Tuesday 27 Sep 2016

Cell Phones
Matt Seinberg

I remember when I got my first cell phone it was around 1999 and I had just gotten a job with “This End Up Furniture,” which had been around since 1975, and closed in 2000 due to poor management decisions.

It was a new toy to have, and I got it at another now defunct electronics chain called “Nobody Beats the Wiz.” AT&T was the biggest player then, and I signed a two-year contract and got a free Motorola analog flip phone. This was one of the big black ones with a white key pad and a pull out antenna. I don’t even remember the phone number I had then.

One of the reasons I got it was because of the hours I worked, along with the commute I had from Nassau County into Elmhurst, Queens. Do you remember when “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was the biggest show on TV? I actually got through the phone questions several times, and always left my cell number as the contact number during the day. However, reception was very poor in the mall, so it’s very possible that I missed that all-important qualifying phone call.

After “TEU” closed, I went to work for “Godiva Chocolatier” or, as I refer to it, the sweetest job I ever had. One of the employees had an extra Motorola Star Tac phone, and gave it to me. I charged it up, put my SIM card in and was amazed at how well it worked.

I was with Godiva for almost 3 years and the most important phone call I got was the night before Melissa was born. My wife called me and said that she was having contractions. Luckily, my shift was almost over and I was able to get home.

For some reason, the next day I had to stop at the store to open the doors, as someone had forgotten their key. We were on our way to the hospital, so it wasn’t a big deal.

When we got to the hospital, I started making phone calls and kept hoping the phone wouldn’t die. The Star Tac was not very good, with battery power and long life.

Somehow, someway I then acquired a digital Motorola Star Tac, which was supposed to be better with longer battery life and clearer call quality. What I remember most about these early digital phones was the tinny sound and the echo heard on most calls.

I just remembered something; I had changed along the way from AT&T to MCI, which offered lower rates and more minutes. When MCI went out of business, I switched to T-Mobile. I recently found some old bills in my closet dating from 2002, and my current phone number was on them. This was my second number and I can’t believe I’ve had it for this long.

When I switched to T-Mobile, I was paying $39.99 plus taxes for 600 monthly minutes, with unlimited nights (after 9 PM) and weekends. I never came close to using those minutes. I did get a new phone and nice shiny silver and blue Motorola 610 flip phone with a small stub antenna: yay, no more antennas to pull up!

After that contract expired, I went on the buy-as-you-need-minutes plan. If you bought 1000 minutes for $100, they would last a year, and if you reloaded at any time, any leftover minutes would carry over. I used that service up until last year when I broke down and put the kids and myself on a family plan.

It was time to join the 21st century as my radio sister Robin Marshall put it. Why didn’t I text? Simple, I didn’t have the plan for it. Now that I do have that plan, I text her and hardly get an answer. Same thing goes for my sister in Chicago: shame on both of them!

Recently, Melissa “broke” her basic Nokia phone. It was originally Michelle’s first phone. When she upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy Exhibit, last year, the Nokiapassed down to Melissa.

Instead of buying Melissa new phone, I chose to get myself a new phone. Since I like the newest toys, I bought a used HTC One from e-Bay that was in perfect shape. I had that for a week before I had my first major phone accident. I was out walking, and it slipped out of my hand and landed face down on concrete

The screen was shattered. Luckily, I had a screen protector on it, so no glass shards came off in my hand. I did some research. Although a new front glass would only cost $5-7, the digitizer underneath was $150. The complete cost for the repair would be around $200.

Since I didn’t pay that much for the phone, I decided to sell it on e-Bay. I listed it at $125 with the “Buy It Now” feature, or “Best Offer.” I ended up selling it for $106 and put that money towards getting the phone I really wanted, a Samsung Galaxy S4.

The S4 has more bells and whistles on it that I could ever imagine. It’s actually more powerful than my first desktop computer! It’s capable of using up to a 64 gig micro SD card. Right now, I had a 32 gig in it, with plenty of space left.

The call quality is great and the Android operating system is very intuitive. The two features that they really push are how it watches your eyes, and the motion system. I have them turned on, but really haven’t noticed them doing anything. Phil, my T-Mobile sales representative, says they only work with certain apps.

It’s amazing how in 14 years I went from a very basic Motorola flip phone to Samsung smart phone. I think that phone is smarter that some people I know.

I haven’t decided yet if being in touch 24/7 is a good thing. I do shut it off at night though since if someone really wants to talk to me, she or he can call the house phone.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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