Thursday, September 1, 2011

Please Help Me Welcome My Parents into the Wonderful World of Cell Phone Ownership. Finally.

I just got my parents’ a cell phone. Their very first. Aw. You can send them a congratulatory card if you’d like.

Well, truthfully, it’s not their very first cell phone.

Seven or eight years ago, I gave them one of my old cell phones when I upgraded. I went over its features and gave my dad a lesson on its use and everything. They were planning to go to the cell phone store and get the phone activated, but they never did. So the cell phone sat on a shelf in a closet gathering dust until eventually I donated it to a women’s shelter.

Then, a couple years later, my dad bought one of those pay-as-you-go cell phones so they could keep it in their car for emergencies. Only they never charged it. Not only that, but my dad said he had to continue buying monthly minutes even though they never used the previous month’s minutes. Part of the problem was that they didn’t seem to have long distance services on the phone, which pretty much eliminated everyone in their phone directory. So who were they going to call so they could use up some of those minutes?

My parents have stubbornly refused to see the benefit of cell phones because, frankly, they believe the world is a little too “connected” these days. They wonder why we have to be in constant communication with one another. In my single days, they’d roll their eyes whenever a friend would call and I’d spend the next several hours chatting on the phone. Mom used to say, “What could you possibly have to talk about for two hours??” I’d just shrug and say, “Stuff. Life. You know.”

She would look me directly in the eye and respond, “No, Jane. I don’t know.”

Mothers. You cannot be flippant with them. Ever.

Nevertheless, my parents still don’t get why people need to constantly check emails and Facebook and Twitter. And status updates? They wonder why anyone would care that someone has checked in at Applebees. “So what?” they ask.

They do have a point.

But texting? Well, texting is the ultimate time waster, in their opinion. What could be so important that we need to keep our eyes glued to our cell phones awaiting the next text? My poor parents. They have no idea. Probably I should send a random teenager to sit in their midst for about a half an hour and then they could see what real texting is all about. Even I get dizzy watching kids text each other.

However, my parents finally came to the realization that possessing a cell phone might not be a bad idea. Two main reasons for this change of heart: 1) coin-operated telephones are nearly extinct, and 2) Hurricane Irene.

My parents have a landline at their summer cottage, but they don’t like paying the minimum monthly charge during the winter months when they aren’t there. So they have it disconnected every fall and reconnected every spring. Last year, the phone had not been activated by the time they arrived at their cottage – so dad set out in search of a public telephone so he could call the phone company to complain. Not surprisingly, he didn’t have any luck. He eventually resolved the problem, but it was not an easy endeavor.

And then Hurricane Irene hit this past Sunday and my parents have been without power since then. No telephone. No electricity. No TV. Earlier that morning, they had called to warn all of us that they might lose power, but not to panic – they’d call again when they were able.

Well, we’d still be waiting (AND panicking) if a good-hearted neighbor hadn’t loaned them their cell phone so they could reassure us of their safety.

Whew. No need to call in the National Guard.

Since then they’ve called to give me daily updates from their borrowed cell phone, but mostly I think they’re bored and enjoy having a handy-dandy mobile at their disposal to connect with the outside world.

So I jumped at the opportunity. I went to the phone store and purchased the easiest cell phone with the least amount of “stuff” on it and the biggest screen (with the font sized to Extra Large for aging eyes). I added my parents to my “family plan” so there will be no excuse when they can’t find an AT&T store in their area. I entered their kids’ phone numbers in the phone’s directory. I typed up a two page list of instructions. (Actually, it would have only been one page except I had to use BIG TYPE.) And then I express shipped it to them.

Now I can only hope that they keep the phone charged and they actually use it. Maybe my weekly call to them will be on their cell phone from here on out. And who knows? Maybe they’ll get so proficient on that little flip phone, Dad will call and say, “Now how do you use this Pill Reminder function?” If that happens, then I’ll know they’ve moved into the 21st century.

But if they ever send me a text from their cell phone, I’ll probably faint.

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