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I’m sure I’ll feel bad about it later… ehh, probably not

August 10, 2008
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My wife loves me so much that she encourages our not-quite-eight-year-old to lie to his father.

The holy grail of cellular phone technology

The holy grail of cellular phone technology

I’ve been wanting an iPhone for a while now, especially since Jeff (my brother) and Kathy (Mrs. my brother) each got one of the first generation of models.  Jeff was one of the many that stood in line for months weeks far too friggin’ long several hours to get one of the first ones that rolled out of Sunnyvale or Cupertino or Goose Island or wherever the hell Apple is actually located.  I’ve been coveting their iPhones since, and even more so now with the introduction of the new 3G generation with GPS capabilities or whatever the new ones have that the first generation didn’t.  Like it really matters.

Naturally, I’ve told Dawn about my desire for such a phone- a desire, not a “need” (I DO know the difference)- and naturally, they’ve pretty much fallen upon deaf ears.  Well, I can’t say the ears are deaf- they definitely hear my pleas, and even Dawn herself says she would like one- it’s just that, according to her, we can’t afford the increase in the bill to accommodate being able to use it the way it is supposed to be used.  She said, “it’s too expensive”.  I heard, “I’m too cheap”.  I can get kinda pissy like that.  So I had my little hissy and forgot about the notion of ever getting one, yet still silently wanted one.  Months later, I still “want” one but have the realization that I’ll never actually have one.

Fast forward to about two and a half weeks ago.  I’m at home with the boys, Dawn’s at work, and AT&-friggin’-T calls, literally, 17 times in about a four hour span.  To me, Caller ID is the best invention of the 20th century bar none, even above the air conditioner, the airplane, PEZ candy, or Pop-Tarts.  If the number is not someone I recognize (or, sometimes, someone to whom I just don’t want to talk, like AT&-friggin’-T, for example), I don’t answer the phone.  Especially if it comes up “Unknown” or “Private Call” or “Out of Area”.  If you don’t want me to know who you are, you don’t need to talk to me.  Besides, 99,999 out of any 100,000 calls we get are for Dawn anyway, so unless it’s family, I pretty much never bother whether she’s home or not.  Frankly, I’d just as soon ditch the land line all together and each of us just use our cells, but Dawn doesn’t want to do that either.  Anyway, AT&T kept calling over and over and over- I quickly ascertained that because the Caller ID came up “AT&T” (I graduated high school, after all)- and I was getting pissed-er and pissed-er, so I finally said “oh, screw it” and answered it, fully expecting to blast the poor sap minimum wage-earning telemarketer/survey taker on the other end.

Of course, it was a recorded message, spouting some shit about someone in my household recently making a purchase at an AT&T Store, and would that person please contact AT&T to participate in a customer service survey or something along that line.  So I rattle off a string of obscenities at the recorded voice for several reasons- not the least of which being because it was a recorded voice and not a real person upon whom I can rattle off a string of obscenities- and then hang up.  Dawn gets home and I tell her about the call and she says something about Christmas in July, and then said she bought herself a new car charger cord for her RAZR.  I’m thinking, they were that persistent about her customer service experience over buying a car charger?!  And then I got to thinking, wait a minute- “Christmas in July”??!  Plus the fact that when she said “Christmas in July”, Ian chimed in very quickly with a “yeah, Christmas in July”, almost as if on cue.  Hmmmm…. could it be?

So we’re getting ready for bed, and I tell Dawn about how often AT&T called about it, and how it just seemed so odd, over a car charger, no less.  I mention how, after having some time to think about it, it almost made me wonder if she had bought an iPhone.  She said “no, I did not buy an iPhone”.  And not that I thought it would have necessarily been for me- I could easily see her deciding to get one for herself.  I mean, after all, I had really been wanting a Saturn VUE when they first came out, and was planning on getting one when the lease on my pickup ran out, and then she wound up getting one about three months prior to that, after taking her P.O.S. Kia in “for repairs”.  Riiiiiggggght… Um, okay, sliding off topic again, sorry.  Anyway, no, she says, she did not buy an iPhone.  She said the Christmas in July comment was because AT&T was having a “Christmas in July” sale (it was still July at the time) and most cell phone accessories were 20-40% off or something like that.  So that made sense, and everything went back to normal, and I once again crammed coveting an iPhone back into one of the many dark “hold onto that dream” recesses of my brain.

A few days later, we’re getting ready to host dinner for the extended family as well as my Uncle Phil and Aunt Marilyn, both of whom were in town for the service for Grandma Kay.  A little over an hour before dinnertime, Dawn comes up to Ian and says, “we need to go run an errand”.  I look at the time, and think about what could possibly still need purchased or done, and ask “where are you going?”  Ian says, “yeah, where are we going?”  To which Dawn replies, “we’re running an errand; get your shoes on”, pretty much speaking to Ian and ignoring me.  I tend to get that a lot, so I didn’t really think much of it.  They leave, and return about 20 minutes later.

Ian comes strutting in with a Cheshire grin on his face and his hands behind his back, and Dawn says, “Daddy, we’ve kinda been lying to you for the last ten days or so”, and then Ian places an iPhone box in my hands.  I was so stunned that I didn’t really know what to say, but I managed to say something like “I don’t know what to say” (wow… how original) and “thanks, guys”.  I told Ian a little while later that I was not real thrilled with him lying to me like that, but that I was glad he lied to me like that.  Then we kinda had the little talk about the difference between lying and keeping a secret and surprising someone and all that jazz.  I don’t lie well- never have.  It’s not that I haven’t ever lied before; it’s just that I pretty much always get caught in it because my face usually gives it away.  Part of the reason why I don’t play poker, at least not for money.  I don’t like to lie, although sometimes I do wish I was a little better at it.  I simply suck at it.  But I really don’t want my kids to develop a knack for it.

So anyway, half of me wanted to do an “I knew it!!” dance, but the other, smarter, rational half (oh, shut up) convinced me that I was still genuinely surprised.  I asked Dawn what she was thinking when I was pressing her so much over AT&T calling, and the whole Christmas in July thing, and all that.  Had it not been for AT&T calling so frequently, I likely never would have been any the wiser.  She said that she kind of got backed into a corner and realized that she was going to have to lie to me in order to pull off the surprise, and then she realized that she had to pull Ian in on it.  At Dawn’s wedding shower lo these ten-plus years ago, one of the little games they played was that all the married women (or hell, maybe it was everyone, I don’t know- I wasn’t there) were to write a little “pearl of marriage wisdom” on a piece of paper and then Dawn read them all, one by one.  One that has stuck in my craw ever since was the one that said “never lie to him; just don’t tell him anything”.  Or maybe it was “don’t tell him everything“.  Like it really makes THAT much difference.  That has kind of almost become her mantra since that day.  If I don’t VERY specifically ask her something, she doesn’t typically offer much information sometimes.  If I don’t ask, she doesn’t have to tell me.  Sort of a lie of omission, if you will.  But only if you will.  And yes, I’m making it sound far worse than it really is, but it can be like extracting teeth through her eye socket trying to get information out of her sometimes.  And extremely frustrating.

Welcome to marriage.

ANY-hooze, she hated having to do it (especially since I actually did ask her specifically about an iPhone this time), and especially having to have Ian lie to me.  Luckily, I had neither the occasion nor the reason to press Ian about it, because if I had, I would have seen right through him.  He tries to lie sometimes (“I didn’t do anything to him!!” is one of his biggies), but fortunately for me, he {still} sucks at it, even worse than I do.  Finally, she said “if that goddamned AT&T hadn’t called, I’d have gotten away with it”.  And she would have.  If they’d even called just once or twice, or maybe even three times, I never would have gotten fed up and answered the call and never would have been tipped off.

So for the last ten days, I’ve been playing with my new toy like a kid with a new Game Boy.  I’ve been making calls for no reason, sending text messages for the hell of it, getting my email on my phone because I can, things like that.  I’ve downloaded several applications into it, most of which do absolutely nothing other than entertain me.  I’ve got one that makes “Star Wars” lightsaber sounds, one that plays a violin by using your finger to drag the bow across the strings, and one that screams “Woooo!” when you press a button (yup, that’s all it does), and I’ve got one that pours a beer that you can “drink” by tipping the phone as you would a bottle, can, or glass, after which it “burps”.  The kids love that one- Adam asks if he can drink a beer every night.  My three-year-old is a cyber-alcoholic.

I’ve also got a Sudoku game, an application that gives live updates on sports scores, one that uses GPS to find nearby restaurants, gas stations, hotels, hospitals, etc., one that finds the cheapest gas prices in your area or any area you specify, one that simulates a rotary phone and actually dials calls (should one decide to kick it mega-old school), and an AP news wire application, among other {similarly at least slightly} more useful applications.  I’ve synced all my address book contacts off the SIM card from my RAZR.  I’ve entered doctor’s appointments, Dawn’s work schedule, family and friends’ birthdays and anniversaries, all of Ian’s days off and early dismissals for the entire school year, and anything else I could think of, into the calendar.  I’ve plotted little pins representing all my contacts’ houses on the map.  And, of course, I’ve downloaded a boatload of songs from iTunes into it, and assigned “cool” and/or “wacky” ringtones to some of the people in my address book (“Freewill” by Rush for Doug and “867-5309 (Jenny)” for Jennifer, for example), and all that jazz.  I’ve really only scratched the surface of what it can do; it’s just that, in order to discover what it can do, you really have to sit and tinker with it.  Remember manuals that came with gadgets, that explained exactly how the gadget works?  They’ve pretty much gone the way of 8-tracks, Betamax tapes, and the rotary phone, not to mention corded phones in general, for that matter.  I understand the whole tree-hugging concept behind not printing up millions of product manuals, but it was sure helpful having something tangible to be able to read.  And yes, I’ve gone online and looked at Apple’s “Tips & Tricks” pages, but they really only tell what the phone and its native applications can do, not how to actually do it.

I imagine Dawn’s eventually going to get one for herself; between Jeff’s & Kathy’s, her college buddy Michelle’s, and now mine, I’m sure she’ll eventually get bitten by the iPhonemania mosquito and get one.  Are they a necessity?  Not in the least.  A $20 Go Phone (free after mail-in rebate) does the job of a cell phone quite well.  But holy crap, does the iPhone really, REALLY go far and above the functionality of a “cell phone”.  And no, I don’t “need” a fraction of the functions {the iPhone possesses} in a cell phone, but since I have it, far be it for me not to use it to its fullest capabilities.  All I need now for it is an application that does the laundry and I’m good to go.

The bottom line is that I love my new phone, and I love my sneaky, conniving bride and her juvenile accomplice for keeping me about 98.5% in the dark the whole time.  And they would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids AT&T.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. SpringfieldZebra permalink
    August 11, 2008 12:39 pm

    Johann,

    Congrats on your new toy. And yes, you must treat keeping-a-secret, different than telling-a-lie…if only to save the marriage.

    I decided that when the new 2nd generation 3G iPhones came out I would get one also, being that they were advertised at half-price, the newest coming of Christ, etc., etc., etc. When I walked in to the ATT store and told them what I wanted, the first question they asked was if I was a current ATT cellular customer. After I said “yes”, they asked if I was due an “upgrade” yet on my current phone. Knowing fully well that I had just upgraded a few months earlier, I told them I wasn’t sure. After they looked up my account, they promptly told me I couldn’t have a new phone of any kind, including an iPhone, unless I wanted to pay the full non-discounted price (which was double the advertised price for an iPhone). I wanted to say f-you, but I think I actually said something like “that’s crap”, and turned around and walked out of the store.

    What really pisses me off is that when I got my upgrade a few months ago, I really didn’t go in to get an upgrade. The battery on my RAZR was dying, and I really wanted to simply get a new battery. Well, they wanted $45 for a new battery, and that was a discounted price for being a “loyal long-time ATT customer.” But for another $5, I was eligible to get this new Samsung phone which was so much better than the RAZR, etc,, etc,, etc.

    Well, I bit their phony line and got the new phone. And what pisses my off even more, I don’t even like the damn thing, I’m almost ready to go back to my RAZR, bad battery and all. Live and learn, as they say.

    Enjoy your new toy. I’m envious!

  2. Johann permalink
    August 11, 2008 3:52 pm

    You know the Joe Pesci line from Lethal Weapon 2 about “They FUCK you in the drive-thru!”? AT&T can easily paraphrase that into “We FUCK you with the upgrades!”

    I’ve thought Cellular One-slash-Cingular-slash-AT&T’s customer service has long let much to be desired, but I’ve stuck with them for 15 years simply because they’re the best (or the least shitty, anyway), coverage and connection wise, and that’s more important in a cell phone.

    But then, other than a very, VERY few isolated instances (see BlogFreeSpringfield and his Sierra Nevada story), pretty much every company- local, national, or global- has shit customer service nowadays.

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