For obvious reasons, we've come to see cellphones and mobile communication as a good thing.The danger of brain-sizzling radiation and idiots who leave their phones on in restaurants aside, it seems like there's no downside to cellphones. They get you out of the office, make planning a breeze and generally keep you in touch wherever you might be.
As long as you don't have to deal with the people who provide your service, you're laughing. It's when things go pear-shaped and you're forced to interact with the folks pulling the strings that the deal turns a bit sour.
I use my cellphone mostly for pleasure, but hardly consider myself addicted. Fewer than a dozen people have my mobile number, I rarely answer a number I don't recognize, and I take great pleasure in turning the phone off for long stretches of time. I don't browse the Internet with it, nor do I check e-mail from it or get particularly obsessed with having the hottest phone on the market when my handheld device works just fine, thanks.
Take it away from me, though, and all hell breaks loose. Recently, the phone died. It would shut down and seize up during calls, not want to turn back on and generally became the opposite of the convenience it was supposed be.
That was nothing compared to the battle that followed.
Taking the phone back to Rogers HQ for a new one led to a Kafkaesque day-long battle that took me from downtown Toronto to North York and back in search of a replacement phone. I was told I'd have to wait for mine to be repaired (three to four weeks, which turned out to be eight) and that I could either have no phone, buy a new one for $250 or take a 1996 loaner that was the size of a shoe.
Some grumbling and the kindness of an employee who, I think, both took pity on me and hated his bosses enough to tear open a new phone and give it to me until mine came back from the shop put me back in touch.
It would have been easier for me to buy a new phone, but contract restrictions meant I'd still have had to pay full price for a phone that was still under warranty but might take two months to repair. Or I could have cancelled my service out of frustration and disgust and signed up with a new carrier, but that way I would have had to change my number and go through even more hassles.
Why it was such a big concern for me to stay in constant contact rather than simply wait out the repair time says a lot about how dependent we've become on technology and how willing we are to be inconvenienced for the sake of convenience. The ordeal I went through to get my phone back only cemented the inconvenience part of the deal.
The obvious choice five years ago would have been to just have no phone and, horror of horrors, use a pay phone to keep in touch. Now that seems inconceivable.
The old phone's back now, and I feel a bit foolish about having made such a fuss over it. Maybe I'll turn it off for even longer now. firstname.lastname@example.org