Blog: R.E. Tales
(Hey, not every place is pretty...)
(Note: this was written before 2019, when I succumbed like everyone else, not because i wanted one, but because my land line had become unusable. Now, after a couple of years of use with my omnipresent always-on cell phone, I decided that I still would prefer a land line,)
People are often shocked, just shocked when they learn that I don’t have a cell phone. What kind of real estate agent am I anyhow? There’s a couple of answers to that question, but the one I prefer is to think, “The kind of agent that you will remember”. A Luddite.
Actually, a cell phone is something that I have no desire to own. It is just something else to have in my pockets, an interruption when I don’t want one, less privacy, something technical that I now have to learn and to deal with. And for this, I have to pay quite a bit of money – every month. And probably hassle with technical support people from time to time. I don’t know anyone who just loves their cell phone company, something else to keep in mind.
I am not someone who can ignore a call when it is inconvenient. When I hear it ring, I answer, no matter what I am doing or what time it is. Which sometimes pisses off those around me. I have learned that when I am doing something very important such writing a contract with the buyer right here (or eating supper – it’s a bug of Janet’s that I defer to), the best thing is to simply take it off the hook until I am free to talk if someone calls.
And I have always preferred to make a capital investment rather than incur monthly bills. My income has always varied considerably from month to month and I don’t like incurring expenses that way. When I can, I pay all at once. that is getting harder to do as time progresses as fewer and fewer creditors want to do that, or get demand for it from others.
Smart phone? The thought of trying to type on a miniscule keyboard or attempting to read a tiny screen is an excruciating one. People think this is fun? For vacations, I recently bought a laptop (and a mouse) so I could remain in some contact with my customers and clients. And I find that terrible to type on. The screen is worse; I have to keep shifting things around to find them – and everything is too small to read easily. I don’t want apps that I will not use or not know how to use. I can wait until I get home to a real computer. If that will be too long, well, there is the laptop…
And, an admission: I get a secret pleasure in not owning one. However, if I could eliminate my home phone and just get by with a cell, I‘d do it in an instant. There are plenty of good reasons to have a cell phone, even for me. One of my requirements is to keep my same number. I have had this number since 1999 and a lot of people have it. It is on a lot of web sites. It, along with my email address, brings me 99% of my business. And if I change either, it is going to cost me business. “Just ‘port’ your number over”, you are thinking. Well that is supposed to work nearly everywhere and is a simple solution. Notice the word “nearly”: it won’t work here. I don’t know if Frontier lacks the ability to do it or of just feel they are losing too much business if they do. At any rate, they do not port phone numbers, at least not in our local area. That in itself is enough to keep me from getting a cell phone as a replacement.
Then there is reception. We live in a rural area and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But companies do not want to make investments in rural areas; they like cities, where they can make a greater profit. So we fall way behind in getting the technical advances city folks take for granted. The second or third wave of technical advancement is often out before we get the first one. And the firms that make the technical stuff make them on the apparent assumption that everyone lives in a city, which only compounds the difficulties we face. A few years ago, it was common for me to get calls and then find myself talking to dead air as the caller lost service. It feels dumb to realize you have been actively talking to – no one. Reception is getting better and the gaps are slowly getting filled in, but there is a long way to go before cell phones are as reliable as land lines.
Cell phones can lead to some funny situations. Every so often I get people who are “geographically challenged”. (That means they couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag. Or they cannot follow directions.) They will call me periodically, increasing in frequency as they near my office. So they are on the phone as they hesitantly drive in, then get annoyed when I do not come out to meet them. Well, folks, I have to hang up to do that.
This is funny: I just got a second email inquiry from the party I am taking out this Sunday. They asked the same things they had asked a week ago, including the farm’s location. In my last email from her, she said she knew exactly where it was, too. So I played the straight man and politely answered the questions. She replied that her daughter must have been playing with her phone and resent the first message. So they’re toys now?
That’s almost as funny as a call I got a couple of years ago. I picked it up and got no one at the other end. Then I could hear someone yelling, but way in the background. I listened closer. It appeared that this must be a contractor and something quick came up while he was calling me, something that he had to attend to before we could talk. That made sense: I work with a lot of contractors. It seems they have money and often look for summer places or hunting property. But this guy kept yelling away at whoever it was on the other end, swearing now. And kept doing it, paying no attention to me. It seemed like he was on a ladder and they were working on a roof. By now, I was saying “Hello?” rather loudly and regularly. This went on for a while before I hung up. Later, I decided he must have had his phone in a holster and somehow managed to call me by mistake. Who would intentionally make a phone call while on a ladder? I have no idea if he was a customer or someone unknown, The number (Caller ID is my friend) was not one that I had in my records and never appeared afterwards.
Never say “never”. The day will come when I cannot resist the momentum of technology and will succumb and find myself tied to a cell phone. And I’ll be happy to say goodbye to Frontier; it’s been a tenuous relationship that we have shared (I almost said “enjoyed”) all these years. And I’ll bet my difficulties with the new company will be …”less enjoyable”.
SOME YEARS LATER….. OK, after saying all this, I now use a cell phone. Why? Simply, my land line crackled so bad I was unable to tell if the caller was a male or female. Understanding someone’s words? Forget it. For 20 years we have had intermittent trouble with this, which was usually worse after a rain. Every few months, I would call Frontier, our phone company, and complain and they’d send someone out and it would get better – for a while. I had been hearing, quietly, from the linemen that the real problem was faulty, cheap wires and that Frontier needed to replace them (all over, not just here on my property) if the problem would ever be truly fixed. At one point not that long ago I was so fed up I involved the State, who got on their case. They replaced wires and it got better. For a few months. then it got worse, far worse. That’s when I bought the cell phone.
That came with its own problems. ATT gave me a deal, a huge discount in the price, if I financed it. Tempted, I did as I was told I could pay it off the next day and still keep the discount. The salesman asked me to wait a week so the paperwork could catch up. I waited a month instead, then went to an office to pay it off. They would not accept my check. Then they refused cash. I went to where I bought it, 45 miles away, and it was the same thing. A long period of wrangling went on and eventually they gave me credit on the monthly bill until we were even. Which kept me within the ATT fold anyhow. Now, with COVID, I don’t feel free to go into a store somewhere and switch, even though ATT’s rate is WAY higher than those of competitors.
It’s not just about money. I rarely get more than two bars of service, like not every day. But one bar is sufficient for phone calls, only there are frequent times I don’t get that either. Even at home in the office with WiFi coverage in place. Calls get dropped at several times the rate that Apple thinks should be the case. In each case, I can hear the other party perfectly well, only they cannot hear me well. I suspect this is a common failing of cell phones as no one at the other end seems to object too much; they’ve all experienced it. It is not a good way to run a business. I would switch to another company but worry that things will not really get any better if I did. But they would get cheaper.
I find myself hating text messages. Both they and voice mail do not always come in instantly. Messages often appear hours later. I cannot type without massive mistakes on this tiny keyboard. And when I hit “Send”, it nearly aways wants me to send with cutesy effects. It always takes multiple attempts to get the message out, simply. Recently I counted them: 117 pushes of the “Send” button before it finally went. My wife, who uses texts on purpose on her phone cannot figure out what the problem is, but suspects (of course) that it is me. Sometimes she has the same problems on my phone though so its not just user error. She does like that I can now let her know what time I will be back for supper, even though she often does not get the message until after I am home.
I do not seem to have much use for all the other things the cell phone can do. They can nearly all be accomplished easier for me in other ways. And I cannot really fathom why people get excited over their phones and love them so. It’s a tool for me, one I do not particularly enjoy using – but do.
Some are merely amusing, some can be an immense help. All are interesting.
After 40 years, I've learned a lot, & acquired unforgettable experiences. Follow these long enough and you'll eventually get the whole book. (Names probably changed, for obvious reasons.)