I kept my polite, level tone throughout several hours of chats with Consumer Cellular help people. Until my last conversation, when the rep said “Have a blessed day.” I lost my stoic politesse. I snarled at him.
How did Christian religiosity enter a chat about problems I was having paying my bill to Consumer Cellular? Yes, that’s right. I was trying to pay my bill on line, as I’d always done, but Consumer Cellular’s web site wouldn’t let me pay my bill. Kept telling me they had no corresponding record of me and had I forgotten my password? I hadn’t but in the spirit of geniality made up a new one. Which they rejected.
Why did they care who I was? I was trying to pay my bill. I wasn’t trying to steal someone’s identity. I only wanted to pay my bill. Didn’t they want my money — whoever I was?
Wait a minute. Lest you read this as a generic kvetch about cell phone services and passwords — which it isn’t — I’d better tell you about my life-long abjuration of cell phones. (Of course, by “life-long,” we’re talking not about the length of my life but about the life length of cell phones as ubiquitous objects clutched to frantic bosoms as dire necessities.)
The first time I grasped the intrusive absurdity of cell phones was when a friend was coming to my place for lunch. We’d made our date for some loose time, a whenever-you-get-here sort of arrangement.
Since she lived in my neighborhood, she was walking over to my place. At that time I lived on Perry Street, between Seventh Avenue and West Fourth. My phone rang; I picked up; it was my friend, calling from her cell phone to say she was at Seventh Avenue and Perry Street and would therefore be at my place in a minute.
What? Why had she called? I do not know. The only reason to call me in those circumstances would be to say she was on Seventh Avenue — like, lying in the street because she’d been hit by a rambunctious baby elephant and could I come over either to play with the animal or help her, my friend, get to St. Vincent’s Hospital. Which was, like my apartment, one block away.
I have never changed my mind about the silliness of cell phones. And since I’m scrupulously careful when crossing streets to avoid baby elephants, I am fixed in my idea that I do not need a cell phone. My world view does not encompass the fear I’ll run into trouble whenever I step outside my apartment and will be required to call emergency services at any moment.
The other day, one of my cousins was trying to come up with reasons why I might carry a cell phone. None of them made any sense to me. I told her there is only one reason I got a cell phone. I took a bus to Lambertville, New Jersey to visit a friend who was picking me up from the bus stop. My bus ran into problems and was an hour late. I couldn’t call her because I didn’t have a cell phone.
I felt guilty. So for future such occasions, I bought a phone, the cheapest plan I could find which, at that time, was ten bucks a month. When the price went way up, I dropped that service and hooked onto Consumer Cellular, at fifteen bucks a month which was actually twenty bucks a month, once they added in whatever it is they add in. Taxes? Fees? No-see-ums?
But I never carried the phone around with me because I still have no need to. I don’t call people when I’m walking around the city or shopping. I don’t call supermarkets to announce my imminent arrival. I’m still not running into baby elephants or other obstructions to my pathways. I have never needed having the weight of a cell phone in my pocketbook, never needed to yank it out, wait for it to warm up (or whatever it does) so I could call…who? What? Show friends pictures of my life via my cell phone? I have no pictures on my cell phone, because my Consumer Cellular plan did not provide enough data for pictures. Or texting. Or leaving messages.
And that is fine with me. My cell phone (a cute red flip ⇓) made a call, got a call and that’s pretty much it.
I used that cell phone ⇑ no more than five times a year, so I’d been considering another way of having a cell phone without spending fifty bucks per use.
That was the cell stage I was in when Consumer Cellular refused my payment.
I called Consumer Cellular, which advertises itself as a happy family, especially for elder people who, it’s assumed, can’t really negotiate complex matters involving the internet. But what I’ve recently been seeing in their TV ads is a tell-tale expansion of their services from simple functions (like mine) to functions that mirror the complexity of pricey glamorous smart phone brands.
So maybe that’s what happened. Consumer Cellular is so wrapped up in getting smart and elaborate for its customers, it forgot how to maintain simple functions, like paying bills on its web site.
I spent an hour or so on the phone with eager, helpful people who kept saying they were so sorry regarding my inability to pay my bill. I was passed along to more and more advanced technological help but the techies proved as incapable of getting me online to pay my bill as did the sub-tech people.
The bottom line? Each of the Consumer Cellular helpers said, “I’m so sorry about this but I can help you pay your bill right now, on this phone call.” I rebelled. No, I said, I want to pay my bill on line. “Well…”
We got nowhere, so I said goodbye.
After once again attempting to pay my bill on line, I called Consumer Cellular to cancel my account. I got a person who did what all these services do when you want to cancel your account: he tried to talk me into a bigger and better account. I let him work his spiel for a while and then said, “Let’s just cancel my account.”
He did. And he reported he did and said I now owed Consumer Cellular thirty-two bucks. I said, “Send me the bill and I’ll see about paying it.”
And that’s when he offered (the invariably hostile), “Have a blessed day,” and I bawled him out for dragging his god into the conversation.
Next week, I’ll work on getting myself a burner phone and a small collection of sim cards. I fancy myself as a pseudo-spy, ripping sim cards out of my phone and grinding them into the ground lest my enemies trace my telephone call to my sister in Jersey, announcing when my bus will be arriving and where, so she can pick me up.
OK, that’s it.