Thursday, May 29, 2014

Reporting on a New Toy

I have a story to tell, and it is in part a story of how something quite old (within the context of my life, that is) is helping me handle the frustrations of something quite new.

The old thing is this: a Sandra Boynton pillowcase, from the 1980s, which I recently got on eBay.

I have noticed recently that when I get frustrated with some snafu or problem, I find myself raging, "Nothing is ever simple! Why can't something be simple for once?" My hope is that this pillowcase will remind me to laugh at myself when this urge strikes. I saw the pillowcase recently, coincidentally, just two days after having vented that exact line, and here is how I got to that point.

When I got this new job, I decided that this was the moment, the turning point for me, Ms. late-late-late technology adopter, when I was ready to pay the price to have a tablet that doesn't rely on wifi. I've had the iPad for over a year now, and have grown accustomed to a level of access I didn't have before, to the point where (finally) it would frustrate me when I was out, out of wifi range or not carrying the iPad, and couldn't look up my calendar, or something on a map, or check for a nearby store, or email that I was running late, or some such thing. And, here's the key, frustrate me to the point that I'm willing to pay.

The first step was to buy a tablet. I knew that I wanted a smaller one than the iPad, which is a bit heavy/cumbersome for carrying around, and my choice was vastly simplified by the fact that a tech-savvy friend had told me last year that she preferred the Nexus 7 to the iPad. I checked in with her to see if she still felt that way, and she did, so I bit the bullet and bought one.

It arrived last week, and I started to figure out how it works exactly, since it does of course differ from what I'm used to*. It has wifi as well, so I played around with it a bit at home, getting frustrated at times, but overall sure that yes, having this was what I wanted. And last Friday, I took it to the Verizon store to get them to make it work. To take my money, essentially, and wave the magic wand, poof!
*I'm sure this will come up again and again

Let me add that on Friday, I made five stops after work, and something went wrong at every single one (for a start, I'd only planned four stops). Not always big things, but it was one of the most annoying errand runs ever (there's a reason I didn't blog on Friday night, since I couldn't turn my mood around, or summon much beyond "Nothing is ever simple!"). And the guys at Verizon really pissed me off.

I was thinking about it afterward, and what they reminded me of is car salespeople, pushy and smarmy and untrustworthy and just so annoying. I handed over the N7, and the response was, "What is this?" Well, I don't know, maybe the inch-high letters on the back that say "nexus" would be a clue? "Well, we sell a Nexus 7, but it doesn't look like THAT." It took them a while to find the slot for the sim card, then it took them four tries to log into their own system (which, I get that tech problems happen everywhere, but it was kind of ironic), and finally they announced that no, they couldn't take $30 a month from me, this thing doesn't work with their system. But they could get me a free tablet...! I said no thank you and walked out. Perhaps instead of car salesmen, they were more like drug pushers lurking in an alley.

Here is what I'd like to know: why can't the specs for these things be written in English? Instead of lines of codes and acronyms, why can't the description say, "This will work with X Carrier but not Y Carrier"? Would that be so difficult? I just wanted to carry the internet in my handbag, but of course it isn't simple.

I want to the AT&T store last night, though, and the experience was the exact opposite. Night and day! The salesman was friendly and helpful, not pushy, suggested I start with the lowest amount of data (aka the cheapest plan) but that I could always trade up, or down, depending on what I wanted ... it was exactly what I wanted, how I wanted it. He asked about my cell phone plan, and let me know what I could get from them, and what it would cost, how it's a little more for this, but then lower for that ... not at all pushy, just informative. Amazing! He even showed me the new phones I could choose between, which he tactfully called "texting phones" and not "dumb phones" as I call mine. I may very well switch my phone, but I walked out with a tablet that could connect, which was what I wanted, for less than I thought it would cost, and not even tied in to a contract ... amazing.

By the way, now that I finally have one, I'm sure that any day now, the world will switch to the next big thing. Maybe implantable devices, direct to the brain. Maybe Google Glass will just be everywhere. All I know is, if I'm climbing on it, the voyage is almost done. Consider yourself warned.


Blogger Mary Ellen said...

I think Google Glass is (are?) stupid, and the people who insist that they should be allowed to wear them everywhere in the entire world are entitled idiots. Especially when people object because hey, you could be recording me, and I don't want to be recorded, thanks.

7:58 PM, May 29, 2014  

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