December 19, 2013

WILLIAMS: Phones too much hassle


---- — I have the Comcast bundle for phone, Internet and cable television – you know, one of those packages that start at $60 a month and now, a couple of years later, is up to $187 even though I haven’t added any new services. Comcast is now one of my most expensive utilities, second only to the gas bill.

I also have an answering machine. Sometimes my messages go to the answering machine and sometimes they go to Comcast’s site on the computer (indicated by a blinking light). I have never been able to figure you why. Do Comcast and the answering machine draw straws when a message comes in? A man is the serious voice on the answering machine; a woman is the friendly voice representing Comcast.

I have always had a cell phone even though I never cared much for them because I’m one of those people who can’t stand to be behind the times. It turned out that my cell phone was mostly a waste of money because I always forgot to keep it charged. After about the 100th time, most people gave up on trying to call me.

I learned to hate my cell phone when I worked at Indiana Legal Services because I got so many calls from people hoping I could do for them what I probably wouldn’t be able to do.

I told people, “Don’t text me. I ‘delete all’ without reading them.” Much to my son’s disgust, I still haven’t learned how to text.

I turned in my work phone when I retired and I let my contract lapse on my personal cell. It was a smartphone, smarter than its owner. I got it only because I could get the NASCAR app. The last time I went to the Brickyard 400, it was so hot, we had to leave the grandstands to keep from keeling over from heat and I ended up watching the race on my phone.

Then Mom had a stroke. She was in the hospital, then the rehab facility. I wanted them to be able to reach me wherever I might be so I got another cell phone. Consumer Cellular, no contract, $17.95 a month, 200 minutes (which I’ve never used). Since Mom died, I haven’t charged it but I will take with me to Florida in case of an emergency.

When John was here and Jan came over, they sat at the kitchen table and barely spoke to me. They were too busy texting. They both have the latest iPhones. “Have you downloaded this app?” he’d ask.

“No, show me. That sounds cool.” (Why either one of them need to be able to check the current price of gold or the Dow at a moment’s notice, I don’t know. As far as I know, neither of them own any stocks or gold).

Excited they’d say, “You can get panoramic pictures? Wow, I want that capability!”

Meanwhile, I’m fixing them oven steak and Boston cream pie and being ignored. iPhones can do almost everything for you but they can’t cook oven steak and Boston cream pie yet — although it’s probably just a matter of time.

When I return from my trip, my little red $17.95 a month flip phone will probably be allowed to go into sleep mode again. I do still have a home phone if you need to call me. If I’m not there, leave a message with either the Comcast Lady or the Answering Machine Man and I’ll get back to you.

The peace of not having a cell phone is worth not knowing the price of gold.

Vicki Williams is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached through the newspaper at