Dan’s Upgrade

My husband has at last entered the 21st century! After literally decades of resistance, he has moved up from the flip-phone to the smartphone.

Of course, when we first got cell phones, all of them were flip-phones. And we thought we might be the last people on earth to get even those. A few misunderstandings that led to shouting and accusations of discourtesy meant that we needed to enter the digital age. After one particularly loud and angry … discussion, we decided to take the plunge. Dan in particular was reluctant to get a mobile device, since he didn’t want to be “tied to his phone” and perpetually available. But he had to admit that cell phones had their uses.

His compromise with his own Luddite leanings was never to figure out how to use the thing. While he eventually figured out how to record a voicemail message and even to leave a message on my phone, he never learned how to retrieve voicemail left for him. Instead, he let it pile up until the phone always reported that his voicemail was full, making it useless. (I recently deleted his voicemail and the messages there were all from January of a year ago, and most of them were from his mother. But I digress.)

Once smartphones became available, I opted for one when my flip-phone crapped out. Dan kept replacing his with another flip-phone when it was out of order or he lost it so thoroughly that it was likely in a different state, or maybe another country. I thought it might be because he wanted a phone that was most like a Star Trek communicator.

But when I got a smartphone (not that I was among the first to do so either), he looked askance at it. “I don’t want a phone that’s smarter than I am,” he said, which I suppose was meant as a joke, though I really couldn’t tell. I tried to convince him that the added features – the easy availability of news and weather and GPS, for example – made it worthwhile, but still he resisted. He said he didn’t want to be one of “those people” who had their eyes perpetually glued to a screen. (He once asked me what people did before they could stare at their cellphones. “Read books,” I said. “Not while they’re walking,” he replied. I had to tell him that when I was in high school I did indeed read books while walking from one class to the next. But I digress again.)

Then I started getting apps on my phone that I knew Dan or I would want or need. The prize among them was PictureThis, an app that let you take pictures of plants, then would identify them and provide other useful and interesting information about them, such as whether your plant looked sick or whether that species had been mentioned in a poem. It even provided the poem for you. This led to Dan dashing into the house, shouting, “Give me your phone,” and bringing it back with dirty smudges on it. When Dan got a tablet, I downloaded this app for him so he wouldn’t have to borrow my phone. I also downloaded some music and video apps onto the tablet when he was going to be visiting his mother. He hates her taste in TV.

Dan’s entry into the modern era was a consequence of a different app, though. Where he works, people clocked in and out using their smartphones. Dan couldn’t, and that meant he had to walk farther to do so. In a sense, it was laziness that turned the tide.

Of course, it wasn’t as easy as that. The way his coworkers scanned in was using a QR code. Dan didn’t know what those were. So I had to download him a QR reader and show him how to use it. I don’t think he’s actually used it yet, but at least now he has the option when he’s too tired to make the long trudge.

I know he still mourns the death of his flip-phone, but even he had to admit that our phone provider didn’t really support them anymore. And the first night he had the smartphone I caught him with his nose pointed at the screen, watching YouTube videos.

He doesn’t love it yet, but I figure it’s just a matter of time. He’s no longer comparing its intelligence to his.

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