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Monday Musings: On Long Distance, Cell Phones & Changing Communication Methods…

One of the major things on my to-do list last week was to schedule a hair cut. You’d think this would be an easy enough task, but my stylist has a cell phone with a long distance number, which actually adds a level of complexity that most people wouldn’t even consider.

See, when I moved out of my parents house around 15 years ago, and got my own landline, I never bothered to have long distance service put on it. It was an extra expense, and while I did have one friend who lived out of town that I called occasionally, I never needed it otherwise, so it was cheaper to just use a pre-paid phone card. When I got married, my husband had no need for long distance either, so we left it off at the new house too. Keeps our landline bill at around $32 a month.

Yes, I’m a bad relative. I never call my out of town relatives (my parents, sister, and in-laws all live here in town), and now virtually everyone has email and/or facebook (and my grandma writes actual hand-written letters). Businesses generally have a toll-free number to call, or better yet, an email address. So I still have no real need for long distance phone service. The salon my stylist used to work at always had someone there to answer the phone and make appointments, so I could just call the salon.

Not so this new salon. You must leave a message, and if you are lucky enough to catch someone, they can’t make an appt. for another stylist. So the best way to make any appt. is to get a hold of your stylist directly…and mine has a long distance cell number. I don’t think many people even think in terms of “long distance calling” anymore, do they? Since cell service generally comes with unlimited calling everywhere?

You see my problem. I do have a Google Voice number for IP calls, but they still cost money so I…don’t. And considering the rumblings on Google trying to fold Voice into hangouts, I’m hesitant to give that number out for much, though it is handy for free texting via my cell-with-no-voice-service. My family *loves* the fact that I can text now. It is pretty darn convenient at times…

I finally did get a hold of my stylist Friday at the salon, and miraculously, she had time to fit me in on Saturday. I reminded her once again that I can’t call her cell, and then it occurred to me that I *could* text her…and asked if that would be okay. She said yes, so now next time I need a haircut, I’ll text for an appointment. Crazy how times change…

I told my husband it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get by without a mobile number – even my bank wants a mobile number to text confirmation codes and web site pins to before they’ll even let you get into your accounts (I complained before I was able to get texts, and they came up with a way for us luddites to get one through our landlines, but it’s still a pain in the butt). Thing is, it isn’t difficult at all for him, because while he may work in tech, he doesn’t do anything online but surf, shop & play games, so he doesn’t run into the issue.

Interestingly though, it’s been easier for me to sort of “keep up” with the changing way that people communicate just by getting a cell phone – even though I don’t have voice service. A tablet is too unwieldy to carry in a pocket, so it’s still not optimal for “always on” communication. But I can take my cell out of its case and put it in my pocket, and get texts from my family or FB messages from people who need to contact me in “real time” (like people who are dropping by to pick things up that I’m giving away or selling, or publishing contacts) while still being free to move about and do whatever. People can contact me through FB messenger (the app everyone loves to hate – I happen to love it) even if they aren’t friends with me on FB, and it doesn’t get shunted off into some “others” folder like it does on the web site, it just comes straight to me, which is handy.

In any case, I’m slowly being lured into the cell phone culture, but my husband’s main point against getting full cell service is well made – it’s extraordinarily rare for me to actually talk on the phone. Last week was an exception, as one of my dogs was very ill and I had lots of conversations with the vet’s office (he’s much better now, thanks – and my wallet is much lighter), but otherwise, I use the phone pretty much once a week to chat with my mom. Other than that, I really have no need of actual phone service. So it would be stupid of me to pay for a service I’ll use so rarely – especially when I refuse to give up my landline (in case of major, catastrophic emergency…the landline works even when the power is out!).

But the idea of unlimited messaging to go with my data access is rather alluring. Even though I really don’t text all that much either. Honestly, I don’t *need* anything more than what I have right now, which is 4g data access and free texing/FB messaging. But the gadgety goodness aspect of it all is getting harder to resist…much to my poor hubby’s chagrin.


 

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