Saturday, 12 January 2008


Now there’s no middle ground with mobile phones – you either love them or loathe them.
I’m in yet another camp - I’m terrified of them! Just absolutely scared witless.
We have had our mobile phone for about five years. Its been used, oh, about ten times. Now they’re changing the system, and we had to get a new one. My husband decided he should have one too. Why, I enquired, as I know he is even more scared than me. (And less technically astute! If ‘technically astute’ is knowing how to turn the damn thing on and off).
Anyway, I’ll draw a veil over the argument that ensued, and needless to say we marched off to the phone shop to buy two new phones.
‘Now’, I said firmly to the boy – and I say ‘boy’ advisedly, as he must have been all of fourteen years old – ‘I just want a plain simple little phone, to make a call and receive a call. I’m not interested in any of this texting stuff or anything’.
He just prevented himself from rolling his eyes, and from therein on treated me like the mobile phone moron that I am. When he saw our apparently absolutely ancient phone he also almost laughed out loud. We must be the last people on the planet with that particular model.
To my shock I discovered that the standard mobile phone now comes with – wait for it! – internet, video (you can take a video and send it to someone – Why? Where? When? And most importantly, HOW?) You can subscribe to something and watch movies on it. Yeah? I just prevented myself my rolling my eyes when he told me that. Have you seen the size of the screen – yeah, sure, I’d love to watch ‘Gladiator’ or something on that!
And you can play games. And you can take a photograph – but what you do with it then the book does not explain. I can transfer media files – huh? I can also send emails – why when I’ve got a perfectly good computer at home? – There’s a calendar and a voice recorder ‘to record memos or sounds’ – memos I can understand, but why on earth would I want to record sounds? And there’s Bluetooth – I thought that was what kids got when they ate too many Smarties.
I thought to myself that we wouldn’t use any of these things, we’d just make and receive calls, so wearily I agreed.
Well, reluctantly we handed our money over. I can tell you that the only moment I really became interested in the whole transaction was when I got to choose the colour of my new phone. Mine is red, his is black – and I have lots of little grey cords, and he has lots of little black cords, which I’ve put away somewhere carefully somewhere in case I need them one day!
My husband wisely said when we got home ‘Just give it to me when you’ve got it working, okay?’ He then went away to read the paper or sleep. I sat surrounded by user manuals, pre-paid manuals (for you see we are far too wise to get involved in the dreaded ‘plan’), re-charge guide (oh yes, they devote a whole book to how you can give them the money) and a computer disc (which it hurts my head just to think about).
I sat down with all the bits and pieces spread out before me and actually wished my four and a half year old grandchild was there to help me. Taking a deep breath I opened the user manual.
Open the battery cover. Okay, simple, I thought, and ten minutes and two broken fingernails later I was still struggling. I heard our teenage neighbour arrive home in his car and I dashed out, no pride at all, and begged for his assistance. With a disdainful flick of his thumb the cover flew open. His friend valiantly tried to hide his smirk. I slunk back home.
Put the battery in. Yes, okay, but which object was the battery. I thought batteries were round and long with thing-o’s at their ends. From the illustration I deduced that the battery was this flat thing, so I popped it in and hey presto! It fitted!
Great, Nothing to it, I thought. Then the instruction book said to insert the sims card. I vaguely knew that this bit was probably essential, but was it that whole credit card sized thing, or was it the little bit that looked as if you should push it out of the card, and if I did so, and I hadn’t been supposed to, what happened then?
Peering at the tiny, tiny illustration I gathered that it was that wincy bit in the middle, so I pushed it out, but where to insert it? I turned the phone over and over, and tried to poke the jolly thing into several little slots, none of which turned out to be actual openings. I tried and tried. My pride prevented me from going back to the aforesaid teenage neighbour.
Finally, almost crying in frustration, I rang the phone people – on my land line of course, my good old reliable, no frills, land line. Well, the gentleman explained ever so patiently – but I bet rolling his eyes at the same time – it goes UNDER the battery.
Well! Wouldn’t you think the book would tell you that? Wouldn’t you think that would have been Step No 1. Now I had to open the battery cover which I’d closed with such a triumphant flourish, and broke another fingernail in the process! I really shouldn’t bore you about trying to put the sims card in its little place, but half an hour later I found that you sort of slide it in under some miniscule little flap things.
Now I needed to charge it. This should be easy I thought, after all I’ve charged my old phone many times. You see I was trying to be this frugal person who didn’t waste the battery, and so I hardly ever turned my old phone on, and consequently the battery didn’t like that very much and even to get a few minutes use out of it I had to charge it all the time.
With this new phone I was determined to leave it on all the time. Which is probably just as well, as I can’t work out how to turn it off!
Once again, where to insert the charger bit – finally I found a hair’s width wide little piece that I had to lever up with one of my unbroken fingernails and put the charger in and put it on to charge for a while.
‘Got it sorted out?’ my husband asked when I appeared hot and flushed from my struggles. It’s a wonder he didn’t ask if I’d been on holidays I’d been so long doing just this bit.
Then I had to ring up to activate the phone. That entailed going through huge amounts of prompts, listening to a robotic voice, which occasionally chided me by saying ‘I don’t detect a choice’, and endless repetition of their terms, their conditions, their plans, their pre-paid offers, and did I want friends and family (what, would I prefer total strangers?), did I want my credit to run out before the recharge, after the recharge, could they please keep my credit it I didn’t use it, and on and on and on!
Finally someone repeated back to me what I had apparently chosen, and I meekly agreed. Then I had to repeat the whole sorry saga with my husband’s phone. By this stage I was feeling a bit cocky and tried to pre-empt one of the choices and ended up cutting myself off!
But, the phones were working, colours were flashing, little beeps and trills were happening as I dialled the numbers for the phone company.
I heaved a sigh of relief and decided I’d leave making an actual call until I was feeling a big better. I’d ring my husband’s phone, I decided cleverly, and then save his number, and he’d do the same to my phone.
Well, there are no simple instructions for saving numbers. I dialled his number, and pressed heaps of little buttons with heaps of little strange symbols on them. Finally one popped up that looked as if I could actually use it to do it. I tried to text in his name, made an error, and the jolly thing gleefully saved that. Now if I want to ring him I think he’s called ‘ppjk’ or something.
I wisely put the phones down for a bit. I’m not even sure that they’re turned off when I close the cover, even though I held them right up to my eye and tried to detect whether the little coloured screen went off as I snapped the ‘lid’ shut. I still don’t know.
Then a bit later I heard a beep – a message! Someone was trying to contact me – yes, the phone company offering me all the things they’d told me about via their female robot two hours earlier. It must have just been sheer willpower but I managed to delete this ever so useful message!
I should try and master this, I thought determinedly. But where, oh where, was the book that said ‘to turn your phone on do this’, ‘to save a number do this’, ‘to send a text message do this’, and so on. Just simple instructions please. The dummy’s guide! Treat me like a dummy, I don’t mind at all.
I dread asking someone how to use it – they’ll roll their eyes (both before showing me, and after!) – and they’ll flick around the teeny tiny buttons and show me things on the tinsy tiny screen at such a speed I’ll just be saying ‘yes, yes’, and it will all have gone straight over my head.
I’m not going to give you my new mobile number. I really don’t want any calls.