Is that a Nokia in your pocket, or are you glad to see me?

I'm not sure when I first got a cell phone. It was sometime after I started working at the library in 1996, and had a flat tire on the drive home. Walking to the nearest 7-Eleven in a strange neighborhood at night convinced me that having a cell phone was a justifiable safety measure. I felt like I was talking into Maxwell Smart's shoe or Dick Tracy's watch for the first few years I had the phone. That phone was six times the size of the ones I looked at this week.

At some point around Y2K I had to replace my phone, and one of these days I'll get used to this new one. It is the size of baked potato instead of a brick. When I pull it out of my purse in public I get stares usually reserved for Babylonian scribes writing cuneiform on wax tablets. I still consider my cell phone a peace of mind budget item. The roadside assistance has gotten me through automotive crises.

Thursday I went to the Cingular store and determined that my phone was due for a new contract and a discount on a new phone. Even with the discount the store didn't have any phones available for less than $150. I did get the Cingular guy to change the ringer on my ancient phone so it rings loud enough for me to hear it. He talked EXTRA LOUD to me, and kept an enormous smile on his face, as if I had escaped from assisted living and lost my hearing aids.

In a duplication of efforts, Steven went to a different Cingular store Thursday, and determined that his phone wasn't due for a contract renewal or discount. He also found he couldn't buy any phone for much less than $150. His phone no longer has a visual display, and only rings when it feels like it. This could be due to that time it fell out of his pocket when he climbed out of the Nissan 300ZX and it spent several hours face-down in the parking lot during a torrential downpour. Some other day I will write the tear-jerking chidren's story of the Velveteen Nokia...

Steven and I went together to yet a third Cingular store today. We are finally happy. I renewed the contract on my phone, and got the discount for a new phone. Steven got the new phone. He paid for the phone, which will be about $50 after he receives the $50 rebate, and I paid $19 for the privilege of renewing my contract. In February when Steven's phone is up for a new contract maybe I will be able to have a new phone. My current phone is a lot like a pet we had many years ago, Harriet the Hamster That Would Not Die. It doesn't vibrate or send text messages. It doesn't run on its exercise wheel, and it bites fat fingers.

I have recurring nightmares in which I am in various dire straits, but my fingers are too fat to "dial" my cell phone's tiny buttons. Last night I was stuck at a nature center in McKinney, Texas, because someone stole my 1972 yellow Schwinn ten-speed. I kept trying to call someone to pick me up, but my fingers were too fat. I finally had to walk home in my earth shoes through the mud--about twenty miles. So, there is a whole untapped market out there for cell phones for the mature woman with chubby digits. Small, flat phones, with big print visual displays, simple menus, and the biggest buttons possible. Burgundy, navy, taupe, and mauve, but with white covers to use between Easter and Labor Day.

My teens need a special feature on their cell phones. It would be worth a buck a month for a very loud alarm that would blast any time their phones were left in pants pockets headed into the washing machine.

If my ex is at all typical, adult males need alarms that sound when a phone is left on the roof of a car. The owner is probably putting a briefcase, gymbag, Starbucks, or blonde bimbo into the car. Without an alarm he will drive off and the cell phone will fall into a snowbank. That is what happened with his dress shoes, and you couldn't even talk into them.

While we are on the subject, could we maybe make Cingular plans easier to understand? I am thinking the billing could work like this:

All calls anywhere any time are free UNLESS
  • you forget to call your mom once a week if you are over eighteen $25
  • you forget to call your grandparents on their birthdays, anniversary, and Veterans Day $25
  • you don't check in before midnight if you are under eighteen $25
  • your ringing phone wakes your hardworking mom between midnight and six a.m. $25

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