Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

11 July 2013

Technology Troubles: The Cell Phone

One thing about being up here in central Washington State is that I’m rather isolated from civilization. The other pilot (my friend Brandon) and I spend our days at our landing zone (“LZ”) where we babysit our helicopters and wait for rain. This LZ is…well, if you can imagine the middle of nowhere, this is close.

Washington is an incredible state – strikingly, surprisingly beautiful. The trouble is, nobody lives in the middle. Either they live on the coast, like over in Seattle…or they live on the east side in Spokane. I’m “near” the town of Okanogan, which is kind of in the middle. Actually I'm up the hill between Okanogan and Twisp.

Brandon and I are living in RV’s provided by our employer and hooked up to connections provided by the farmer to whom we’re contracted. Internet service is not provided with these hookups. We rely on our phones for contact with the outside world…like watching the weather radar.

In choosing a cell phone carrier a year and a half ago I looked at both AT&T and Verizon’s coverage maps. Both are a little vague in this area, but both depicted 4G service. I went with Verizon and an Android phone because I’m not one of those annoying Apple converts. It was a Big Mistake, as my annoying iPhone-owning friends are quick to point out. Where I’m at here, Verizon actually has only 3G service no matter what it says on their coverage map. Sometimes it shows 3G with two little gray “up and down” arrows underneath that should be red and green but aren’t. Sometimes it’ll show 3G with a little capital “D” underneath, whatever that means. Often it just shows Zero-G.

Note to Verizon: Your service sucks. Your company sucks too, as do all of your employees, and their ancestors back to time immemorial, and all their future children. Everyone associated with your crappy company sucks.

Note to self: Switch to some other carrier…ANY other carrier when this contract is up in six months. I’ll go with one of those pay-as-you-go phones, I don’t care.

But even when we do have 3G service, using a phone for internet is not all that great. Some websites either do not have a mobile app, or just don’t run well on that tiny screen (compared to my laptop). In the beginning I was able to “tether” my computer to my phone and get online properly. But boy did that cause problems!

My phone had been acting up anyway. (Which friggin’ phone on this planet lasts as long as the two-year contract they make you sign?) In addition to that, right after I got up here, tethering my computer to the phone caused the battery to overhead and quickly die and not accept a charge. It would hover around 9% capacity, allowing me one short phone call or a very brief text message exchange before dying again. Disconnected from the charger, it would die immediately.

I'm ashamed to admit how dependant some of us (e.g. me) have become on our phones. We really feel crippled and isolated when the phone is dead. A simple 20-minute drive to the Walmart in Omak becomes a panic-inducing stress test: "What if the car breaks down along the way? What WILL I do?? I don't even know anyone's phone numbers anymore - they're stored in my broken damn phone!" Which is both true and sad.

Using Brandon’s iPhone (which doesn’t have this battery overheating problem) I went online to a discussion forum and found out that, yep, my Samsung “Piece of Shit” model is prone to this very type of thing. (And other maladies as well – can you say “Rush a product to market?” I knew you could.). Have you tried to buy a cellphone battery locally? You cannot. You have to buy them online. It’s quite a racket.

I found my battery on eBay and ordered it. In the process I had to change my shipping address from Florida to Washington. Okay, no big deal there, I expected that. With that change made I hit “pay” and sure enough my PayPal account popped up. I hit “pay” again and got a nice message that said, “Congratulations! Your purchase will be shipped to…” my address in Florida. D’OH! It seems that when making a purchase on eBay, you have to change your shipping address on BOTH eBay and PayPal. Which is quite a lot of bullshit to go through just to buy a damn phone battery.

Anyway, right away I emailed the seller, asking him to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ship the battery to my Washington address. No response. Couple of days later my friend, Gene who’s staying in my house while I’m gone messaged me on Facebook: “Hey, a package came for you.” So I said, “Screw it” and just ordered a whole ‘nother phone from eBay (yes, the same crappy Android – at least it was cheaper than buying Verizon’s expensive insurance). This time I made sure that all the shipping address fields were correct.

So now I’ve got my “new” phone, and a “new” battery, but I’m still saddled with Verizon’s crappy service. Sometimes you can’t win. At least I'm reconnected with the outside world.


Anonymous said...

A. Thought you'd sworn off cellphones years ago in Guanaja.
B. Verizon "gave" me an iPhone 4 when I upgraded. Batt life is short, but long enough for my needs.....and
C. Really enjoy your curmudgeonly (SP?) rants.
D. Be safe
M de M

Michael Morris said...

Haha Bob, tough luck. You'd think you would only need to do it once since eBay owns PayPal. Haven't posted on here in awhile, but always good reading your stories.

WolvesOfTheNight said...

If you are excessively board you are welcome to drop by our office some day. We tend to be around between 7 or 8 and 4, depending on what is going on - if the gate is open someone is in. I am at the lonely radio telescope in the valley. (Not to be confused with Comsat, who is up on the hill). But you will have to leave the helicopter at the LZ. As cool as they are, we would be a little put out if it ran into our dish.