Thursday, August 25, 2011

technology shouldn't be this hard

The cell-phone arrived in the mail yesterday. My sister offered to help me figure it out, but she wouldn't be available until sometime next week. So I decided to see how far I could get on my own. Millions of people use these things all the time; it shouldn't be that hard, right?


Part One: using the landline, I call the toll-free number to activate the phone. I commence navigating the computerized, phone-based sequence of instructions, which I am told will take ten minutes to complete. For some unknown reason, I am switched in the middle of this interaction from auto-response to a real, live person. This is where my troubles begin. The person is sitting in a large, loud call center that is located in a distant land, and speaks with a thickly-accented English that is difficult for me to understand. He walks me through the process, slowly and painfully as I ask him to repeat himself several times. Finally, we have established a new phone number and uploaded my minutes. Unfortunately, he has assigned me a phone number without an Oregon area code. I ask him repeatedly to change the number so my local contacts won't incur long-distance charges. He refuses -- that's right, refuses -- saying that this is the right number for the primary calling area zip code which I've given him. I thank him and get off the landline to try out my phone. First, however, I look up my cell phone's number online to see where the search service think's it's located. I discover that my number is assigned to an already-existing cell phone account in Encinas, California.

Clearly this is not going well.

Part Two: Using the landline, I call back the service center, this time asking for Technical Support and getting someone whose English is clearer and easier for me to understand. He is patient as I explain the situation to him. He walks me through some instructions, then tells me to turn off the cell phone while he does some stuff on his computer. He asks me to stay on the phone and he will tell me when it's okay to turn the cell phone back on, by which time he will have given me an Oregon area code and number.

As he types and I wait patiently, I hear a loud electrical SNAP! and suddenly my landline goes dead. Workmen installing insulation in the crawlspace have accidentally severed the phone line with their high-powered staple gun. It takes ten minutes for them to give me landline service again. Meanwhile, I was in the middle of something technical and fear I will have to begin the process all over with someone else.

Part Three: I call again, and wait for Technical Support again. I explain what has transpired so far. The new service technician asks me to turn on the phone. He types, I wait, and then my screen comes alive with light. He tells me some buttons to press, and then I am staring at my new cell phone number, this time with an Oregon area code. He calls me on the cell phone to make sure it works. It does. I think him, he thanks me, we hang up.

Part Four: I begin to try and figure out how the buttons work. This turns out to be more difficult. I would like to enter phone numbers of friends into the new phone but nothing in the instruction booklet even mentions adding contact info. Further, the way buttons work is not intuitive (at least to me) and I keep getting screens I don't want. I decide instead to send an email to my closest contacts to let them know my cell phone number. I hope that when they call there will be some obvious way to add their numbers into the phone after the call ends. I hope.

Looks like I'll have to wait till Big Sister is available next week. I can make calls and check voicemail but that is pretty much all I can do for now. I don't know how to select a ringtone, or pretty much anything else. So I'm on my way but it's slow and halting progress.

The entire process so far has taken nearly 90 minutes.

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