Make no mistake about it, there are plenty of technological advances that I've embraced completely and enthusiastically over the years. I've been computer literate--and pretty darn savvy when it comes to the internet--for quite awhile now. Even more impressively, I once successfully programmed my VCR, plus I remain the only person in the entire universe who can set the clocks in both our cars and our microwave oven without having to refer to an instruction manual or ask a teenager for help.
But this whole phone thing kind of zipped past me when I wasn't looking.
Bear in mind, I grew up in a generation where a single phone was enough for a household, while using it--especially to make a LONG DISTANCE CALL--was almost a kind of a ceremony.
But somehow, attitudes changed. So did phones.
Suddenly, it seems like every woman, man, boy, girl and cocker spaniel on the planet has his or her or its own phone, many of them so-called "smartphones" that allow the user to surf the internet, play music and games, send and receive emails and take advantage of a whole gunnysack full of applications that range from kinda handy to sorta quirky to flat-out dumb. There's even a rumor going around that they can make and receive calls, but I'm not sure they're often put to such mundane use.
That last function--talking to others--is about all the old geezer of a phone that I sometimes remember to carry can manage. That's generally fine with me, though I have to admit I was pretty impressed when a friend I was talking to recently used his to both find the best gasoline prices in the area and look up the beginning and end points of the upcoming Ragbrai bicycle ride across Iowa.
My spouse, however, has been a trifle more adventurous than me, starting with the bright red model she used her upgrade on last year that featured a pull-out QWERTY keyboard, which kind of made me wonder if she was planning on exchanging texts regarding the hunky quarterback in third period study hall. Despite its glamorous color and modern features, though, that phone turned out to be a bright-red lemon. She missed more calls than she received as the messed-up phone often sucked up its own battery reserves and died over and over and over again. I figured I was about due for a free upgrade of my own this year, so I invited her to try again, thinking this time she'd choose something dull and dependable like me, er, my phone. So I was a little surprised when she turned up her nose at a bare-bones flip phone like mine and went the bells-and-whistles route again. I guess it's not quite a full-fledged smartphone, but it has a touch screen and quite a few extra features and functions that she seems to be learning as needed or desired. I felt a little left out, in fact, as she, once again, leapt boldly into the 21st century, while I glumly lagged behind in a technological funk.
It was not until she encountered her first real problem with the phone that I was able to recover some self-esteem.
She: I can barely hear on this new phone when someone calls me.
Me: (wisely) Hmmmm.
She: I've tried turning up the volume on the earpiece, but that doesn't help.
Me: (wiser still) Hmmmm. Well, let me take a look. Maybe I can fix it.
Disgusted, she gave me the phone and stalked out of the room. I handled the thing gingerly and sort of clumsily, too, sort of like a chimpanzee who's been handed a six shooter. I was pretty sure that my usual methods for fixing things, which generally involve copious amounts of duct tape or a sharp rap with a ball-peen hammer, weren't quite what was called for.
Then, something caught my eye.
The little plastic sheet that is supposed to protect the touch screen from scratches and smudges had slid a little bit out of place. It had, in fact, slid right over the tiny ear hole on the listening end of the phone.
I slipped the sheet back into its proper position went to find her.
Me: Here, try this. I'll call you. See if it's better.
She: Why, that's MUCH better. What did you do? How did you fix it?
Me: Ah, just adjusted the transmogrifier. Brought 'er up to spec. Let me know if you need more help.
Quickly, I made my way out of the room before she could ask for any additional demonstrations of my new-found technical abilities.
I guess someday I'll have to give up and upgrade to something newer, fancier and more up-to-date myself.
And eventually, I guess I'll have to be smart enough for a smartphone.
But for now, I'm just glad I was smart enough--just this once--to fix one.