Happy and upwardly mobile

Geelong Advertiser, Monday 15 December 2008, p. 17.

My wife is profoundly deaf and even with two hearing aids finds oral communication, particularly in areas where there is high ambient noise, very difficult. So when she takes part in quiz games, she can’t hear the questions, (which those who don’t know of her affliction thinks indicates that she is stupid) though when someone explains them to her clearly she gets most of them right.

For years I have insisted that she have a mobile phone for emergencies. It was an old-fashioned brick, which lay uncharged for most of the time, in the bottom of her handbag. She could not hear it ring even when it was charged and she could never remember my numbers, though at least they were programmed into the phone’s memory. Its use in emergencies was thus pretty fraught anyway.

She was very resistant to my updating it. ‘What do I need a mobile phone for? The kids can email me,’ she said. I tried to explain that modern children and grandchildren have bypassed email and now communicate by text messages, pictures and videos, sent via their mobiles. ‘If you want your children to contact you, you need to make it easy for them, so we should update your mobile.

So off to the telephone shop in town, where the staff are actually helpful, and truthful. The young lass with whom I quite often deal even telling me not to get myself an iPhone, which I covet, because the price gouging by the phone companies over contracts and the phone itself is appalling. ‘You can possibly get one on ebay,’ she hinted. Anyway my request this time was for a prepaid phone and one with a loud ring tone, vibrating facility (my wife says she always wanted a vibrator!) and high volume output. Only $79 later I was ready to leave the shop, when I asked about the fact that the $10 initial credit ran out in 30 days. ‘What about lumps of prepaid usage in future?’ I asked. ‘You can buy 6 months worth for $30 but that runs out at the end of that time,’ was the reply. Since my wife was on a $5 a month emergency contract there was no advantage. ‘Simply take the SIM card out of the old phone and put it into the new and you can keep the number and everything,’ says my helpful person.

So off home with the phone which my wife quite liked when I dropped the lightweight, slim unit in a fetching bronze or turquoise case into her hand. We live in Teesdale, right on the fringes of mobile reception. There is none in my study, a tiny and variable amount in the front room of the house, and a couple of bars of reception at times in the paddock.

Unlike me, her first strategy was to read the manual. But modern mobile phone manuals are pretty useless for neophytes. All the key things you need to know are not there, like how do you correct an error? How do you save your carefully programmed screen background? But my wife is persistent and pernickety. She has learned how to send text messages and accompanying photographs, how to do speed dialling, how to store material in one or other of the memories and what her own mobile phone number is. Up till now she had never used it.

From mid-afternoon yesterday until bedtime, much later than usual, she was engrossed in pressing buttons and trying things. Since she was on a $5 plan for emergencies only, goodness knows what she will have racked up by the time she has cracked everything.

She took it down to the shop with her this morning and I had to ring her to test it. She tells me she heard it ring and felt it vibrate and she could hear me clearly on it. Mind you, it was pretty quiet on the bike path and if she was somewhere with high background noise it would be a different story.

My daughter, who is up to date with most modern technology, has been very patient. Sending pictures of the grandchildren and grammatically correct full-text messages to begin with and then introducing the abbreviations and short cuts. Next she sent the url for the website which has 41 pages of ‘txt abbreviations’. A plaintive mother asked, ‘Do I have to learn them all?’
But she is definitely into the twenty–first century now.

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