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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dumb-phone.

(DISCLOSURE: I was a Sprint customer for 10 years and was quite satisfied with their service. My kids, however, had all started their cell-phone accounts as an extension of my ex's account...which was Verizon. After a few years, my primary daytime phone calls were to my adult children, and the necessary usage plan to avoid overages was killing me. When I switched so that I was using same carrier that my kids were using, I cut my cell phone bill by 50%.)

My cell-phone contract is up. That's right, I can finally get a smart-phone, and get it dirt-cheap. Because I am the account holder, I qualify for an additional $50 off the 2-yr contract price of any new phone. In addition, my carrier happens to be Verizon, who is currently offering a $100 Verizon gift-card if you send in your old, regular cell phone. This essentially means that I can get a 32 gig iPhone for $150. I can also get a Droid for the same price. THAT is enticing.

My quandary is not whether to get an iPhone or a Droid. My quandary is how smart do I want to be, and how badly do I want Big Brother to be able to track me? These might seem like oddly simple questions, but they're actually quite deep and should be asked (and answered) by everyone.

Firstly, to smart-phone, or not to smart-phone? Well, there's the issue of an additional $30/mo commitment to my phone bill for the required data-plan. If I have an iPhone (or a Droid, I've been told), I can use the phone for a mobile hot-spot connecting up to 5 other devices to the internet...for a monthly fee, of course, raising my bill by another $20 a month. I could connect my smart-phone to my desktop computer with a connection wire, accessing the internet through my phone's data-plan. No carrier will support this, but I'm told that it can be done. Sounds pretty ingenious. So, what's the problem?

We live in an electronic world; there's just no getting around it. I love the features of a smart-phone. I love that with a smartphone you can access the internet from pretty much anywhere. But do I really need to be quite that connected? I remember the first time that I sat in a room and noticed that there were three different people having three different conversations on three different phones. It is as if the world shifted on its axis with the invention of cell phones.

The world's shifted on its axis again with the development of smart-phones, and not in always good ways. It used to be that people were having different conversations on different phones at the same time...but at least they were having conversations. Now they're on their phones, but not talking to anyone. Any time you have an event with a large audience and you take a photo of that audience, you're going to find at least one person in that photo who is not looking at the stage and not engaging with other audience members, but is looking at their phone. They might be checking email, updating their facebook status, or 'tweeting'. They may even be looking up critical information. The fact remains, however, that they are not fully-engaged with who or what is immediately around them.

I am a technology-provider's best dream. I am a person of habit who likes tech-y gadgets and has a slightly addictive personality. If I were to buy a smart-phone, I can not assure that I would not be on it non-stop. If and when I'm confident that I would run the phone, and not the reverse, then I will give serious consideration to getting a smart-phone. But in the mean time I will stick to my regular old low-tech flip-phone, because smart-phones do not make us smarter. Smart-phones make us dumber by encouraging us not to listen, not to pay attention, not to be in the moment of what's going on around us.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Late-Summer of My Discontent

I've been contemplating just what changes I want to make in my life for some time now, and never seem to come up with anything specific. I've known for years - decades, even - that I want to leave the south, but without a clue as to where I wanted to go, or how to go about getting there. My daughter suggested that I should be a nanny. At that time, a few years ago, I wasn't very hip to the suggestion.

Still, every now and then I would peruse Craigslist and see what was offered. When my daughter moved to NYC last winter I searched Craigslist again and when I saw ads offering $70K a year, I became more interested. Naturally, those listings required second languages and years of nanny experience, and were not options for me. But they got my attention. I looked for positions on Hawaii, in Minneapolis, LA, NYC...and I kept looking for positions in Seattle, wishing my daughter was still there. It's not that I can't separate from my kids. It's that ...well, it's that I don't want to. I realize that I can't live close to all of them, but I want to be close to at least one of them; close-enough to one that I can at least make affordable weekend visits.

In late-winter I exchanged a few emails about a position in Manhattan, fantasizing about living across the street from Central Park and only 20 minutes from my daughter and her family. I wasn't keen on only having a bedroom for my quarters, there was the issue of my dog, and there was the issue of two new infants in my daycare whose parents would have great difficulty finding replacement care since providers are by law limited to two infants under 12 months. I decided that the time just wasn't right for me to make the change. I had too many obligations and too many people counting on me. I was at peace, knowing that I wasn't stuck but staying by choice.

I've lived in my city for a few years now and still have not integrated or assimilated (my area is so cliquey and rigid that I'm not even sure that it would be possible for me to do so). Summer got under-way and I got on my bicycle again. I started getting toned and feeling good. But by August I had circumstances arise that required most of my attention, time, and money...even keeping me off my bicycle. By mid-month I realized that I was sinking into a malaise.

My daughter's family packed their belongings this summer and headed back to Seattle. Could it be a coincidence that my malaise set in at about the time she left? Was I blue because she was gone? No. Could it be that I was blue because I wasn't gone? Oh, hell yes.

And I again started looking at Craigslist for nanny positions in the area. And I found one that read as though it was written for me. I wrote and told the poster that if it were just a year later, I would probably beg them to hire me but that, as it were, I was writing to compliment them on the honest humor with which they wrote their post. They wrote back, thanking me, and wondering why I was waiting a year. I told them about the $8,000 tax credit that I used to buy my house, and which I would have to repay if I sold the house any sooner. But...I could rent it out. The seed is planted.