testing this, changing that. Often this required a lot of idle time as he fiddled with the phone from his end, and we’d chat about the weather, politics, whatever.
   In one particularly loathsome period of awkward silence, I asked, “So, do any fishing?”
   Here is my world. You gotta figure a major cell phone service provider’s got thousands of support reps. I pick up the phone, call them, and get the one guy who says, “Oh, yeah! I love fishing, go all the time” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
   Robert and I talk fishing, while he’s piddling with my phone from Ontario, all the way down in Charenton. Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, trout, catfish, walleye, muskie. Finally Robert delivers the bad news that apparently there’s something wrong with my phone.
   He contacts the warranty department, since I only got the dadgum thing less than a week earlier. They agree to replace the phone, and Robert transfers me to them, but not before we wish each other “tight lines” which is a fisherman’s equivalent of “live long and prosper.”
   The nice lady in warranty asked me to try a couple other things first, which I did, to no avail. She started doing the warranty replacement data, and was about done when all of a suddenly, my phone’s Internet kicked off like a race horse.
   I fiddled with it for a few minutes, and sure enough, it was working. She said she’d have someone call me in two days to make sure it was still working, and the warranty claim would be on hold. I thanked her profusely and hung up.
   At that exact moment, my phone stopped receiving Internet. One and a half hours of technical support later.
   Back on the land line with technical support. I have to wait this time, and no, the next representative I got was not a fisherman.
   I explained the whole story, and they put me back through warranty, also a different person, and also not a fisherman. Long time later, they inform me that since I’ve only had my phone less than a week, they can’t do a warranty replacement. I have to go through sales to send me out a new phone.
   And no. He wasn’t a fisherman, either.
   My new representative is working up the order. You understand that at this point I’ve been on the phone – the house phone – for more than two hours.
   Just as we’re about to wrap up, the phone stars beeping. The house phone. The battery…is…going…dead!
   I rush inside to find the other house phone but too late. I am disconnected.
   I scream and rage and the cat and dog run for cover, Suzie looks at me sadly and tries to make me feel better and I loudly proclaim I am being punished for abandoning my well-deserved reputation as a Luddite, and my penance is to spend the rest of my life either talking to technical support, warranty or sales persons who are not fishermen, for possession of a gosh-wow phone that won’t do anything.
   Then the house phone rings.
   It is my friend from the sales department. I offered him the sacrifice of a Pacific Island virgin for calling me back. He politely declines, and I suspect he might have been Polynesian.
   My new phone arrived, and yes, it works great. I packaged up the old one, put the return shipping label on it and sent it back the next morning.
   What’s that? No, the new phone didn’t stop working. Knock on wood. Don’t put no gris-gris on me! Pacific Island virgins are in increasingly short supply in this economy.