I used to think the department of motor vehicles (DMV) was the best place to find a collection of individuals in catatonic states that cannot be broken, even when an employee says, “It will just be a few more minutes.”
Then I visited a cellphone repair store.
The latter occurred while on a business trip to Las Vegas. My loyal BlackBerry Bold suddenly turned into the BlackBerry Timid. Calls dropped, keys became stuck and the trackpad was neither tracking nor padding. Eventually the Bold froze completely, prompting me to use my lonely in-room phone at the Bellagio to make a 90-second call to a local Sprint store and set up an appointment. Bellagio personnel termed that a “long distance call” and charged me $12.98 even though the store was two miles away. The next time you see the breathtaking and gloriously expensive dancing fountain show at the Bellagio, please silently thank me for my financial contribution.
Once inside a repair store, it’s very apparent that all the customers have two things in common: NOBODY dropped their phone and ABSOLUTELY NOBODY had their phone near water. Even if a technician removes the battery and a smallmouth bass swims out, the phone’s owner will insist that somebody must have stolen the phone during the night, tossed it in a lake, retrieved it and set it back on the nightstand before morning.
I handed my faulty Bold to an employee, explained the problem and was told to wait a few minutes while a Sprint technician did a “quick diagnosis”. That is, find out if the customer is lying. I passed the test, as the employee returned shortly and confirmed that no, my phone did not come in contact with water.
But we already knew that, didn’t we?
The employee said the phone would be fixed within 90 minutes. I took a seat with other customers, some of whom looked like they had been sitting there since Bugsy Siegel ran Vegas. Like department of motor vehicle patrons, nobody leaves because we are all waiting for something we SIMPLY CANNOT DO WITHOUT! In the case of the DMV, it’s a driver’s licence; at a phone repair store it’s the ability to play Angry Birds and update our Facebook status from anywhere.
I spent the time eavesdropping as others explained their problems. I realised that cellphone owners can be divided into three groups when they enter a repair store.
Group One is the phone “experts” who feel they should be working at an Apple Genius Bar and have the vocabulary to prove it. They recount how they tried to fix their balky phones themselves, dazzling the repair staff with phrases like, “hard reset” and “removed the microSD card”. Their problems are almost always fixed when the technician turns the phone off and turns it back on, something the owners neglected to do when they were “upgrading the firmware”.
Group Two is the perplexed individuals, almost all senior citizens, who inadvertently opened some program that caused the phone to go haywire. They are still using their cellphones for their original intended purpose — making phone calls — and have no idea who Siri is and why she keeps asking questions. Their “broken” phones work fine; what they need is a four-hour class called Welcome to the Magnificent Age of Technology!
Group Three is the furious customers, who arrive muttering semi-audible profanities and vowing never to purchase another product from their current carrier. All have made multiple repair store visits and all are demanding to terminate their contracts early. Ironically, all spend their wait time tinkering with the latest phones in the display area, eventually summoning a sales rep and inquiring about price and activation fees. Most leave with a new phone and a new three-year agreement.
True to Sprint’s word, a technician appeared from the mysterious room behind the counter 90 minutes later and proclaimed my phone fixed, without telling me what ailed it in the first place. I eagerly snatched the device and began scrolling via the now-functioning Trackpad, opening 87 emails that had accumulated in the past 15 hours. True, most were touting performance enhancing drugs and stock tips, but it was nice to have the power to delete them.
I left despondent knowing that a cellphone controlled my life, yet relieved that I was once again free to email, text, social network and surf the Net whenever and wherever.
Good thing. My driver’s licence is up for renewal.
Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad