Monday, October 18, 2010

So long, Ma Bell; it's been fun

There comes a time in every relationship when we must say farewell, good-bye, adieu, go away, so long, get out the back, Jack, get a new plan, Stan.

That's what I've done. Qwest could not provide me with the same service and the same pricing as Verizon. By disconnecting the land line and adding a data plan to my already existent cell phone plan, I still saved almost fifty dollars a month. This understanding falls within my basic math skills. We haven't had a raise in three years. Voila. $600 raise. A trip to San Francisco. Basic math.

I'm traveling more, driving more, flying more, and generally getting lost more, so I wanted Google maps. The Blackberry scared me. The iPhone wasn't yet available on Verizon. So, I got a Droid (and it was free, thanks again Verizon, new every two plan). I was on my way to the 21st century.

But then I realized I'd have to cancel my land line, for real. I remembered getting my first phone in my name in Phoenix in 1987. Arrival, baby. Adulthood. A phone. Keep in mind, I also remember busy signals and phones that were attached to the wall with a curly cord and answering machines that were actual machines that were housed in your house, not in the great voice mail void of the airwaves. My land line has messages on it -- a message from my friend Jeffrey when he was in the hospital before he died. Birthday songs. The first message Keith ever left me. They all had to go.

I put off calling Qwest. I didn't know how to break it to them. We'd been together almost twenty-five years. Would they be sad? Actually, they were.

"Can I ask why you're canceling your service today, Ms. Herring?"

"I'm moving entirely mobile."

The sigh. I hope there are boxes of Oreos and cartons of Haagen Daz in the Qwest offices. "If you'd ever like to come back ..."

Yes. We can still be friends.

The new phone arrived overnight. We took it out of the box and stared at it. We couldn't figure out how to slide open the keyboard. We couldn't figure out how to install the battery. We turned it on and it made a lot of noises. A little green droid that looks like Gazoo, the space alien from the Flinstones, popped up and wanted to talk. The pamphlet they sent with the phone was in English and Spanish, with only a few pages of truly helpful hints. We could request a manual, or download one (377 pages) from the website. Gazoo/Droid wanted me to input my google account information. Then, it wanted me to type in the letters I saw as a security measure. They were in 4 point font.

"Can you see this?" I asked Keith.

We squinted in the kitchen at the phone. "No."

I tried punching in what I thought I saw. Gazoo/Droid was sorry that we were not communicating and tried a new set of letters and numbers. I tried again. Gazoo/Droid was still sorry that we were not communicating.

By accident, I touched the screen and it got bigger. Who knew?

Gazoo/Droid was pleased that we were now communicating, and it would begin downloading everything I've ever done on the web, on e-mail, or in the darkness of my own room.

Gazoo/Droid tried to be friendly, but he really assumed a base line of knowledge that I did not have. How do you quit an application? Why does it need to run MySpace all the time? (Ever) Why does it need constant YouTube updates? Why does it have suggestions for me on what I might want to buy in the Droid Marketplace? Why do I actually want to buy anything in the Droid Marketplace? I just want to talk on the phone, find the hotel, and maybe call a cab from time to time.

"I'm afraid of the phone," I said. "It just does things without me telling it to do anything."

It beeps, burps, rings, buzzes, snorts, and jiggles. These sounds probably mean something.

"Call me," I said to Keith.

The phone beeped and the screen flashed. I couldn't figure out how to answer it before it went to voice mail. "Huh. Try again."

The phone flashed directions. SLIDE RIGHT TO UNLOCK! Press GREEN BUTTON to answer! (I could hear the underlying "you moron" underneath the words.)


"Hello," he said.

We stood three feet apart talking to each other on the phone. "How do you hang up?"



It's been a week. Today, Qwest officially packed up the last of its clothes and left the house. I don't know where it'll go. I hope it'll be happy, find someone it can make a relationship work with. It wasn't Qwest, it was me.

I put away the actual phones with cords today. I wrapped them in plastic bags and stored them in the laundry room just in case Qwest maybe wanted to come back, just for a quickie, just for the good old days, just for one last farewell.