Smart phones and Dumb Users

iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS

Image via Wikipedia

Until a week ago, I had a company-issued cell phone that made and received calls.  It received text messages too.  No sending of texts, and no data services, however.  I rarely used it.  I’m not fond of talking on the phone and especially cell phones.  My impatience to speak instead of listen doubly damns me on a cell phone with its one-way voice transmissions and nano-second delays.  When one of my employees laughed at my Motorola Razer phone, I bit the bullet.  Time to leave the two-thousands decade behind and enter the twenty-tens.

I acquired a personal use cell phone at my own expense, well my husband, aka the Silverback, got one for me.  I told him what features I wanted and said I didn’t care beyond that other than the phone be a pretty color.  Yes, I am that shallow.

Me:  Purple would be my first choice.

Silverback:  Or pink, right?  (He smirks a little.)

Me: (in total seriousness) Pink would be ok too, I suppose.  Red would also work.  Just be sure it has unlimited data and text messaging.

Silverback:  Do you care if it’s not an iPhone?

Me:  Well, I’ve heard those are nice.

Silverback:  Apps for the androids are free but not so much for the iPhones.

Me: (flips hand) Yeah, ok, whatever.

Silverback arms himself for battle with the local wireless vendors.  Buying a cell phone and plan is like buying a car.  The sales reps salivate when they see you coming and will quickly talk you into a more expensive plan with all sorts of add-ons if you’re not careful.  Nevertheless, I trusted the Silverback. I certainly didn’t want to haggle with the wireless merchants.

Over the course of several days, he brought home literature.  He even nagged me into visiting a Best Buy after we had a “date night”.  Nearly twenty years later and I’m still expected to “put out” for a nice meal.  Sigh…

I strolled through the phones as a girl still wearing a training bra but sporting a sleeve of tattoos droned on about the various phones and plans.  They.ALL.Looked.The.Same.To.Me.

The Silverback left even more confused than before but a little in love with Buffy the Best Buy salesgirl.

Me:  So what’s the difference between a Smartphone and an Android?

Silverback:  They’re the same.

Me:  Then why two names?

Silverback:  (sighs) All androids are smart phones but not all smart phones are androids.

Me:  (rubbing hands together over the logic challenge) So is an iPhone a smartphone?

Silverback:  Yes, only it thinks it’s smarter.

Me:  haha

One day, the Silverback returns from his hunting in the jungles of AT&T, T-Mobile, Virgin, and Verizon with two new phones.

Me:  Ooh, pretty!  Mine is pink!!

Silverback:  It’s black.  That’s just the case.  I got us [insert boring details of phone model, the plan, plan provider, added features, apps, etc. yada, yada] and it only cost $150 a month for all four phones. (our two sons got cheapie no frills phones too).

Me:  $150.  Wow.  The case only covers the back?  Where’s the sense in that?

Silverback:  You have to be able to touch the screen.

Me:  Oh.  Mine doesn’t have buttons?

Silverback:  No.  Buttons meant less screen space.  You’ll be using it more for data than text, right?  I figured you’d want a larger viewing screen.

He had me there.  This is why I love him.  He really does listen to me.

Me:  It’s got fingerprints all over it.  Is there some kind of cleaning cloth that came with it?

Silverback: (deep in concentration figuring out his own phone) Hmm?  Just use an eyeglass cloth.

I settle down next to him on the sofa and start pushing buttons, checking out ring tones.  Mostly, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.  The Silverback is tap-tap-tapping away on his, grunting with approval.

My phone rings.  I panic.  I turn to the Silverback.

Me:  What do I do?!

Silverback:  Just look at the screen and find where it says “Answer call” and tap that.

Me:  Oh.  (tap)  Hello?

Silverback:  It’s just me.  I wanted to get you in my contacts.  Bye.

Me:  How do I hang up?

Silverback:  Tap the screen.

Me:  It’s black…oh, wait.  I see now.  How do I add you to my contacts?

A verbose tutorial ensues.

Silverback:  Ok stop calling me now.

Me:  I don’t mean to but I keep tapping the wrong thing.

More silence and his and hers tapping.

Me:  This internet is way too small to see.

Silverback:  Use your fingers to expand the screen. (he demonstrates the motion with his fingers on his own phone)

Me:  Oh, got it.

I proceed to surf the web with rapid fire execution on the preloaded sites.  Typing in addresses of my own choosing, however, stymies me.

Me:  How do I get to the symbols above the letters.  The shift only makes them capital and there’s no function key!  The virtual buttons are so tiny, I keep pressing the wrong ones.

Silverback:  Turn the phone sideways.  That’ll make ’em bigger.

Me:  Oh.  But how do I enter the @ symbol for an email address?

Silverback:  Press the 12# key to shift to a numeric key pad.

I curse under my breath because my newer Kindle works the same way and that’s one reason why I miss my first Kindle.  It had separate buttons for numbers and letters.

I still have problems.  I am not a small-framed woman.  I stand about 5’6″ and wear a size 9 shoe.  No comment on the space in between the crown of my head and my feet other than to say I have very small hands and fingers.  I wear a size five and half ring.  The buttons are too damn small even for me.  How the hell do gigantic football players use these things?  How do people text only with their thumbs?  I don’t get it but I’m starting to get all the auto-correct jokes I’d been seeing before I got my smart phone.

And then I realize my problem.  I have become one of “those” people, you know, the ones who hold up the lines at ATMs and self-checkout stores and drive-thrus.  I am not a dumb person–I was Phi Beta Kappa in college and I passed the CPA exam on my first try–but somewhere in the aging process, the circuits have started to slow down a bit.  My kids now explain stuff to me instead of the other way around.

I will not go quietly into the gentle night of computerized technology, however; I will not!  I adore gadgets and I am determined to figure out my lovely (pink encased) HTC Inspire with 4G phone.  I’ll text a post to my blog crowing about it when the day comes…eventually.  The post will be a lot shorter than this one.  Promise.

The Devil Makes Coffee–A Paranoid Rant

A Starbucks barista.

Image via Wikipedia

I’d always thought paranoia limited to the homeless, schizophrenic and PTSD afflicted, until the day I realized that yes, there really are people who are out to get you.  Often for no apparent reason.

Mine is the barista at my neighborhood Starbucks (which, incidentally is NOT the young man pictured above*.  I’m sure he’s a fine fellow who loves his mother and is respectful to older women.)

Those who know me have heard me complain about said barista before.  I’ve even written a drabble about him in which he is poisoned by the customer he dissed one too many times.

My real life tormentor is actually quite an attractive man–in his early to mid-twenties, tall, with dark hair and glasses, and a tasteful five o’clock shadow.  Were I his contemporary and in possession of an unlimited coffee budget, I’d be the biggest latte addict on the planet and Starbucks’ most valued customer.

About once a fortnight, I treat myself to an easy to make, garden-variety latte. Perhaps it’s having to key in nonfat for the milk.  Perhaps I state the adjectives describing my beverage in the wrong order (is it grande nonfat latte or latte, nonfat, grande-sized or grande latte, nonfat?)  Perhaps I remind him of the mother or aunt or cousin he despises.  Maybe I once upon a time I took his parking space or cut him off in traffic.  Maybe I just have one of those faces.

What is it he actually does to warrant such a rambling condemnation post, you’re probably yelling by now?

He skips me.  Every friggin time when he’s preparing the drinks, pulling shots, he skips me.  And not just for the people who only want brewed coffee or tea.  I’m okay with those line jumpers.  It’s the serving of those who have ordered espresso drinks after me but who are served before me that rankles.

Accidents happen, you might say.  Busy coffee shops don’t and can’t always prepare in the exact order placed.  Those might be valid arguments but I swear, I’ve been the only customer and after I’ve been waiting a while, another customer will come in and STILL get her drink before I get mine.  And I also swear the barista looks right at me, right at me, before he hands the other customer her drink.  He does it as if to say, “I’m screwing with you and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it.”

Today he isn’t preparing drinks but taking orders and ringing up sales.  Aha!  Today I won’t be skipped.  Today he won’t get under my skin.

He greets me with an unexpected endearment and rings up my purchase.  I give him a five dollar bill.  I should get back some silver because the cost is three and change.  I get no silver, only paper.

I look at him, shocked.  He holds my gaze, expressionless, but says nothing.  I say nothing.  I think, “Did the prices go up or did he just help himself to a tip?”  I walk off in a confused, elderly daze to wait for my drink.  I am circling the Twilight Zone, preparing for a landing.

Another customer walks in.  My faculties are still caught in an endless loop of disbelief, but I break free enough to mentally brace for the evil barista to convince his co-worker to skip me.

My drink comes in the order placed, however, a mercy I credit to the nice lady barista.  As I walk out, I check the prices on the menu board.  They have not changed.  I stew about my tormentor’s audacity at keeping my change as a tip, a tip that he didn’t even throw into the tip jar.  I go to work and rant and rave to my co-workers.  I start writing this post and as I near the end of my diatribe, I have either an epiphany or a senior moment:

Did he give me back two dollars or one dollar?

Oh my gawd, the bastard’s undercharged me just to mess with me!!  Pure, unadulterated evil because he’s wormed his way into my head and has whipped the flames of my paranoia into a raging inferno fueled by self-doubt.  He’s laughing, taunting, daring me to say something.  Wicked, wicked barista, like Satan, a handsome devil you may be, but you are rotten to your very non Fair Trade coffee bean core.

See?  This is why I love being a writer.  I can embrace my paranoia and like static electricity, touch my fingers to my keyboard to discharge it, then go my merry way.  No one is the wiser unless, like I’ve done in this post, I confess it.  Therapeutic?  Yes.  Makes me look like a crazy person?  Absolutely.   But Mr Cute Barista Dude, if you’re reading this, I’m on to you.  Enjoy your momentary triumph under the blistering Pacific NW winter sun because though I may not laugh loudest, I always laugh last.

*Photo by Eris Siva (Eris the Barista) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons”