Rural Living

Hard Cell

The Challenges of In-Country Calling


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

I have become something I always prided myself for not being: scatterbrained.

If you happen to remember the hit, “Blame it on the Bossa Nova,” well, I blame it on the anesthesia, and hum that new tune several times a day. I am leaving my purse, or my wallet, or some important thing — other than Brownie — everywhere I go. Thank heavens for rural living; around here, if you leave your purse in the supermarket, someone drives it home to you.

Thus it was that recently The Scatterbrain left her cell phone charger plugged into a Norfolk hotel wall. She remembered it about 20 minutes out of the city. There was nothing that might have tempted her to turn around and retrace her thrilling but treacherous path back to the city. So, she called — on the charger-less cell phone — and left word with the hotel, which promised to mail it to her. Done!

A week passed. No package. The Scatterbrain called the hotel’s housekeeping department. After 10 minutes of “checking,” the sad news was delivered: No charger found in room 1506.

How this happened, I have no idea. There’s the housekeeper. There’s the wall. There’s the odd, black device plugged into it. How could it not be found?

My theory is this: So many scatterbrains leave so many cell phone chargers plugged into so many walls, that housekeeping simply tosses them with the used Kleenex and, in my case, orange peels. (Oranges are my favorite new addiction).

This meant a 20-mile round trip — and I was lucky it wasn’t further, living in the wilds of rural Virginia — to buy a new charger.

Silly me.

Here is the scope of what I know about cell phones: 1) You take them out of your purse occasionally — provided you haven’t left that purse somewhere. You use them to call ahead and order your take-out food from a restaurant. 2) Cell phones have cameras. I used my camera once. It captured a photo of the inside of my purse. I don’t know how to get it off of there.

Once, a tourist stopped me and asked, “How many bars do you have here?” I babbled on about two or three at The Homestead, and the pub at Gristmill Square. He looked at me as if I were daft. I wandered off, wondering. It took months before I learned enough to know he was asking about cell phone reception.

Who knew? Certainly not The Scatterbrain.

I am apprehensive of stores that sell technological doo-dads. I am a Luddite.

I know virtually nothing. “Please,” I prayed on my way to the cell phone store, “don’t let me be ‘served’ by some slick 20-something dude in a cheap suit.”

My prayer was answered. I walked into a calm environment with two female clerks. They were as helpful as could be, while serving me and another Luddite lady.

Sadly, their talents did not extend to selling me a new cell phone charger. The young woman took one look at my phone and expertly managed to hide a derisive smile.

“Oh, we don’t sell chargers for these old phones,” she said kindly. My only option was to buy a new phone. My heart became heavy. “Well, I don’t want anything with a bunch of features,” I proclaimed. “I only use it once or twice a week, to call restaurants for take-out while I’m driving around doing errands.” She expertly managed to hide her amazement, although her eyes grew quite large. “Just give me the cheapest phone you have,” I said.

That phone cost $50. My heart became heavier. I have astonishing medical bills. Fifty dollars means giving up a lot of take-out.

But wait!

Turns out, you buy the $50 phone, and get a $50 rebate. Go figure.  All it would “really” cost me was the $2.50 tax. Imagine!

The helpful clerk “downloaded” — I’m not too certain what that means — all my stored numbers onto the new phone, along with my voice-mail thingie. Then, God bless her, she showed me how to find a reggae ringtone.

I am happy with my sleek, new cell phone. But, I am loath to toss out my perfectly good old phone. So, I looked up “donate used cell phones” on the Internet (I am, at least, that savvy). I found “used cell phones for soldiers.” What a great solution!

Now, a new dilemma. First, they want me to “remove the old battery.”

Oh dear. 


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