28 July 2008

Family Plan

We added my mother to our cell phone "family plan" a couple of years ago because the prepaid phone she had at the time was all but dead, and it was an easy and relatively inexpensive way to assure that she had a phone in the event of an emergency. Also, the unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling included in our plan means we can call each other any time without depleting our monthly minute allotment. (It was only last month that I was able to convince her that it was no longer necessary for her to give me the $10 per month that her line costs.)

Her phone has been acting weird for a while; almost any time we have a conversation, the call drops at some point. There could be any number of possible explanations--low signal, low battery, interference--but it seems to happen pretty regularly when I talk to her, and not when I'm talking to anyone else. She's had the phone for a couple of years and is eligible to get a new one.

Yesterday we went to RI to visit my family, and since the weather was lousy, I thought we could go look at some phones, and maybe get her set up with a new one. We drove to the store and went in. Verizon Wireless has a simple phone that is kind of geared toward seniors--good-size screen, large font, dedicated emergency number keys, no extraneous features--and I thought this one might be a good choice for her.

I pointed out the phone to her and she immediately said, "It's ugly." It hadn't occurred to me that she would have any sort of opinion about its looks, so I said, "Okay..." She said, "It's black. I don't like black, I like silver, like mine." I didn't want to disappoint her by telling her that cell phone makers have largely moved away from silver, so I decided to just show her some of the features. Unfortunately, the phone was not a working model, but one of the dummy models the stores sometimes use, so I couldn't really show her much of anything.

She asked me, "Is it going to work the same way as this one?" I started to explain what things would be the same, but then I realized it would quickly get complicated, and instead feebly offered, "Most things will work the same way, but you can't expect everything to be the same." Finally, she wanted to know how much it cost. The salesman looked up our account and said, "$40." So of course the next question was, "Don't they have a free one? This one was free when you put me on your account."

The salesman, displaying what I thought was remarkable patience, looked at her phone and said, "To be honest with you, the phone we have that you could get for free isn't as good as the one you have now, so you should probably just keep it." Okay, but that doesn't solve our original problem. After looking around for another couple of minutes, we left. I figure that the time it would take her to learn how to operate a new phone is probably not worth it, as long as she has a phone that mostly, sort of works.

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