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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Two Week Smart Phone-less Challenge

  My adventures in smartphone user hit a huge snag last month.   Back in December I upgraded my failing, yet still more reliable, LG Cosmos to an LG G2.  Yes, the buttons were beginning to stop working.  Yes, the screen was scratched up horribly.  Yes, it had little Internet capability.  Yes, the battery would only last about 2 days at best.  However, it never failed me.  But, because of work demands I had to upgrade to a smartphone that had locking capability and ability to view email. 

   I didn’t pay for the phone but am still baffled how Verizon can justify their upgrade fee of $35.  The argument at the time was that if I added a new line of service, I didn’t have to pay the $35 upgrade fee.  If I just got a new smart phone I did, because it was an UPGRADE fee.  Yet, if I replaced my phone with the exact same one, it was still an UPGRADE fee.    Yeah, try and wrap your nugget around that idea.   Basically, money.   End of story.

   So, I’ve had this phone for about 7months, added all these apps, been all over the Internet, and become a zombie like everyone else.  However, I love the fact that I don’t have to pay for a Garmin, Tom Tom, or pay the $10 a month for VZ Navigator because Google does the work for you, though there are issues sometimes with the GPS getting lost.  I also love that I can handle the mundane tasks of checking email, deleting junk, scheduling appts, and banking without having to be at a computer or even in my home.  I can do it while standing in line at places, eating, or sitting in traffic (within reason).

  Yet, about six months into my contract I had issues with the phone overall.   Because I am a bit of a clutz with banana hands, I bought a $20 Body Glove rubber case for my phone which fits a little.  I say that because sometimes the corners of the phone can hang out or it doesn’t sit well inside the casing.   But, what I began to notice was that I would double tap on the phone to turn it on and that wouldn’t work.  It never registered my touch.  After a two minute ordeal, I decided to just push the button on the back.  The phone would light up and immediately shut off.  This would go on for an indefinite amount of time.  I don’t know if it’s because of the case, smudges on the screen, or defective equipment.   

  Three weeks ago, had tried to call my voice mail but couldn’t put in my password because the screen was blank.  Now, I like that the screen goes dark when you have the phone up to your ear so that your face doesn’t press any buttons, but when you return the phone to a horizontal position, the screen should detect it not being near your face and light up.   Well, along with the intermittent on/off issue, this was now a standard problem.   I pulled the phone out of the case, because it sometimes helped to take any pressure off the phone.   I noticed that I could see illumination along the edge of the screen which made me feel as if the screen was beginning to peel or detach from the phone.   I put the phone back into the case and pushed the corner in, settling the phone into the casing.  That’s when I heard it.  CRACK!!!   The glass spider webbed and cracks ran down from the top corner through to the bottom.  WTF?!?!?

  My first mistake was not immediately disabling the password.   The phone was somewhat still usable at that point though the keys were glitch.   My second mistake was letting the phone go dark.   Because now I could not shut the phone down or do anything else because the crack ran through the top of my dialpad rendering the 1, 2, and 3 buttons useless.   Most of my password used those keys.  Texts and messages came through with no way for me to respond.  I even informed my closest friends and my family of the issue and yet they continued to send me more messages even though I said, “I CANNOT RESPOND” before the screen went dark from being idle. 

  I took the phone to the Verizon store and they were less than helpful.   “You didn’t take the insurance, so you can’t get it fixed.  Even though you had this issue we don’t know if the phone was doing it before the screen cracked.  Warranty doesn’t cover this.”  Basically, I had a piece of crap on my hands.   And they peddled my ass to third party vendors to repair the screen… which was pointless because the one they suggested didn’t handle LG phones. 

  • My options were, shit can the phone and spring for a new one at $500. 
  • Get a used replacement phone for around $200 which would not have any of my stuff on it save the back up of files, videos, pictures, and contacts.  
  • Buy the replacement parts and do the work myself for around $90 plus time and effort.  
  • Find a place that does the work, which I finally did for $200.  
  • Go without.

  Since I needed my phone for work, I couldn’t go without.  I remembered a time about 10 years ago when I resisted getting a cell phone.  “Why do I need one?  I have a home phone.  If someone needs to get a hold of me, they can call me at home and I can call them back when I am available.”   Of course, being able to find out what brand of whatever I am buying from the store, because I forgot in the time it took to drive there, is nice.  Being able to announce that I will be later, early, or nope is nice.   Still, I think we’ve become too reliant on this technology.  I know I have, because I spent the next two weeks without a cell phone.

  Could you do it?  Could you put your cell phone down for two weeks and not use it.  I don’t mean your work phone.  I mean your personal phone.   The one you use to text friends and family.   The one you use to play games and check out Facebook and troll through Tinder and  The one you might be using to send inappropriate messages, or *gasp* pictures to that girl or guy you’ve been trying to date.   Whatever you use a phone for these days, could you do without it for two weeks.

  I called a place named ubreakifix, which was appropriately named.  They could get the parts and do the work for $199.  It comes with a 90 day warranty against repairs.  I had to wait a week for the parts to come in but they could do the work in about an hour and were open until 7pm which was convenient.  Yes, I could have bought the parts myself for around $90, and even though the videos I watched were around 20 minutes long, the amount of crap socked into a phone that is a half inch thick that needs to be unscrewed, unhooked, and unsnapped made me cringe.  I have all the dexterity of an oven mitt, so there is a lot that could go wrong that would be worth an extra $100 to keep me from doing it twice.

  After the parts came in, I ventured over to Bloomfield, EVENTUALLY finding a place to park which was a little lot with those newfangled parking meters.  Actually, at $0.25 an hour, it was worth it.  I walked in and less than an hour later, walked out with my screen fixed.   Worth it.  Of course, the phone still has the issue it had before which means I am going back to Verizon to give them hell.

  But, through all this I learned to deal with not having a phone 24/7.   Yes, it sucked when I picked up my car from being fixed and found out it was still screwed up and I could not call to bitch or complain, let alone call for help if it broke down.   I also learned to just listen and not multitask in a conversation while clicking away.   There are times when the cell phone is useful, but we rely on it for everything.  

  We have replaced the idea of wonder and discovery with instantaneous information and gratification.    With a smart phone you won’t get lost, or you won’t plot out a course, at least.   Having my phone back and plugging in a destination was nice, but when I got out into the middle of nowhere, beyond the route I knew, the GPS decided to say, “Well, I’m done.  You’re on your own.”   So, I had to rely on my sense of direction and visual abilities to find my way around.    But even still, with GPS support fully enabled and unwavering, you miss out on what’s around you.   You don’t discover new ways and take time to look around.

  We have this problem with living life as it is.  We manipulate the odds and outcomes.  We fill the gaps in our quiet with noise from technology.  We are in constant fear of boredom.   We need instant gratification and constant contact.  We are trying to cram so much into the empty spaces of our lives that we aren’t living it, we’re scanning it, skimming it, noting it, and moving on to the next thing.    How long do you stare at your phone after sending a message, expecting a quick response?  How many times do you look at your phone, wondering if you missed it?  How many conversations have you had going at one time?  How focused are you on any given one?  How well do you manage your time with others when you have the outlet for multiple interactions at once?   It’s all maddening.   

  So, if you can, and I suggest you try, detach.  Put the phone down for two weeks.   I don’t mean detach from technology altogether.   But there is a time and place that can be allocated for it, in a location conducive to it.    But while you are out, rely on what is around you to navigate your way.  Make decisions based on experience and given circumstances, not reports and statistics and search results at your fingertips.  Live life in real time, out in the open, and not in the palm of your hand.    

  In the last week that I’ve had my phone back, I have found that I am not as attached to it.   I walk away from it sometimes.  I forget to bring it with me from one room to the next or *shudder* almost walk off without it.  I keep the mobile data setting off for most of the time.   I don’t feel the need to constantly have it in my hand and on while I am sitting somewhere, like traffic.  I mean, I still find times to use it, but I am learning when those times are, now. 

  Can you?   

  Can you do it voluntarily?   

  Maybe we need to start shifting back into a world that doesn’t need to be connected all the time.

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