November 29, 2014
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There’s hope for the printed word
This Side Up

Ever get one of those looks that tell you that you’re out of tune with the rest of the world? It happened when I walked into the Verizon store on Bald Hill Road Sunday.

I hadn’t been in the store for years. In fact, it was when Filene’s Basement was still open, a generation before the Bed, Bath & Beyond that never returned to the location after the March flood of 2010. That store is now West Marine, and that’s why I was in the Verizon neighborhood.

Time to check out the latest technology I thought.

Last time I did this, I learned cell phones are not simply a device to make calls, but also an extension of one’s persona. It was pre-smart phone and pre-iPhone, yet the cell phone had already become indispensable to many. One customer, who brought her phone in because she dropped it in her bathtub, appeared to be going through separation anxiety. She choked back sobs when told she would have to part with her phone. It was a goner.

“Well, what am I going to do about my contacts, you mean they’re lost?”

I’m sure the sales representative had heard this before. He acted sympathetic. Such behavior is understandable. You probably know the feeling of losing everything on your computer. But she sounded like she had lost a close friend.

The real eye-opener was the scramble for the latest technology. Few of the customers I watched seemed as if they could be satisfied with anything less than the newest phone. And, at the time, the flip Motorola Razr phone was the rage.

The phones were going quickly and I confess Carol and I felt lucky when we left the store with a pair of them. Hers was pink; mine silver. Carol gave hers up several years ago to switch to one with a keyboard that was much easier for texting.

Mine just keeps going and going, although the battery is fading and occasionally cuts out in the middle of a call.

So, I wondered if I’d find a similar scene when I visited the Verizon store Sunday. The store is being expanded, however it remains open during the process.

It was busy, although not the frenetic crowd of years ago.

No one seemed to be especially interested in displays of the latest devices affixed to retractable cables, so they wouldn’t walk out the store. Rather, most were talking with sales representatives and technicians. No one looked to be in a rush or on the verge of a meltdown because of a cell phone crisis.

A man asked if he could help.

I asked him what plans were available, seeing that my phone was from the Jurassic age of wireless. He asked for my first name and then typed it on the iPad he was carrying.

“Someone will be with you in a moment,” he said, and left.

I didn’t have to wait long before Russell found me. I learned he is a “voice and data consultant” who could help. He started by asking for my phone number. He typed it in an iPad.

“You’re going to have to get approval before I can do anything,” he said.

The account is in Carol’s name, so she would have to approve any changes in our plan, including a new phone. 

I pulled out the Razr and dialed home.

A nearby customer looked at me in disgust, as if I had shown up at a party in a scruffy pair of jeans and dirty shirt. Russell was cool. He didn’t say anything.

I explained to Carol where I was and that I’d need her permission if Russell was to help me. I handed him the Razr – no longer the cutting edge of cell phone technology. He asked for the last four digits of Carol’s Social Security number.

Wow, I thought, this is pretty serious. I wondered what Russell would have done had I given him the name of Edward Snowden.

He tapped the number into his iPad and then I was cleared to ask questions.

Russell showed me the LG Enact and the Samsung Galaxy S3. Both looked fine.

Russell walked me though the basic functions of both phones, emphasizing they are great cameras and wonderful, “if you like music.” As a second thought, he mentioned Google, access to the Internet and, of course, e-mail.

This was light years from the old Razr.

Even so, I thought it made sense to have Carol look at the phone; there was an advantage to both of us upgrading at the same time. I asked Russell if he had brochures on the phones.

That’s when he gave me an incredulous stare.

“There’s stuff on the Internet,” he said.

He wrote out the model numbers on his business card.

The card was the only bit of printed material I left with.

As someone in the business of printing on paper, I felt buoyed.

“Yes,” I thought, “there is a future for the printed word.”


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