When Your Phone’s a Dinosaur

Once you’re too old for pre-school, you figure out pretty quick that the term “dinosaur” is seldom meant as a compliment.

My cell phone was called that last week by a young man trying to explain some of the things that were wrong with it. I won’t name the business where this happened. Their employees are, I assume, overworked and underpaid and are probably doing the best they can in these trying times. I stopped by the store, which sells cell phones and accessories but is primarily in the business of selling cellular service, after a Monday morning meeting.

A young woman stood just inside the entrance, clipboard in hand. “How may I help you?” she asked, her body language indicating that under no circumstances was I to proceed past her. I told her my problem. “If you want to be seen today, it’s a two hour wait,” she said. “At best. Or you can make an appointment.” Two hours! I told her I would just come back tomorrow. She shook her head. “The earliest opening we have is 3:00 Friday afternoon.” What could I say but yes?

I arrived on Friday at 2:55 and noticed a couple of friends sitting in the otherwise empty row of chairs along the wall. I told the serious young man at the door my name. “What are you driving?” he asked.

“Why?” I replied. “I’m here about my phone, not my car.” Surely he’d crack a smile at that.

Nope. “You’ll have to wait in your car,” he said. “We’ll come get you when it’s your turn.”

“You’re kidding, right? My appointment’s at 3:00. How about I just kill five minutes talking to my friends over there?” Before he could stop me, I walked over and sat down beside them. Almost immediately, my name was called.

“What kind of problems are you having?” another serious young man, who—for the purposes of this column, I’ll call Mike—asked as he led me to his station. I told him that my problems started with having to wait four days to ask what I hoped would be a couple of quick questions and then being told to wait in my car just now because I was five minutes early. He stared at me without expression. I’m pretty sure he didn’t even blink.

“Never mind,” I said. “My phone’s run out of storage. And I can’t update my operating system.”

That’s when Mike broke the bad news. The phone, which I’ve had for only five years and which seems pretty much okay, is likely on its last leg. A dinosaur, so to speak. It won’t be long before it won’t be able to support the software needed to function. I groaned. But if I wasn’t yet ready to buy the latest and greatest phone, Mike said, a short-term fix would be to purchase additional cloud storage. I could buy all I would probably ever need for only 99 cents a month.

I said okay. Then came the really hard part. “You’ll have to set this up so that Apple can bill you,” Mike told me. I’d been foresighted enough to bring my password with me, just in case, but I grew flustered trying to enter it, with its illogical uppercase and lowercase letters and random numerals and punctuation marks, into the phone while Mike waited. I messed up twice. As I slowly and painstakingly typed my information for what I hoped would be the third and final time, more customers came into the store and were sent away.

Five minutes later I left, too, longing mightily for the good old days when sturdy phones hung on kitchen walls and we didn’t need passwords and a whole lot of money to make them work.

(July 10, 2021)