Jilly D.

Are you smarter than a smartphone?

In Uncategorized on May 31, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I Need the Dummies Guide to Smartphones.

My first cellular phone love-hate relationship started with my honey Sam’s old truck phone that used an analog signal. Sam’s phone was state of the art for 1997. It was the size of a shoe box and black leather. What a step up from the old CBs of his trucking days on the road in the 1980s.

 Sam used to call a service technician who worked for an alternative energy company in Arizona.

 “Hi Bucky, this is Sam in upstate New York and I wanted to let you guys know how well this windmill is working here today. We have got steady winds at 20 miles per hour and she’s purring,” Sam would tell him. He didn’t know this dude from a hole in the field. Yet, he knew how hard this guy’s job must be in a new industry where the best intentions do not translate into technical competence.

I have no patience when challenged by mechanical and technical difficulties. It’s my Achilles heel and emotional hell. Sam could fix anything.   

“So beam me up, Scotty,” he would say at those moments he found most frustrating. Occasionally on Sundays before supper we’d watch public television reruns of the original Star Trek, and both of us were captivated by this powerful part of our own childhoods.

So why can’t I get in 2011 a telephone that works when I am away from my desk?

Going to New York City for Book Expo with a new LG Ally from Verizon with the Droid platform was like holding Doctor Spock’s primitive remote control panel and its batteries too low to do any beaming up of anything.

Can you say novice? When I purchased this sci-fi paranormal gadget, I was lucky to have the generous patience of a young tutor, Bethany Dixon, now free-lancing with my editorial company, Swenson Book Development, LLC. She gave me a good introduction. Still an idiot behind the wheel, I stopped in at my local Verizon retail outlet and demanded an immediate expanded tutorial. I was too embarrassed to tell Bethany what a bad student I was.

I touched the screen and it didn’t do what I expected. The young cat who had the misfortune of dealing with me, crazy white woman, showed me how to turn on and off the ringer on the phone. He suggested a two hour introductory class held the last Wednesday of every month.

Dang, the day I leave for NYC is the next class. I hate to miss it. I felt vulnerable without passing a driving test on this new mobile highway. My first car, a used 1968 VW bug, I knew how to operate, but now I’m holding in my hand the motherboard console of the Starship Enterprise.

The short time I’m at the Verizon store, I learn how to text. Really. I hate this miniature keyboard that slides out, but it’s better than trying to touch the screen. What happened to 90 words per minutes on a keyboard? My fingers work better than my thumbs, thank you.

I can’t read it. Print too small for this 50-something dame. I’m never reading a book on this device!

I’ve learned this cell phone requires its own kinesthetic language. One touch means one thing and another touch means something else. I use my pinkie to stroke an icon and the screen changes. I use my index finger to press and another thing happens. If you need to look closer, you have to bring your index and middle finger into a sweep up and apart. Is this weird in a Star Trek way or what? And if you want to zoom backwards you use your index and middle fingers to pinch it close, closer, closed. Whoah.

I prefer the pace of riding bareback horse with just a rope and halter on a woodland trail to this widgetry. Like Hansel and Gretel, I leave my crumbs of a digital trail to find my way back out of this dark forest.

Riding a bus home from the Cornell Club in Manhattan made a good transition as I could see the greening of the landscape and the release of people from their gadgetry. In the city everyone uses an iphone or smartphone at all times. It’s the wallet to one’s social capital. As we got off the interstate, more laptops closed, more cell phones shut down, and I heard more real conversations among passengers. Face to face discussions among strangers sounds like music to my ears as the bus pulls in to Ithaca. Home.

Strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet. Welcome all aliens. Call me on that damn cell. I’ll get right back to you. Hah.

What I resist is the dependence upon a particular platform or delivery system of electronic information. Just when you think you can trust it because it serves a paying public, it feels as though you’ve been one of the suckered. And this is not because I once spent good money on cassette tapes I can’t enjoy. I didn’t give up my vinyl until 1999, and Prince’s album was in the mix.

I arrive at the Oxley Equestrian Center on Cornell’s east campus and get in my car and head back to my cottage. The closer I get to my dogs and bed, the more relaxed I become. No phone, no computer, no noise. Unplugged is sacred space. Sam seduced me down the lane to this truth.


  1. Ooooo, welcome to the future!

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