Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Mysteries of Cellular Telephonic Devices

Last week, at the height of iPhone 5 mania, I got an iPhone 4s. It wasn’t that I was being a savvy shopper—or a cheap bastard, depending upon your perspective—but rather, I was given this phone at work when they replaced all of our Blackberries.

I’ve had my phone for five days now and I’m still not quite sure how to operate it. Basic things are going wrong. I must have done something early on to turn off the ringer and now I don’t know how to turn it back on. I read the instruction manual cover to cover, but the instruction manual seems to have been written for someone who already has a working knowledge of cellphones. That would not be me.

About a year-and-a-half ago, when I first got my Blackberry, I had similar problems. No clue how to use the thing. A few days after I got that phone I had it in my pants pocket and bent over to pick something up. This motion apparently triggered something on the phone, because I heard a beep followed by a soothing woman’s voice saying, “You may now leave your voicemail greeting.” I quickly took the phone out of my pocket and left my voicemail greeting. I was thankful for this stroke of luck because I had been trying to figure out how to do that since I had gotten the phone.

I have been trying to use this same technique to turn the ringer back on my iPhone 4s. I keep on putting the phone in my pocket, bending in unusual ways, and then calling myself from my landline to see if I reactivated the ringer. So far no luck, but at least the constant bending is making me more limber than usual.

I’m not quite sure what makes me so cellphone-challenged. I was talking to a friend of mine who is similarly challenged and he attributed it to our age. I don’t really buy that argument. At 43, there are plenty of people my age and older who handle a cellphone as efficiently and effectively as Eddie Van Halen handles a guitar. No, I think my ineptitude in this realm must come from something else.

Stupidity perhaps? Perhaps. But I’ve seen those people swerving in and out of lanes on the freeway while using one hand to text and the other to slug back their Starbucks Iced Mocha Strawberry Latte Orange Frappuccino, and I think to myself, “I’ve got to be smarter than that yutz.”

What then? The only thing I can think of is that I have some sort of genetic mutation. I know it would be odd for there to be a gene specific to cellphone usage, but the human genome is a mysterious thing. Some scientists have said that there is lots of “junk DNA” that doesn’t seem to have a specific use. Other scientists have said that there is no “junk DNA,” just DNA that we haven’t figured out what they do yet. So I’m urging geneticists to look into the possibility of a cellphone usage gene. Perhaps if they discover the gene they would be able to develop a technique to activate it for people like myself. That would probably be a lot faster than me figuring out how to activate my ringer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Flu Shot...Or Not

Yesterday I got a flu shot because I’m a responsible adult and I’m told that’s what responsible adults do. It was a benefit through my employer so there was no cost to me and it was extremely convenient since the shots were being administered at the office. And yet, as I rolled up my sleeve, the one thought that occurred to me was, “Holy crap—I am one ridiculously trusting human being.”

There I was sticking out my arm so that a woman I had never seen before and will likely never see again could plunge a 10-inch (give or take eight inches) needle into my arm. The needle presumably contained the flu vaccine, but really, how do I know? It’s not like I examined the contents under a microscope, and even if I had, it’s not like I’m a freaking virologist. For all I know I was being injected with strychnine, or kryptonite, or Country Time lemonade.

And I couldn’t help but notice that the woman wielding the needle wasn’t even dressed in one of those medical aprons or smocks to make her look more official. She was just dressed like you or me. (Not that I know what you’re wearing right now. For all I know you’re a doctor and happen to be wearing medical garb as we speak, in which case she was dressed nothing like you.) The point is, in the absence of healthcare attire, and since I didn’t ask to see her curriculum vitae prior to the procedure, I could only assume that she was qualified to insert sharp instruments deep into my anatomy. (To her credit, she was wearing latex gloves, but since I don’t know her personally, I have no way of knowing if she always wears latex gloves regardless of what she happens to be doing.)

After the assault on my arm was completed a Band-Aid was placed on the wound. (At least I was told it was a Band-Aid—for all I know it was a generic form of bandage.) I was told to drink lots of water (suspicious, isn’t it?) and I staggered back to my desk. For the rest of the day I was vigilant—taking my own pulse every five to seven minutes and continually looking at my mouth in the mirror to see if I had sprouted fangs. As it turns out, other than soreness at the spot of the injection I was seemingly fine the rest of the day.

Thirty-four hours has now passed since the injection and I have yet to display any unusual symptoms, so perhaps this particular flu shot was on the up-and-up.  I guess I got lucky this time around. But just to play it safe next time, I’m going to conduct a full background search on any personnel who come within 20 feet of the needle that goes into my arm.

Yup, I’m one ridiculously trusting human being.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Too Old to Rock 'N Roll

A long time ago (1986-1994) in a galaxy far, far away (New York) I went to a lot of concerts. In fact, I would guess during that timeframe I went to somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 to 100 concerts. (And I’m talking about blow your eardrums out arena and stadium-type concerts here, not club shows, which would probably triple that number.) These days, I’m lucky to go to one concert per year, and have even had a year here or there where I didn’t go to any. So what in the blazes happened to me? Ah, yes…age.

When you’re in your late teens and early twenties you think you’re going to get loaded and go to rock concerts for the next 50 years. You scoff at the very notion that you could ever possibly end up as devastatingly dull as your parents and their peers, whose idea of partying seems to be eating more than the number of Ritz crackers in a serving size. No, you are 100% sure during that time in your life that nothing is ever going to stop you from seeing every Rush, Jethro Tull, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, and Metallica concert ever put on for the rest of your existence.

Then you get a job, and a wife, and a mortgage, and some kids, and suddenly your concert-going agenda is thrown completely out of whack. All that money you used to spend on concert tickets and souvenirs suddenly needs to go toward mundane things like electric bills, gas, and food. All that time you used to spend away from home now needs to be devoted to tucking kids into bed and washing orange juice stains off the walls. And all those brain cells you used to happily kill in the name of rock and roll are suddenly in high demand so you can have some inkling as to what your boss is trying to convey to you at work.

Going to a concert is never a spur of the moment thing anymore. You have to plan months in advance. You have to ask serious questions like, “Is it in our budget?” “Will we be able to get a sitter?” and “Are any of the original members of the band still alive?” These are questions I never used to bother with back in my heyday.

Sometime in 1994 I went to see the Eagles. There were eight of us including my oldest brother and his wife. They are eleven years older than me and at the time had four kids ranging in age from one to eight. I remember my amusement when, just as the encore was starting, my brother and sister-in-law said they had to leave.

“Are you kidding? This is the best part of the show,” I said, incredulous.

“Yeah, but we have to get up early tomorrow and the kids have school,” my brother replied.

As I watched them leave the arena I thought, “Ha, ha—that’ll never be me.”

Eighteen years later I finally get the irony that I had that thought on the Eagles’ “Hell Freezes Over” tour.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Want Fries With That Shirt?

Every couple of weeks I come up with an idea that I know would make me a multi-millionaire, if only I weren’t a lazy, unmotivated slacker who never actually follows up on his ingenious concepts. It happened again today. This afternoon, while running errands with my family, I came up with an idea that would revolutionize the retail business in a way not seen since George Washington Carver invented the sewing machine in 1678. (Okay, I admit it—I’m too lazy to open a history book, too.)

We were on our way to Payless Shoes when my wife asked if I had purchased lettuce for the taco salad we had planned for dinner. I freely admitted that I had not made such a purchase. Then I said these immortal words, “Too bad Payless doesn’t also sell lettuce.” And the earth trembled just a bit.

Think about it. We were clearly not the first people who ever needed both shoes and lettuce and I’m sure we won’t be the last. And no, I don’t think that every person who goes to purchase pink leather pumps is also in the market for a head of iceberg; but there must be a certain percentage of people for whom this would be a huge convenience. My Shoes and Lettuce store would tap into an unmet need that no entrepreneur has ever addressed previously.

I know what you’re thinking. Why keep the focus narrowed to lettuce? Why not make it Shoes and Produce? Great question—thanks for asking. I would answer your question with another question. Have you ever been shoe shopping and thought, “I wish this place carried okra?” I didn’t think so. My point is, if you were selling all kinds of produce in your shoe store, where would you draw the line? Would you sell avocado? Zucchini? Beets, for crying out loud? By sticking with lettuce, which is the basis of all salads—and, as such, one of the most popular forms of produce—you wouldn’t have to worry about stocking items that weren’t going to sell.

Of course, Shoes and Lettuce is only the beginning of this revolution. There is never any end to things you might need while shopping in a store that wouldn’t normally carry that item. This is why stores like Ice Cream and Batteries, Yarn and Paper Plates, Shirts and French Fries, and Cellphones and Salsa would all do tremendous business.

You’re sweating. You’re panting. You’re wondering where all these stores have been all your life. Unfortunately, as stated in the opening paragraph, I’m not motivated enough to make this life-altering idea a reality. I’m only motivated enough to blog about it, so that one of my dozen or so readers might run with this concept and forever change the consumer landscape. And if you are the lucky reader who has the gumption that I lack to follow through, I ask for no monetary compensation in return—simply a lifelong supply of sneakers and romaine.