People who are my age or older still remember the concept of the "party line" where several families shared one telephone line, or remember a time when a home had only one phone line that the entire family shared. And somehow, with the assistance of pay telephones, we were actually able to function. If we were late coming home...we got grounded. If we broke down...someone stopped to help us. Life was slower paced...and somewhat kinder.
Somehow in the 1980's, it became trendy...and helpful...to have a cell phone. Granted, these first few generations of phones were primarily relegated to the car...because they had a giant bag and a bulky headset that we had to maneuver. Later generations were still pretty big, and with the antenna pulled out they looked more like a military walkie talkie. Just look at any movie from the late 1980's or early 1990's, and you'll see what I mean.
Over time, the phones got smaller, cooler, more colorful, and delighted us with cameras. Those same cameras that stupid vapid children are taking naked pictures of themselves with and sending into cyberspace. Kids figured out that texting us was far easier and less annoying than actually talking to us...so even adults learned how to text in order to actually communicate with their children. Today's cell phones have morphed into mini computers that continue to wow us with applications that the average person I know cannot figure out...much less see the screen of without great difficulty.
But I digress.
Because today, I had the unfortunate experience of actually daring to attempt the third circle of Hell...VERIZON. Yeah, yeah...you can already hear the screaming and smell the brimstone...can't you?
Over the weekend, Brian's phone - the one he just had to have last MARCH inexplicably died. Just quit working. I mean...it could have been the fact that he has dropped it 75 times and it rides in his back pocket most of the time. But never mind THAT. I mean...the kid is out of commission and his girlfriend is starting to text Jill and Big Dave since he is unresponsive. And then today, Jill's phone charger broke off in the phone that SHE got last year. Great.
OH, just so you know...my cell phone is now three years old...geriatric, actually. It is something like 95 in phone years. Should be on life support. The current phone's sister actually cashed in about two months ago taking all of my phone numbers and contact information with her. I'm surviving with Brian's old rejected phone. But hey...right now...I'm pretty proud of the old girl. My phone represents one of the two models currently working in our household.
For several weeks, I've been considering an upgrade. We feel that we should save this phone in case Mom's phone dies since she has one exactly like it. Trying to retrain her to use a new model will not be pretty, as my mother is a brilliant woman...but is NOT, I repeat NOT Y2K compatible.
By this time, Jill and Brian are having the technology DTs and are pacing the store. There is a lady at the front door whose sole purpose is to ask us to sign in to the screen. Done. Is she helpful? No. Is she busy? No. Do I want to ask her why she is standing there while we all look like refugees? YES. Apparently, some Mensa candidate at corporate thought that all customers needed to be greeted at the door. I'd so totally prefer actually getting helped. Wouldn't THAT be unique and a breath of fresh air? Totally.
Anyway, we walk in, and take a quick look around. It looks harmless enough...there are about 20 people wandering aimlessly through the store...going from one display to another. There are exactly three people on the floor that work for Verizon according to the nametags they are wearing...including the lady who isn't doing jack squat at the door.
One of the two people actually working is a very large man who does not move quickly. He takes what seems like 45 minutes discussing the merits of phone service with people who must be new customers, because I actually see them get a bag and depart the store. He then calls the name of one of the two friends we run into in the store...both of which have been waiting for over an hour.
For one of our friends...today's trek into the bowels of retail represents his third visit to this particular store since last Friday. All the man wants is a belt holder for his Blackberry. The very Blackberry that he has for work...but hates because he doesn't understand half of the functions on it. Just a holder...not some newfangled service, an upgraded phone, or anything else. The first time...the large man (whom he refers to as D.A. - I'll let you fill that in)...doesn't know what he is talking about and so he leaves...vowing to come back when someone less clueless is working.
So, he goes back in the following day. The guy who waited on him on Saturday told him that it will be Monday before the holder comes in. So, he braves the dreaded Verizon store again on Monday...and...after sitting there for over an hour...he finds out from D.A. that it isn't in. Big Dave has offered him one that he cannot use. Oh, but now the fight is on. Our buddy is coming in every day until he gets his holder. I wish him luck with that...my money is on...Verizon...I'm taking Day 39 in the pool.
While we were watching him struggle...and were trying not to laugh...we talked to the other friend who has just been served...sort of. He has three phones with Verizon and one with AllTel...and although they've just merged...he has to buy another phone because the phones can't move across from one service to the other. Even though they are now going to be one company. He found it cheaper to get a free phone and just buy out his contract with the other service that is now part of the same company, but it really isn't because in this brave new world of unreality...if they can find a way to milk additional money out of you...they AREN'T the same company. If the money they can pluck from your wallet is the same...then they will pick the most annoying means to deal with you. So, for those of you going from Chad at AllTel to The Network at Verizon...trust me, it will be expensive, annoying, or both to be officially welcomed to Verizon!
I'm just thinking...B-O-H-I-C-A (bend over, here it comes again...) Yeah.
And then the big guy calls our name and we start walking over to his counter in the middle of the store. But WAIT. A shrew jumps out and says something to the effect that she was skipped in the line that is posted on the computer screens in the store and that SHE is actually next.
By this time, I'm beginning to be like one of those women on "Repo Man" where I want to jump up and get in her face. I don't, but I do state louder than I need to that she can have her stupid place in line because I'm probably going to die in this building before I actually get waited on anyway.
The teenage boy that looks like an Abercrombie model looks over at the crazy lady (me) and goes back to looking at the phones. The other victims (otherwise known as customers) are just ignoring me. This is probably good because I'm sure that there are cameras all over this store, and I so do not want to turn up on some reality show. The reality of Verizon is enough reality for me.
So, again we wait. And then our friend Matthew shows up out of the back to help us. The only problem is...Matthew has just started with Verizon today. And he's from AllTel...so not only does he not have a clue how they do anything...but he's still reeling from the shock that represents all things Verizon.
He tells us that both of our phones that need replacing by the insurance we pay $12 a month for (2 phones)have to be sent off...they can't just give us new ones. Something about water damage. I doubt it...but I no longer care. All I think is..."swell".
And if I want the phone I was looking at...even though I haven't had a new phone in three years...it will cost me $170. OH...I'll get $70 back by mail...in 8-10 weeks. I think not.
Time invested in Verizon tonight: 2 hours. Accomplished? N-O-T-H-I-N-G.
But I did get to experience the sackcloth and ashes routine of my normally cool and collected daughter who is cell-phone-less for the next 18 or so hours. Will she survive? We shall see.
I suppose that tonight taught me a few things...
1) Be happy when your stupid phone works and quit worrying about the latest bells and whistles. So the phone can't take pictures that will win the photography contest at Costco? Big flipping deal.
2) Customer service is primarily dead. This is not because people don't want to try...it is because there aren't enough people alive to fully staff a Verizon store during any given day between 5-8 pm. And since they can't make you happy, they are just trying to keep you from taking them out in a blaze of glory.
3) Teenagers are truly tied to technology. My phone has lasted for three years because it lives in my purse. Theirs are dropped, dunked, and utilized nearly constantly 24/7. They text at the speed of light. Taking their phone away - even for 24 hours - is the equivalent of asking me not to read before I go to bed at night.
Well, hopefully UPS will bring Jill her phone. Brian has not requested his new one online yet...wonder what's up with that? OH, he's using his Dad's...
And if I see that troll from the Verizon commercial with his band of "network" people, I'm just going to ask that maybe 10 or 15 of them get to work instead of standing there so that people can actually get served in the process. As if. Later!