Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cell phone angst

I got a new cell phone yesterday. This was the 5th phone I've had since I got the amazing Palm Treo in April of last year. Various defects, breakdowns, freezeups, and unrepairable flaws caused the phone to be replaced under warranty four times. Up until this point, the most unreliable piece of equipment that I'd ever owned was a 1973 Harley Davidson XLCH Sportster. It only started when it wanted to, parts vibrated off, replacement parts were unavailable, and it was uncomfortable as hell to ride. Once when it refused to start I took a large rope and tied the front forks to my buddy's '64 Chevy bumper and tried push (drag) start it. It refused to fire. After I sold that piece of crap I rode Honda's, Kawasaki's, and Moto Guzzi's. I figured those bandits in Milwaukee owed me something for my suffering and I have not been on a Harley since.

The Palm Treo has replaced the Harley on the gold medal stand as the Absolutely Worst Piece of Gear I've owned. The one good thing about the Harley Sportster was that I didn't have to sign a two year contract to ride it. I was pretty sure I was stuck with the cell phone but its amazing what negotiation leavened with a bit of anger, humor, and threats can accomplish. I now have a different phone as well as the old one that doesn't work. I wanted to take the Treo phone on a one way ride to the hunting camp and perform an experiment to analyze the results of a collision between a 235 gr .45ACP slug and a Palm Treo phone, but Bob our IT guy, a man who is unflappable in the face of electronic intransigence, insists it has some value. The ManFromSnowyLegs, an esteeemed and estimable engineer, thought my experiement had much more value, both intrinsically and as a cleansing experience, than anything IT could do with the phone. Lately however, I've been questioning the value of cell phones in general.

Several years ago at our hunting camp on Reefer Creek, one of the four Coatian brothers, a lawyer by trade, strolled into camp with a lunch pail sized black bag and announced he had a cell phone capable of making and receiving calls from the camp. The camp is well off the grid, both phone and electrical , and is also in the absolute middle of nowhere. The last mile in has grass growing in the middle of the dirt road (in the places that don't have bottomless puddles) and the camp itself is a quarter mile walk up a trail from where the cars are parked. I can't remember exactly which right thinking individual asked to see the phone. When he got it in his hands he kicked open the door, pitched the phone into the snowbank, and announced that cell phones were officially banned from the camp. It was kind of a moot point anyhow because there is still no coverage there or within several miles but the action was applauded by those of us who savored the feeling of being unreachable.

I am resigned to the fact that I need one for work. One that can show me my email when I'm on the road is nice also but when I'm on my time the phone is strictly for my convenience. A lot of people who call are offended when I tell them I simply didn't answer their call. When I'm eating, driving, talking with someone, watching the Packers, relaxing, walking the dog, or even reading a book, chances are very, very good that I won't pick the damn thing up. Also, most of the areas where I go for relaxation don't have coverage. I usually stick the thing in my possibles bag when I'm paddling, just in case someone decides to break into my car, something that actually occurred with the first 'lunch box' phone my company thrust upon me but it does not get turned on. Seems the VHF radio is much more effective on much of Lake Superior plus everyone within range can hear it and respond. The one time I had to make an emergency call my VHF radio summoned the Coast Guard and all was well.

On one of my many aggravated trips to the Verizon store, I noticed that you could get a phone for your kid that had a gps feature that allowed you to see exactly where they were at any time. This would not have been a good thing at all for the 16 year old DaveO. I had my buddy the Commish, master of the Cous Cous, tell me his 15 year old daughter had racked up something like 1,000 text messages in a month. Thats about 30 per day. Her and her friends would sit in the car when he was driving them to some event and text rather than talk. I would think this would foster a nation of introverted nerds but what do I know?

Bottom line: I gotta have one for work, they are convenient at times personally,but cannot be relied upon. I still hope to set up, execute, and record my Colt/Treo experiment for the good of mankind but it will require more negotiation with Bob in our IT department. Maybe I'll give him a call on the ol' cell phone.......

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