A Dark and Stormy Night, and a Loss

It was a dark and stormy night in the mall parking lot last Saturday, and it was impossible to see that, lurking under the sheen of melted ice water, there was a car-destroying pothole. First the right front, then the right rear wheels of my red Aveo smashed into what really was a double set of potholes. A hundred yards later, it had two flat tires and additional damage.

Moments after that, my wife received a telephone call from my youngest daughter, who was the driver, who said "Can I talk with dad?" So, I talked with her, and about 15 minutes later showed up to take charge of the recovery operations in my red Suburban. The series of events that unfolded during the next 24 hours led to the loss of my Treo 650 and then a decision to try what "the kids" are doing, so my new phone is a red (of course) Sanyo Multimedia Phone MM-8300, with bells and whistles but without Palm functionality.

While we waited for a tow truck, I positioned my Suburban with its light on the potholes in question; four-ways flashing of course, and got out my Treo 650 to capture images of the area. My son had left a 6-pack of tall diet Mountain Dew bottles in the car, so I used them to display the depth of the potholes: one sitting beside it, the other down in it, with the cap barely sticking out. As I did, I muttered to myself that I wished the Treo camera had a flash on it, or that I had my other camera with me.

Then, as I positioned the last shot, the bottle in the pothole shifted and when I reached out for it (cold, numb hands) my Treo fell. I was quick, my hands were in the water, under it, and flipping it back out before it has even sunk an inch. I struck it so hard that the back flew off and the battery flew out as well. Not one piece landed in and stayed in the water.

Normally, I would have focused on my Treo crisis, but there was this issue of a car to be towed on a cold, dark night, so I took the pieces and placed them on my car heater, with the keypad down, mentally crossed my fingers, and went about doing what had to be done with the car. (Total repair cost to the car, BTW, was $300.80 and now I have to decide whether to bother going after the mall for the damages; I did go back and get better images with a real camera the next day, including a very scary video of my wife driving the Surbuan through the potholes at slow speed.)

If you've read my columns for a while, you know that I wrote one last year about the hilarious ways that people drop their cell phones into water. I had known it would eventually happen to me, but it didn't help my sense of despair, because the Treo is expensive and I had only three months ago had one go bad on me, a week outside the warranty. I also knew from the previous piece that the manufacturer would not help me with this incident, because they don't feel responsible for people dropping their phones into water. Imagine that.

The next morning, I took my spare Treo battery and plugged it into my Treo. Nothing happened. I tried the old battery. Nothing happened. I tried putting it onto the charger, it started making little clicking sounds. I wept. (Not really, but I felt like it.)

As you know, once you are plugged in with a cell phone, you have to stay plugged in. And, since I use my phone for all my calls - every other number I have is forwarded to that number - I couldn't even last the day without one. So I thought, and thought, and thought about all of the stuff I have been writing and reading about, especially with regard to the 'Net Generation,' and decided that it was mostly old guys like me who had Treos and that, after making a variety of tradeoffs, I thought I should probably get one of the phones that the younger people would love to have and learn what they are learning, in terms of using it.

I didn't make that decision lightly. I loved my Treo. But the number one factor in its use for me was its ability, when linked to my laptop, to be a modem for the laptop whenever I had a Sprint signal. Truth be told, I did not make a whole lot of use of the other features of the Treo besides laptop connectivity and phone calls. Since my latest laptop is a very tiny Dell Latitude X1 (Great machine!) I had been thinking anyway that the laptop is so small that I maybe didn't need a handheld all that much. I essentially walk around with the laptop in my hand all my waking hours anyway.

So, I went to the Digital Toyz store and asked the salesperson which of the phones on display would most likely me used by a college freshman. I said it had to have a good camera and a speakerphone. He showed me several, so I pointed at the coolest looking one and said "Is there something even cooler than that, something that will make my own teenagers completely envious?" Then he handed me a little, shiny red Sanyo. I was sold, and not just because it's the same color as my cars.

Well, my experience since then has been a series of learning curves, which, frankly, I have only gotten through with the help of my work-study students and my kids. Between the two sets of young people, I can get help at work and at home. Instead of having to figure something out myself, I just avail myself of the nearest young person and they figure it out, then show me how.

The camera is cool, especially because it has a flash. The sound, regular and speakerphone, is better than the Treo. I don't find, yet anyway, a way to upload or download images and information to and from my laptops. I'm getting the impression that Sprint wants me to use the phone interactively only with a website that it will provide for me and that probably costs more money.

I'm going to plug away at it, though, and will write about the experience from time to time. It's my way of putting myself in a Net Generation 'place' vis-à-vis technology and it should be an enlightening experience.

P.S. This morning, I randomly plugged one of the batteries back into my Treo and the lights all went on. If it somehow comes back to life, this may have been a choice I will have to reconsider.

P.P.S. As I finished this up I received a call I had been wanting to get from a lady at the University of Florida. Halfway through the call my battery died in the Sanyo (I haven't learned about its length of life and how to monitor it well yet.) and, of course, I had left the charger somewhere else. (For my Treo I had four chargers: one at work, one at home, one in my car, and one in my travel bag.) So, more learning curve I guess.

Happy New Year!

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