I’ve been trying to get my IRS identity PIN number so we can file our taxes online. The people at the IRS are, at this moment, laughing at their desks over the antics of frustrated taxpayers. At least over the angst of this flummoxed citizen. The gyrations one must go through to get this number are more complex than completing a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle while typing your own blood and decoding messages from an unknown planet, especially if you have an old phone with limited function. You have to make a video of yourself so they can see you on a camera and know you are not some Russian bot trying to defraud the American government online. I took about 6 videos before the IRS rejected my attempts outright. First, they suggested I get a phone manufactured in this century. Then they sent me over to Tony for a live video confirmation of my humanity and humiliation.
This embarrassing incident drove home the notion that I may actually have to break down and buy myself a new phone. When you get to the point that you can’t even update an app you use without deleting two other ones, you should take it as notice instead of cussing and continuing with your old, outdated, museum-worthy device. I have both a fondness and hatred for this phone. I bought it during the after-flood sale at the Verizon store in Houston. It was not a used phone, but an old model trotted out from the back storeroom, along with the other dusty non-sellers, post Hurricane Harvey, to replace all those drowned phones at a deep discount. That was five years ago. Though it was seriously outdated then, it was a definite upgrade from my previous phone, so seemed like a real windfall. At the time. It is now reminding me daily I should switch to one of its great grandchildren in the Samsung family line of phones. I’ll miss those ominous “You are dangerously low on space” messages. They made me feel as if I was living on the edge.
That device gleamed with possibilities when I bought it, but I soon felt as if I were operating a stone tablet once the newest models started popping up on TV ads. I looked wistfully at all the fun people were having by merely dropping a load of cash (or 36 easy payments) for the advances of modernity. I continued to be mostly happy with my Harvey Special for the past five years and stalwartly struggled along with its limited capacity, even when I couldn’t scan a menu or take any more pictures.
Grappling with my need to stay current with just about everyone else finally sent me to the Verizon store. It’s in the same shopping center as the grocery store and the Yao’s Chinese buffet, so though I had never been inside the store, there was that feeling of familiarity vis á vis location. Verizon representative Jacob met me at the door and was, no doubt, disappointed I was not some millennial anxious to purchase the latest, coolest and most expensive device in the place. First, he attempted to sway me to upgrade to an unlimited plan—until I forced him to crunch the numbers in a math showdown. I won, but only just. There would come a time, I was warned, when the only plan offered would be the unlimited (i.e., more expensive) plan, so I might just as well switch now. I gave him the look of a disappointed mother. He seemed to be familiar with this style of admonition and dropped that particular tactic.
We moved on to phones. I told him the modest sum I was prepared to shell out for a new device and he accepted this news with good grace. Off he went into the back area of the store to look for something that fit my budget. I had expressed interest in a line of Samsung models which had decent reviews and were well within my price range. He came out with two Motorola phones. Both were thinner than my current one but longer in length. I rejected them outright. I explained that my new phone would have to fit into my a) backpack, b) fanny pack or c) pocket. I suppose there are those out there who are balking at my fussy selection method, but the damn thing would need to be stored for locomotive purposes and, no matter the quality of the machine, neither of these had the proper dimensions.
Young Jacob could not find a single Samsung phone to fit my needs in the dark interiors of the storeroom. This seemed ingenuine as the Verizon website had them plastered all over their webpage. Unless, of course, their price and capabilities made them popular among my fellow local residents. My disappointment sent the man scrambling on his computer to find any phone available in the line of models I had requested. He finally found one…in Cincinnati, or some such obscure locale. I made an appointment for ten days later to view this sought-after model he had shipped to the store and make a decision.
Today was that day! My phone was there along with Jacob, who would add an extra $100 to the eventual price tag. I should remember this in five years when I go to buy the next new phone. Quote a number $100 less than you want to spend, because that little plastic piece of film covering on the new phone face costs $40. And with set-up fee and tax, this current communication purchase went over budget.
I understand little of this new phone. The turn-on button is in a different place and I still need to set up the locking device and reinstall all my apps. I saw my pictures on the phone when Jacob switched my service over, but now I can’t find them anywhere. My long-time familiar ring tone and text ping are no longer offered. I can’t figure out how to use the camera. Whenever I hit the camera icon, I get a world beyond my comprehension. I tried to take a picture and merely received something call “Visual Matches” where there are other pictures with price tags on them. None of the pictures I tried taking show up in my gallery of photos. I am lost in a technological labyrinth without a guide.
But it isn’t all doom and failure. I was able to set up my email and Facebook! I touched the screen and got the local weather. I don’t know how that happens but it looks like it will be warm tomorrow. That’s a feature I did not have on my old phone, so all those dollars I spent will at least allow me to look up the weather at the touch of a screen. I know I will have to spend more time playing with this device to discover all it has to offer. In the meantime, I’ll try making some phone calls so that I can figure out how to put it on speaker phone and enjoy a hands-free conversation!
My salesman and I finally connected when he asked me what I did over the weekend. I proudly told him I had walked 8 miles with a couple of friends. To my surprise, he asked what route we had taken and was delighted to say he had also been out, running on the riverside trail that same morning. We might have passed one another. Like ships in the night. Or Russian bots simultaneously attempting to acquire online American identities. Kindred spirits, if you will. Dare I rely upon this comradery to call and ask him how to find my photos on this current version of technology?
Updated but clueless,