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We are deadbeats to them

May 26, 2007
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My cell phone’s alarm is set for two implacably inviolable times of day. These alarms, one morning and one evening, herald the events in my life that cannot be deferred: my Cat’s insulin shots. This week, the alarms failed to come on, even if my phone was fully charged, unless the phone was plugged into the charger. But, Pavlovian poster child that I am, I expect the alarms, so I never become so distracted that I miss the appointed injection time. But alas, the phone was old. Two years old is very old in this industry.

The errand of acquiring new phones fell to my husband, because the T-Mobile store stresses me beyond capacity when I am also dealing with the discomfort of several dislocated ribs. My needs are simple: a phone with an alarm is pretty basic. We steadfastly spurn upgrades and amazing features and built-in cameras and probably, by now, lie detectors, in favor of whatever model is free that day. If it comes in pink, so much the better I said, and he went forth to T-Mobile this fine Memorial weekend Saturday.

I didn’t expect to see him for hours. The lines at the phone store usually are long and it takes forever to convince the enthusiastic salesperson that really, really, I mean it-I mean it-I mean it: we just want the free phones.

I did my cautious exercise ball routine. My joints have been slipping more frequently because that’s the way they are, so I cannot neglect necessary exercise that maintains muscle strength and stabilizes my wobbly joints as much as possible. I did a few things and started breakfast. The T-Mobile store is about 15 minutes away, and my husband was home in about 40 minutes. Oh no, the store must be closed today….

Ah, but there he was, a smart string-handled T-Mobile bag in his hand. He had been the only customer in the store! We had new free phones. And they were red! The customer rep was the same fellow we dealt with two years ago. “Wow, those are really old!” he said when my husband handed him the aging Motorolas that seemed the vanguard of their era 21 months ago.

The nice rep knew we wouldn’t be buying anything except the $15 charger to go with the new phones, since of course, these things could not possibly be universal and must be proprietary, and our new phones were the product of a different manufacturer.

He was nice about it. He knows all the company sees from us is our monthly service charge. We never come anywhere near to using our free airtime. We eschew text messaging. We never use our phones for Internet access. We show up when our phone batteries show signs of weakness, and get new free phones. We even get to keep the old ones. We are deadbeats to them.

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