Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ode To My Flip Phone

So futuristic.

So obsolete.

It started back in the early 1970s, when I would come home from school and watch episodes of Star Trek. (Yes, I know Star Trek aired in the 1960s. But, I was only two months old when the first episode aired in 1966, so my first memories of the show are from the syndicated reruns.) I was a Spock guy. Probably because I thought I was smart and logical. Besides, I was too afraid of girls to ever think of myself as Captain Kirk. (Now that I'm older and grumpier I find myself identifying more and more with "Bones" McCoy. I'm getting increasingly curmudgeonly.)

At the time our best way of communicating with the world outside our house was via the telephone that was permanently mounted on our wall. The base box was connected to the receiver by a ten-foot long pigtail cord. And, it wasn't even ours. The phone was owned by the telephone company. And it wasn't private. We had a party line. That meant we shared the phone line with the neighbors down the street. If they were using the phone, we couldn't. 

An old-style, wall-mounted rotary phone, with cord.
(Heaven forbid we ever had to call anyone from Downey with their "897" prefix.)

So, when I watched Star Trek and saw them carrying around a communicator, I was fascinated. It was so futuristic. Here was a tiny box, less than one-tenth the size of our wall-mounted box, that a person could carry around on their belt or their pocket. (No cord!) And, each person had one of their own! It wasn't shared with anyone else in the house, the neighbors, or, in the case of Star Trek, anyone else on the spaceship. 

Star Trek communicator, open and closed. (Ooo, buttons and lights!)

One of the best features of the Star Trek communicator was that with a flick of the wrist the cover would open up to reveal its innards of button and blinking lights. (Futuristic devices can never have too many blinking lights!)

As kids we used to pretend we had our own communicators. We'd use boxes, rocks, dirt clods, or our imagination, but whatever we were using as our communicator, we would flick our wrists in that special "Star Trek communicator" way to flip open the lid on our pretend device. Then we would twist an imaginary knob and talk into it.


I was a bit late to the game in getting my first cell phone. I didn't get one until 2002. At the time I had a job where I was delivering ice cream to convenience stores, and I got tired of having to carry around quarters to use pay phones whenever I needed to call in to the office. That first cell phone was pretty big and bulky, and I didn't use it very often.

It wasn't until 2006 that I got my first "flip" phone. The Wife and I had just gotten engaged, and I needed something a bit more reliable that I could use more often than my old phone.

I was very excited to get a "flip" phone. But, I was immediately disappointed when my "flip" phone wouldn't flip open when I did my old "Star Trek communicator" wrist flick. The tension of the spring on the cover was too tight to open with a simple wrist flick. I would have to pry the phone open at least half way before I could effectively wrist flick it the rest of the way. That didn't stop me from trying, though. I would wrist flick that thing open (with the help of a prying thumb) every chance I could.

A few years into our marriage, we upgraded our phones. I still had a flip phone, but now it was advanced enough that I could actually take, send and receive pictures on it! (Try doing that on your fancy communicator, Dr. McCoy!) [Doctor McCoy's response: "I'm a doctor, not a photographer!"]

I had the perfect communicating tool, right there in my pocket!

And then, I left it in my pocket and put it through the washing machine. (Oops.)

That phone died in the washing machine that day. Unfortunately, we were locked into a calling plan, so I was unable to get me a new phone to replace it. (You gotta love those calling plans!) (Or not.) I ended up getting a makeshift replacement phone. It could handle phone calls just fine, but I couldn't send or receive pictures on it.

Yes, my flip phone may be obsolete, but at least my calculator watch is still cool!

Meanwhile, as I was plugging along with my makeshift replacement phone, my "futuristic" flip phones were getting replaced by "smart" phones. Apparently, a group of non-Star Trek fans decided that it was better if the phone screen was in front of you all the time, without having to "flip" a lid open to reveal it. The longer I held on to my "flip" phone, the more out of date and obsolete my phone and I were. (And the more I enjoyed those commercials with Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader, where someone tries to steal his phone and he welcomes it. Here's a link: Take my phone.) (I laugh as hard at that commercial as The Wife laughs at the one where the farmer spells cow "C-O-W-E-I-E-I-O.")

Finally, last week, my old, obsolete, makeshift replacement phone died. And so, I've now joined the zombie horde of iPhone owners. It will take some getting used to. At this point my new "smart" phone is much smarter than I am. I still really don't know what an "app" is. And, while it will certainly be nice to take and receive pictures, and surf the interwebs on my phone, I'm still going to miss my old flip phone.

So, if you ever see me strangely flicking my wrist as I answer my phone, don't think I'm too weird. I'm just fondly remembering a time from my past when that was a futuristic gesture.

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Are You Pregnant?" (And 4 Other Questions You Should NEVER Ask)

I was at work the other day, exchanging pleasantries with a casual acquaintance/co-worker, when out of the blue she says, "So, are you having any more kids yet?"

My immediate reaction was, "That's none of your dadgum business!" But, instead I gave her about as vague of an answer as I could, "Well, I don't know."

Undaunted, she pressed the issue. "How old are your kids now?" "Five and three." "Well, you definitely need to get some more! You don't want there to be too big of a gap! You're not getting any younger! You gotta get going on that!"

I hem-hawed another general response, "Well, you never know," then looked for any excuse I could find to remove myself from the conversation, something along the lines of, "Sorry, I've got to go check and see if my shoelaces are the same length. I'll talk to you later."

This incident got me thinking about some of the questions that you just shouldn't ask people. So, I thought I'd gather up some of those questions and show why they should remain unasked.

Question: When are you going to have kids? (Or, if you already have kids, change that to: When are you going to have more kids?)
This question has been asked to almost every newly married couple, almost every engaged couple, and a large number of couples who have been on more than three dates. The answer, of course, is: "None of your dadgum business!" (If you want to replace "dadgum" with something a little stronger, please feel free to do so.)

When or if couples decide to have children is a private decision. So is how many children they have. There may be personal, economical, physical, or other factors that effect those decisions that you might not be aware of.

For example, some friends of mine moved to a different state and were promptly excoriated by their new church leader for being "selfish" and "putting their careers above family" because they had been married for over five years and didn't have any kids yet. Aside from this being absolutely none of his "dadgum" business, this idiot knew nothing about the miscarriage or the visits to the fertility clinic. (This guy was a special kind of stupid.)

(While we're here, the number of children a family has is a personal, private matter, too. You may think you are being funny or helpful, but no one wants to hear "Are you trying to repopulate the earth by yourself?" or "Are you trying for your own baseball team?" or "helpful" tips about birth control. Again: none of your business!)

Exception (When this question might be asked.): Immediate family and close friends might ask this question in a quiet, private setting, but even then it is iffy. It's probably best not to ask unless they bring the subject up.

Pregnant? Don't ask.

Question: Are you pregnant?
It's pretty simple: you should never ask this question unless you are 100% sure the answer is "Yes." And, if you are 100% sure the answer is "Yes," there is no need to ask the question, is there?

Just because someone has put on a few pounds or is a little rounder in the belly, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are pregnant. They might have eaten three pieces of pie too many, or have clothes that fit oddly.

Generally speaking, if a woman wants you to know if she is pregnant, she will let you know. Leave it at that.

Exception: If your wife just went into the restroom with a pregnancy test.

Question: Are we there yet?
This one is very easy. If you are traveling somewhere in some sort of vehicle, be it car, airplane, bus, boat, train or whatever, and the vehicle is still in motion, chances are you are not there yet.

Exception: If you wake up in a vehicle that is no longer in motion.

Question: Does this make me look fat?
If you ask this question, I have a few questions for you. Do you really want to know the truth? Are you sure you want to put the person to whom you are asking this question in a position where they might have to decide whether to hurt your feelings or tell you a lie?

Or, more simply, have you heard of a mirror? And, do you know how to use one?

Exception: If you are trying to dress up as Santa Claus.

Question: Don't you know who I am?
Oh, so you are famous. Or you are important. Or you think you are famous and/or important.

Well, guess what? If you find yourself in a situation where you are indignantly asking "Don't you know who I am?" chances are you are not as famous and/or important as you think you are. (This question is often posed by celebrities or sports stars when they get pulled over for drunk driving.)

(And, by the way, even if I do know who you are it doesn't mean you are entitled to special treatment or anything. You might just have to slum it with the rest of us schlubs.)

Exception: If you are talking to someone who has amnesia.

And, finally:
Question: When will the Vikings finally win a Super Bowl?
Oops.  That question belongs in the "Questions That Might Never Be Answered" column, not the "Questions That Should Never Be Asked" column. Sorry about that.