Saturday, August 15, 2009


One day I was digging in my purse. I wanted to make a phone call. So down I plunged, past the cheque book, past the nail clipper that has no file because airport security snapped it off just after 9/11, past my thyroid pills and pain killers, past the comb I use for comb concerts and occasionally for my hair, past cough drops and gum and pens and a Braille writing slate, all the way down to the deep dark bottom where the heavy stuff sinks. When I finally drew out my cell phone a teenager sitting beside me peered at it and said, “What’s that?” That’s how old my cell phone is.
Yes, my cell phone is old, old but I still love it. Sometimes you get something that’s so good, so unbelievably good that you think maybe you ought not to mention it to anybody, in case you got it by mistake. This, for some time now, has been the case with my cell phone. And though it has never let me down, has always worked well enough, it’s not the phone that I value so much as the plan, a plan I got back in the olden days when $11.00 could buy you something nice. It’s a pay-and-talk plan. For less than $11.00 a month, or maybe it’s just a wee bit more, the company takes the money out of my account and gives me voice messaging and 25 minutes worth of air time, way more than I need. Nobody calls me to offer me more features, nobody pesters me at all. Every so often I go away from home and clear out some of the extra money that accumulates on the plan by making a long distance call.
And so, given how unbelievably good that cell phone has been, you can probably understand how distressed I was when, after several tries, it finally dawned on me that my phone would no longer make calls when I was away from home. And I simply had to face the truth, the party was over. It’s a cutthroat world, and so I knew that they had finally caught up to me and taken away a privilege. If a thing seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
I called up the phone company to explain the problem. I practiced the call for several days before I actually made it. Experience has taught me that customer service lines can make me angry very quickly, and I don’t like to hear myself screaming over the phone. The call started just as I had imagined it would, with a tour of many options, a recording, a musical interlude, assurances that my call was important. Suspicion was rising. So was my temperature. Finally I was connected to someone whose English I could barely understand. So things were just as I had expected them to be. Even hope ladies don’t seem to be able to change this!
Still, it seemed that I had to make this call. I explained the problem. He repeated my explanation. I tried to be patient. In turn the agent, once I got used to him, was patient and competent. He asked me to take the battery out of my phone. I did so. He asked me to put it back in. I tried. He was patient while I tried. He was patient while I tried again and again. He was patient while I searched for David and got him to try. He was patient while David tried again.
Then he said, “Excuse me, but we need not continue this. Your phone is very old. I can send you a new phone free of charge.”
And here it was, exactly what I expected. I wasn’t born yesterday. There is no such thing as a free phone.
“What kind of a contract will I be entering?” I asked.
“None,” he said.
“How will my monthly bill change?” I asked through gritted teeth.
“It will be exactly as it has been?”
“How much will the shipping cost?” By now I was desperate to find the loophole.
“We will ship it free,” he said. And then, “What colour do you want, black or red?”
“Which one costs more?” I knew I had him this time.
“They are both free,” he said.
So I ordered black, and then I got an email confirming the order and showing no charges.
And I still believe there is no free lunch, but I think there might possibly be a free phone—for hope ladies, and maybe for other people too. Come Christmas I will be reconsidering my theories about Santa Claus. Way to go Telus!

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