Philomath Express: Oblique Angles logo

The barista at my favorite coffeehouse brought me my beautiful coffee drink and a piece of cherry pie. I whipped out my iPad and took a photo of the delicious offering. I heard some giggling from the girls behind me, but I didn’t know the cause of their mirth. My phone rang and I pulled out my flip phone and answered the call. I glanced back at the girls, and it was obvious they were sniggering about me. Why does a snigger always sound meaner than a giggle?

“Know how you can tell she’s really old?” One of the sniggering girls asked her friend.

“Her white hair and those wrinkles around her neck give her away. Do you think we could determine her age by counting the rings around her neck? You know, like a tree.”

“And she used her iPad to take a photo and a flip-phone to answer a call. Who does that? Only an old person.”

They broke into peals of laughter as I sat there and fumed. Apparently, my age is determined by the digital devices I use. I shall upgrade!

I immediately went to the phone store. The kid behind the counter looked like he was playing hooky. His name tag informed me that his name was Sam and he was a senior telecommunications analyst. I don’t think he was even a senior in high school.

“Can I help you, ma’am?” he asked. The use of “ma’am” was not encouraging.

“I need a smart phone, Young’un,” I said.

“Do you already have a cellphone?” he asked.

“I have a flip phone,” I answered.

“How about a computer?" Sam asked.

“I’ve used computers since 1985. I have a laptop now. It has all the usual stuff or it, but it doesn’t make phone calls.” I glanced at Sam and wondered if he even shaved yet. “Bet you weren’t even around in 1985.”

“Born in 1999. Any other devices?”

“An iPad, but it doesn’t make phone calls. I also have Alexa. I love her, but she can’t make calls either."

“All your digital devices are going to make learning a smartphone easier,” Sam said. “A new phone is being released next month that can do everything.”

“Does it make a nice strudel?” I asked. “Can it play a hammered dulcimer? Can it do a quadruple axel?”

“What I meant was this phone does more than any other phone out there.”

“How much does this smart thing cost?” I asked.

“Right around a thousand dollars,” Sam said.

I suddenly felt dizzy, nauseated, and little wobbly on my pins.

“Are you OK?” Sam asked.

“Think I’d better sit down,” I said, plopping into an available chair. “You know, I thought you said that the smartphone cost a thousand bucks. That can’t be right.”

“No, that’s right. Let me get you some water.” And he was off at full gallop. I glanced around. Where’s a fainting couch when you really need one, I wondered.

Sam brought the water and insisted I drink some. I took a couple of lady-like sips and assured him I was fine. “Perhaps you have something a little less expensive. My new phone doesn’t have to be a member of Mensa. She just needs to make phone calls."

“Oh, she can do so much more than that. You can even watch a film on your new phone.”

“Why would I do that?” I asked. “I have a 42-inch TV at home. Would I rather watch a film on a 5-inch screen or a 42-inch screen? I think the answer is obvious.”

We spent the afternoon negotiating downward from a thousand-dollar phone. I finally settled on an $80 phone, thereby saving $920.

“I’d not going to lie to you,” Sam said. “This phone doesn’t have much memory.”

“How much memory am I going to need? I’m not a game player and I’m opposed to texting. Hasn’t the language been corrupted enough already?”

“Well, then, this model should be fine for now. You might want to update later,” Sam said.

And the deal was signed. As Sam did the paperwork, I thought that with the money I’ve saved, I could buy a fainting couch, something I obviously need.

Every evening I sit in my beloved Barcalounger and try to get acquainted with the new phone. So far, I can answer a call, make a call, and I’m close to being able to retrieve a voice mail.

I also choreographed a dance in homage to my new electronic device. Here’s how it goes. SWIPE TO THE LEFT, SWIPE TO THE RIGHT; SLIDE UP, SLIDE DOWN; TAP, TAP. Repeat and then ROTATE.

If that’s all I’m able to do on my new phone, I can still use her as a prop to let those mean girls think I’m tech-savvy. My phone just laughed at me. She has a wicked sense of humor. To be honest, she’s more of an average IQ kind of phone than a true smartphone and she doesn’t have much memory. We have much in common.

Linda Hamner is a published author and former soap opera writer who won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1991 as part of the "Santa Barbara" writing team. She has lived in Philomath since 2006.


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