With a nod to comedian Dennis Miller (his pre-conservative days), I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but I like my antiquated flip phone just fine. Smart phones aside with all their bells and whistles, my dumb phone has been my saving grace from a myriad of distractions and temptations. My wife now begrudgingly agrees.

Just so you know, Cheryl and her smart phone are inseparable, just as our little rescue dog Iggy is attached to her hip. If we’re watching a film and trying to place an actor, the routine is this: I close my eyes, try to picture the face and utter, “Now, if memory serves me right …” Yet in a flash, her smart phone is out and spewing details of the actor, their life, a current head shot and what their preference for breakfast may be. So much for working the old grey brain matter and testing the memory circuitry.

I can live with that. Well, to a point.

Now as both she and I emerge from the stone age and start paying our bills online (further marking the demise of snail mail) one has to remember that it’s not a perfect cyber world. The other day, Cheryl noted that it seemed we’d paid our current cable/internet/phone provider bill twice. She attributed it to a misstep in forming the online account – entering an incorrect number in the processing phase.

Easily corrected, though. Or at least one would think. On her smart phone after voicing her frustration, she dialed our provider’s 800 number and went through the prompts, her goal being placed in touch with an actual customer service rep and not a algorithm-driven solution center.

Me, I just left the room and left her to her own – no pun intended here – devices. Savoring a cup of coffee in my office and getting down to writing, I could hear the not-too-distant thumps of frustration and muted curses.

Now, my wife just retired after 40 years of teaching art and this is a time for her to destress and enjoy life. The provider, it seems, was not going to have any of that, at least for the moment.

I made my way cautiously into her art studio.

“Is there a problem?” I asked.

“A problem? YES, there’s a problem! This stupid thing won’t let me speak with a human being!”

“It’s a smart phone. Now it’s suddenly stupid?”

“Don’t you be smart!!! It keeps prompting me to an online chat and then wants a pin number … and … and …. it won’t recognize the pin number and I’m now on hold and I can’t disconnect the call!” She waved her smart phone at me and pointed to the different icons, as if I could navigate the problem and stumble across a solution.

“Don’t look at me. I’ve got a dumb phone, remember?”

“All I want to do is speak with a live person! I’ve tried doing this FIVE times and it keeps returning me to the online chat. I need to chat with a person, not a computer program!”

It’s not that the veins were sticking out on my wife’s forehead — just her neck. I’m not sure if the algorithm grew tired of her lack of response or actually processed her muted curses, but it did after a painful minute or two disconnect the call.

My wife raised her hands in exasperation.

“Let me try something,” I said, reaching for my dumb phone. I dialed the 800 number, worked through the prompts asking me if I spoke English or preferred Spanish, Mandarin or Klingon, entered a pin number and asked for a customer service representative. A computer-generated voice informed me that due to unexpected volume, there would be a delay in speaking with a representative and patience … Just then, there was a ring and Jennifer was on the line.

“Hi, I’m Jennifer. How may I help you?” The lilt in her voice was soothing.

“Jennifer! One second please while I put my wife on the line.” I smiled and handed Cheryl my dumb phone. She glared at me and rolled her eyes.

“Dumber is as dumber gets.” I said and left the room. I think that’s what Forrest Gump was alluding to.

After a 15-minute conversation, all was resolved, one payment was processed, the other deleted and all was right again with the world.

Cheryl pressed the point home to her newfound friend Jennifer that resolving the issue with a living, breathing customer rep was impossible on a smart phone device and company online chat and that it took prehistoric technology for a one-on-one conversation to take place. “Jennifer,” my wife said later, was particularly embarrassed over the logic of her argument.

We recently treated ourselves to a new outdoor gas grille since our last one gave up the ghost. The model I chose had an interesting option: Using your smart phone, it had a sensor that could regulate both heat and cooking time.

“Way cool option, don’t you think?” said a young and perky hardware store clerk.

“Maybe, my friend, but not for me.”

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