or, the path to the twentieth century via the kicking and screaming route
believe it or not, until last Monday morning we still had a dial-up Internet connection. and me, a web artist and all. we suffered these retrograde conditions for as long as we did in part because until recently we had plenty of neighbours with unauthenticated high-speed wireless routers spewing out connection left right and centre. as I explained to a friend last winter: our neighbours stomp up and down the stairs and walking around with boots on over our heads at all hours – so we clog up their internet connection with as much high-bandwidth data transfer as possible. my friend said: well, that’s showing them. ha. this past July first moving day the last of these unauthenticated hosts moved out and left us signal-less and oh so slow.
another reason it took us so long to make this transition was we were looking for the perfect solution and we were looking to pay less. we wasted months comparison shopping for bundles, packages, deals. now we know. there is no perfection solution and everything costs a lot. the best we could do was to get a lot more bang for our buck. after months of saying we have to do something about this soon, and then weeks of grumbling about how we haven’t done anything about it yet and more weeks of comparing notes about all the things we hadn’t thought of yet and then more hours online (on dial-up), and more hours on the phone (and so, therefore, with no internet access), and without endorsing any brand names or companies (because really, they’re all charlatans), here’s what we came up with:
we now have cable internet. it isn’t high-speed exactly, it’s intermediate speed. maybe eventually we’ll think it’s too slow, but right now we’re pretty darn happy with ten times faster than dial-up at four dollars a month more than dial-up. we also have cable telephone. it costs ten dollars less than what we were paying and instead of being forced to pay for call waiting even though we didn’t want it, we now have call display, which is a miraculous invention and a huge load off our minds. we can now not answer the phone in peace. we can also talk on the phone and use the internet at the same time. we have an encrypted connection, so forget about it neighbours, just back off.
we were on a roll so we decided we’d better consolidate our cell phone spending too. this was rather difficult as we were both already on the cheapest plans possible. we found a couples plan that worked out to a few dollars less per month and offered us more minutes than what we had and free incoming calls and unlimited calls between us, and all those things couples plans figure couples need. we’d have to sign a contract of course, but we were willing to do it – mostly because I needed a new phone. my old phone was so old it was made of metal. the display was black and green. there was no camera, no mp3 player, no internet, nothing. not that I minded so much, having plenty of other devices capable of these fulfilling functions. the real problem was that I’d stepped on the recharger cable thingy one too many times and was having an increasingly difficult time getting it to stay plugged into the phone. eventually the ability to charge the phone supersedes the phone charges, and I had reached that point.
so there we were on the phone the other night with a cell phone company we’ve been clients off for years, armed with an absurd arsenal of couples plan and phone feature trivia. things started off alright but soon became irritating. the couples package comes with two new phones, but all the good phones cost money and staring down the barrel of a two to three year contract, I did not want to get stuck with a piece of crap phone. now, in all our years of giving this company money we’d accumulated a fair amount of “reward dollars”, but we were not aloud to apply these dollars to purchasing the new phones that come with the package because they were already being offered at a reduced rate. fine. and the couples plan price originally quoted to us does not include call display – an absolute must have – for which we will both have to pay and additional six bucks extra. whatever. then they put us both through credit checks, even though we were already paying customers in good standing, and THEN they refused us a special reduced rate on the first three months because we were already clients. by this time it was nine thirty at night and my zucchini flower risotto was languishing on the back burner and we were about to die of starvation. and we were pissed off. I said: you know what, forget it. we’re not saving any money here and we’re not agreeing to a contract while we’re pissed off. so forget about it, we’ll stick with the plans we have. would that it were that easy. we were so far along in the process that we were already on the couples plan. the sales guys was almost as miserable as we were. he kept saying: I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do. finally he gave me a 1-800 number to call in the morning and we hung up. the zucchini flower risotto was awesome, which was of some consolation, but I didn’t sleep well that night, worried about the 1800 phone call in the morning. it felt like we’d somehow stumbled into a Las Vegas wedding – seedy and schmaltzy but still legal and not so easily annulled.
this story may be long and tedious and all too familiar to some, but it does have a happy ending. it turns out that that sales guy did do one great thing for us. the 1-800 number he gave us was magic. it led to a whole other plane of existence. I called in the morning to file for a divorce from the couples plan. I quickly realized that I was speaking to someone with real power. suddenly call display was free for both of us for the duration of our contract, which finally made it cheaper for us to be on the couples plan than to have two separate plans. when I told the Wizard of the 1-800 number that last night we hadn’t even got to the part where we order new phones, she asked if we had any reward dollars. yes, I said, but we were told we couldn’t use them for the phones that come with a package. she said, they couldn’t do that for you in that office, but here we can. my god! it was like getting out of high school and into university and suddenly you get to pick what courses you take and you’re legal drinking age too! I quickly called up the web page detailing all the phone options so as to pick out way better phones than what we were going to settle for when we though we were paying cash (good thing we’d taken care of that pesky not being about to talk on the phone and browse the internet at the same time problem a few days before) because now that we were paying in magical “reward dollar” money we were in a whole new playing field, phone-wise.
Stéphane didn’t even need a new phone. he was going to take whatever phone they’d give him for free and give it to a friend of his who’s old phone was even older than my old phone. the magic 1-800 allowed him to use his points to get her a way nicer new phone – with a camera and an mp3 player and everything. on the card we wrote: you have no idea what we went through to get you this phone!!
my new phone is slimmer and more sophisticated than I am but we get along great. I still dress up a bit when we go out together. I’m sure I’ll get over it eventually. it helps that new-phone has a metal casing just like its prehistoric predecessor did – one does need some thread of continuity amidst all this change.
we put it off for as long as possible and once we decided to do it, it took quite a bit of doing, but I do believe we have now irrevocably entered the twenty-first century.
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