Friday, April 12, 2013


This past weekend -- while in Sioux Falls -- my mother asked if I felt like visiting Verizon. I'd mentioned it in passing a couple weeks ago but hadn't really thought about it again, and now was my chance.

You see, for the first time in about a decade, my phone had survived to an actual upgrade. I'm on the family plan (hard to feel sheepish when it saves me hundreds) and somehow, no other family member had needed a new phone in the meantime. As for the phone itself surviving -- well. I had one of these.

Photo pulled from Google Images. Mine is much more scratched up.
That is a Casio Brigade. The kind of phone made for construction workers and twenty-something women who break phones. Water resistant, shock resistant, and all-around tough.
Which is handy, since I liked to drop it in things just to scare people. Or throw it down a sidewalk. (Yep. Did that more than once.)
It does, of course, have its limitations. The speaker is in a weird spot, so making regular phone calls was not always worthwhile. After a couple of drops into drinks, it was worse. And, of course, the battery (the second one I had for it) was starting to go.
So when -- miracle of miracles -- my line came up with an upgrade and it didn't need to be used by another family member before I got to it, I thought, "Hey, new phone!"
And then I started shopping.
And I realized ... I actually kind of wanted a smartphone.

The thought frightened me. I mean, how quickly would I break a touchscreen? What would this end up costing me? I'm not nice to my phones, folks. I break them, lose them, dunk them -- once, I even threw one away. I'm just a step below my dad, who besides losing phones in lakes, once dropped his phone at a job site and it got paved over. (Mindblower? IT SURVIVED. It was an early 2000s Kyocera. The same model survived Mia Sorella and me as well.)

I get nervous about expensive electronics.

So with the thought of only shopping, I walked into the Verizon store in my little hometown. Where there was one guy working and no other customers.

I knew how it was going to end right then.

He was remarkably patient -- answered all of my questions, made a few recommendations, answered a few more questions (including the nerdy ones) and agreed that perhaps for my location, certain phones (beginning with an "i") might not be a great fit. Suggested that 4G probably didn't have to be a high priority, considering where I was living. Showed me how to set up any Android phone to favor wi-fi over data use.

And then came the Big One. "So ... What's the toughest smartphone you have?"

Enter ... this.

Yup, another Google image.
Casio does one thing with cell phones: ruggedized beasts. My Brigade had a big brother -- the Commando, an Android-running smartphone with similar shock resistance, a replaceable battery and the ability to do this.

Aaaaand one more from Google.
And as it happened, Verizon Guy had grabbed a couple of them from his Sioux Falls store that morning. There wasn't one out on the floor, but he pulled one out of a box and let me toy with it a bit.
It was not surprising when I left with a phone.
What followed was an evening of intense buyer's remorse. I hadn't intended to spend that money. I hadn't intended to spend that much more a month on a lousy data package. I didn't want to become "that person" at the table that couldn't stay off her phone. And for crying out loud, I wanted nothing to do with upset avians.
Why did I buy the thing?!
Not that my inner nerd wasn't in a state of perpetual glee. The buttons! The apps!
Gradually, the benefits came to the surface. I wouldn't need to get a GPS, either for driving or caching -- it's all there. It was good to be able to check the weather when we were in the middle of nowhere in northern South Dakota. I read half of Pride and Prejudice over the trip. I figured out how to sync the camp's calendar to my phone. And perhaps most excitingly, I could text Mia Sorella for the first time in almost four years.
Unfortunately, it does feel a bit like I've voluntarily hooked into the Matrix. Luckily, there is something I can use to unhook: the power button. Already I've found a few uses for it.
And I still have no intention of downloading Angry Birds. That's just ridiculous.

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