My hang-up about smartphones

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Jerry Zezima Newsday staffer Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally syndicated humor column for his hometown paper, The

With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, who are dead and can't sue me, I'm the very model of the modern middle-age man. Except, unfortunately, when it comes to technology.

Until recently, I didn't have an iPhone, an iPad, an iPod or iTunes, although I did have iTeeth.

At the urging of my wife, Sue, who got into the 21st century when it actually started, I exchanged my dumbphone for a smartphone.

And it cost me only 99 cents.

"What would you like your phone to do?" asked Syed, a nice and knowledgeable retail sales consultant at the AT&T store.

"I'd like it to pick the winning Powerball numbers," I responded.

"If I could find a phone like that," Syed said, "I wouldn't be working here."

"My old phone is no help," I said, showing Syed the ancient Samsung I had been using -- or trying to use -- for the past several years.

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"He doesn't even know how to retrieve messages," Sue told Syed.

"It doesn't matter," I said in my own defense. "Nobody wants to talk with me anyway."

Then I explained that my original cellphone, which the Samsung replaced, came with a 134-page user guide.

"My daughters had to program it for me," I said. "It used to be that all you had to know about the telephone was that you said 'hello' when you picked it up and 'goodbye' when you put it down."

"Things have changed," Syed said.

"Do you know when telephone technology was at its peak?" I asked him.

"When?" Syed wondered.

"The day Alexander Graham Bell invented it," I said. "It's been all downhill from there. Now the industry is defined by this phrase: 'Can you hear me now?' Even the phone makers don't expect the stupid thing to work."

Sue helpfully pointed out that I was, as usual, wrong.

"The phone works fine if you're standing in the right place," she said.

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I used my phone to call hers. It didn't ring.

"See what I mean?" I said. "I'm standing right next to you!"

It was the mission of Syed, a 22-year-old college student who grew up with technology, to modernize me, a 58-year-old geezer who not only hasn't grown up but remembers when high-tech was an electric typewriter.

"Are you looking for an iPhone?" Syed asked.

"iGuess," I replied.

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"I would recommend the iPhone 4," he said.

"What happened to the first three?" I inquired. "Didn't they work, either?"

"They got upgraded," said Syed. "That's what I am going to do with you."

"So I'll be the iJerry 4?" I said. "It sounds like a rock group."

Sue looked at me like I had rocks in my head.

Syed was too kind to agree, so he said, "I think I can help you. I have nothing better to do."

When I told Syed that he has an excellent sense of humor, he replied, "I'm a hoot. The saddest thing about me is that I'm not around myself when I tell jokes."

It's a good thing he was around the store when Sue and I came in because he explained in layman's terms (so even an idiot like me could understand) what the iPhone offered, including a feature that lets me write drivel like this without having to get on a computer. Or an electric typewriter.

"It's perfect for your lifestyle," Syed said.

"I really don't have a life," I explained.

"That means you'll have more time to enjoy it," he said.

"Now you can retrieve messages," Sue said.

"Even though nobody wants to talk with you," Syed chimed in.

The phone, which ordinarily costs $549, was only 99 cents with my contract.

"I appreciate the savings," I said, "but I'd still like to win Powerball."

"Sorry," Syed told me. "That's the one thing your new phone can't do."

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