October 24, 2014
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Graduating to a smart phone is simple with Face Time

My kids said it was time to “graduate” to a smart phone, although if its battery hadn’t died, I would probably still be a member of the flip-phone generation.

The flip filled the basics and a lot more.

It was home to 100 contacts, simple to use and fit neatly into a jacket or vest pocket for easy retrieval when your breast started vibrating. The vibrating thing was especially handy in meetings, even though I would get an occasional nasty stare when I didn’t bother answering and others around me would fumble to find their phone.

Undoubtedly, its best feature was voice recognition. Following a tap of a key I would instruct “call home” or “office,” or a half-dozen other frequently dialed numbers without having to take my eyes off the road or move my hand from the steering wheel. I would get a responding “calling home,” but not consistently. Every now and then, I would get a garbled response, a name I couldn’t place. I wasn’t daring enough to let the call go through. What would I say, “My phone decided to call you … is there something I should know?”

Instead, I’d snap the phone shut, re-open it and start again.

It began showing its age three or four years ago. I replaced the battery and, after the back kept sliding off, I taped it up. It had a camera but I never bothered. Only in dire straits would I text. I just don’t have the thumbs.

My son, Jack, was geared up to get me a smart phone for Christmas. It was then that I realized I had fallen behind the times. I was a cell phone dinosaur. I was missing out on all sorts of things I wasn’t sure I needed. I have Facebook and Twitter accounts but, honestly, with the blizzard of emails I get, I just don’t have time to engage. Saying something on Twitter just for the sake of saying something on Twitter doesn’t make sense to me.

“Dad,” Jack explained, “it’s much easier on a smart phone. You’ll be plugged into what’s going on.”

Certainly there was appeal in that. He pointed out that I would be able to check my email from anywhere. But, of course, there’s so much more. A GPS; an app for monitoring traffic; weather updates; camera and video; recorder and on and on.

But what phone should I get?

I started looking and quickly became overwhelmed. Jack thought the Galaxy because of the size of the screen. Maybe an iPad was the solution. Jack thought that would also be good, but start with the phone first.

I visited the Verizon store at Hoxsie Four Corners.

I pulled out the flip. I might as well have been driving a Model T. Dan, one of three salesmen who were perpetually busy, took pity. Rhode Island may still be in a recession, but there’s no shortage of people willing to spend money when it comes to their cell phone.

“Your first smart phone, right?”

I nodded, not wanting to draw attention. Other customers pretended not to look in my direction; I could tell they were stifling snickers.

“It’s the iPhone,” said Dan decisively. “It’s intuitive, you’ll figure it out in no time.”

Dan disappeared into a back room and then reported he would need to order one. It would be in the following week.

“Come in Sunday afternoon,” he said. “It’s usually slow and we can take the time to go over everything.”

I showed up Sunday, but there was the line again. It seemed pointless to hang around, especially since the store would be closing soon and Dan wouldn’t have the time for even the briefest of instructions. The weather was on my side the next week. In the midst of Thursday’s storm, I found only two customers at the Hoxsie store. Dan got me set up, transferred all my contacts and gave me a few basics. Suddenly I had joined the smart generation.

I was dangerous.

I made a couple of calls. I was doing all right without the flip.

The following night, my son Ted was over and introduced me to Face Time. He was sitting across from me, but there he was on my phone. How cool.

I put in a call to cousin Thea in Chicago, who I hadn’t seen since her wedding more than two years ago. She now has a daughter. Maybe I could get to meet Elsa.

“She loves Face Time,” Thea said, “but she’s asleep.”

We arranged to call again on Saturday. On Saturday, I got to see Elsa’s smiles and her waving hands. She wanted the phone. Thea let her have it briefly. Just as Thea said, she’s a tech-savvy kid, albeit only 11 months old. Looks like I’ve found myself a trainer.


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