Out of Commission

I was incommunicado last night.  Not because I wanted time alone or needed to zone out. Not because I didn’t want any distractions while I gathered my thoughts. Nope.

I was incommunicado last night because I left my cell phone at work, and longtime readers will know that I no longer own a landline.

Henry and I go into safety mode, covering ourselves with blankets to protect from possible disasters. "Oh, bother," he says.

Without a phone to use in case of emergency, Henry and I do all we can to stay safe, which includes covering ourselves with blankets to protect from possible disasters. “Oh bother,” Henry sighs.

So, I was out of commission. Had I been a contestant on the show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? I would not have been able to phone my lifeline.

Which is why I immediately went into action.  I sent an e-blast to all my friends alerting them of my unavailability to talk should they have a hankering to do so.

They never do.

I sent an email to all my credit card companies, should they want to call me to discuss a, ahem, late payment or something, and let them know that I’d be unreachable.

I then sent a desperate email to my children. “In case you need me, as I’m sure you will, I beg of you to please email me as my phone was inadvertently left in the office.”

I was certain they’d respond lickety-split and commiserate with my lack of phone. I even took my iPad with me on my walk with Henry, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, as I didn’t want to miss their email while I was out and about.

Of course, they didn’t write. Though, a few hours later I did get a short reply from my son. “Okay,” is all he wrote.

Okay?? Didn’t he grasp the seriousness of the situation, and how, should something terrible happen, there’d be no way of notifying me and no way of asking me to bring the bail money? This was a grave matter, indeed!

On the other hand, what if something happened to me?? How would I get word out? What if I fell down the stairs or tripped in the bathtub? And, as I gasped for breath, dragging myself across the room, and digging my nails into the carpet to help pull me along, there’d be no phone to reach for and no 9-1-1 to call and send help!

I suppose I could send out smoke signals through my gas fireplace, but it hasn’t been working of late. I could attach a can of Diet Coke around Henry’s neck and send him off into the dark of night in the hopes he’d bring back help, but Henry would no doubt get distracted and fall in a heap on the grass to take a nap.

Dash it all! When did I become a slave to my cell phone??

So, what was I to do?  Well, I did what any practical person would do in such a case as this. I battened down the hatches, hook, line and sinker.  I got into bed, with a blanket wrapped tightly around me to make sure I’d get into no accidents. Henry, begrudgingly followed suit and curled up beside me. I left all the lights on to ward off burglars. We didn’t budge all night. At least I didn’t. I stayed awake, keeping my eyes open to ensure no funny business would go on while I slept. Meanwhile, Henry fell asleep within minutes and snored the night away.

I did all I could to make sure we survived the night, without needing to call 9-1-1.

The next morning I drove ever so slowly to work, to avoid getting into an accident. Cars wildly honked at me. Someone even cursed and muttered something about holding up traffic, but I didn’t care. Safety first, after all. Life is challenging enough, and even more so without a phone handy.

Finally, I arrived at work and headed to my office. There was my phone, nonchalantly lying on my desk, and I swear it gave me a wink.

And, that was that. Another catastrophe averted. Oh and by the way, in case you’re wondering, The Fish Who Came to Dinner, is alive and well! And, also, still here. Sigh.

Now tell me, how do you manage when you forget your phone?

Do You Know Where Your Phone Is?

source: raitank/Flickr

Friends, it’s 1 am. Or 9 pm.  Or maybe it’s seven in the morning. Whatever the time, the question remains. Do you know where your cell phone is?

Consider this a favor (yes, you will owe me after reading this), for in my life I have seen the worst, and, if I haven’t seen the worst, then know that I’ve read about it.  Which is why, it is my duty to warn you:

If you don’t know where your phone is at this very moment, chances are it’s already fallen into the wrong hands.

Chances are, you were dining in an outdoor café and left your phone on the table in full view (all because you were waiting for a text from Aunt Tallulah regarding what time to pick her up to do the club scene later that night). And, while you were conversing with your dinner partner (Charlie, the guy with the gap in his front teeth and the sweaty palms, whom you’ve been trying to avoid for months, but he finally cornered you into having dinner with him), you didn’t notice that a person of ill repute just “accidentally” bumped into your table and—voila!—your phone is gone.

Here, at the university where I work, there have been a rash of phone thefts.  One even involved a strong-arm robbery (not to be confused with the kind that have weak arms), which sounds pretty scary, if you ask me.

But not as frightening as getting your phone swiped. For phones are no longer just phones. Face it, no one uses a cell phone just for making phone calls anymore.

No. They’re your link to the world. How else could you play “Words with Friends” or check your Facebook status updates, or “like” your cousin Mario’s meatloaf sandwich that he ate for breakfast and uploaded to his Pinterest page?  (Who eats meatloaf for breakfast, anyway?)

Smart phones also are great for shopping on Amazon, checking the value of your stock, buying a latte at Starbucks, checking in for your flight to Schenectady, and reviewing what’s trending on Twitter. All this and more!

Yes! Just think of all the data your little phone has collected on you–the sites you visit, your checking account info, and even all your passwords. Then ask yourself, are you sure you want to leave it out in full view, in all it’s naked glory, simply because you’re expecting a text from Aunt Tallulah or, more likely, from that guy you met at the bar last week, who still hasn’t connected with you, as promised? Sheesh.

Lucky for you, the Information Security Officer at the university where I work, asked some of her law enforcement contacts (from the local police, FBI and security professionals) why pilfered phones would be of any use, considering new service cannot be started on a phone, once it’s been reported as stolen.

Their answers were surprising. Or not, depending on how techno savvy and security minded you are.  Here’s what they said:

In fact, if you don’t already have a password on your phone, hopefully this will help motivate you:

  • Smart phones often have the credentials for the owner’s email “in the cloud.”  This will often allow a password reset for other services, such as other email systems, social sites like Facebook, perhaps even banking and financial.  Even if the financial credentials aren’t in the phone, there’s usually enough info on the social media accounts to get through the password reset secret questions. Even without those, there’s enough info in the phone to facilitate identity theft.

  • The reason for the violent high-risk thefts of phones, which the victims will probably soon deactivate, is to meet the following short-term criminal goals for supply of black market phones: drug deals, terrorist communication, and cyberhacking.

  • Don’t look at it as a phone.  Think of the information we now store and the account info we enter to allow instant purchase. If I had someone’s phone, I could data mine their identity, habits, home and more.

So, what are you waiting for? Put a password on your phone already!  Protect your information and the information of others you have stored on it.

And, if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for cousin Mario! After all, he doesn’t want his contact info exposed to the miscreants of society any more than you do. Ditto for Aunt Tallulah.

Enough said. You’re welcome, and don’t forget. You now owe me one.

Of course, you can make it up to me by commenting below. ;)

Dear Landline, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Oh landline of mine, I owe you a big apology. I thought I could save some money by cutting you out of my life.  I contemplated this for weeks, and then I made the phone call to AT&T.  This was it. “Cancel my service,” I said, without skipping a beat. I’m over the home phone. I don’t need it. I’ve got my cell phone, after all.

Oh, Rotary Phone! Now this was when a phone was a phone and nothing else. No texting, no checking email. Just talking on the phone. Alas, a relic from another day.

I figured I’d get some push back from AT&T, but all I got from the other end of the line was, “Do you want it shut off today or later this week?”

“Today!” was my eager reply. Absolutely.  Can’t wait! And then I hung up, satisfied that I’d just saved myself some 40 bucks per month.  Which is when panic set in.

Oh, landline, how could I be so foolish, so cavalier about something that’s been a part of me all of my life?  Without you, how will the telemarketers get a hold of me?  How will the credit companies call me incessantly to offer me protection against identity theft?  And how will I know when my air conditioner is in need of a check-up?

Worse, what if there’s an earthquake or some other calamity?  How will the folks at  reverse 9-1-1 know how to call and warn me to evacuate? OK, you get the picture. Nobody calls me at home anymore except sales people, repairmen, and on occasion my brother from Boca. But still, what makes me think I can live without you, my little lifeline?

As kids, we dreamed of having a video phone, much like the one the Jetson's had. Pre-Skype. Pre-iPhone 4.

Call it a lapse in judgment. Call me crazy or simply sentimental. Call me old school. Whatever the reason, my phone, my landline, I can no sooner part with you than I can sever my pinkie—no matter how useless it is.  And though I may be young at heart, the comforts of my age will prevail, which is why, landline, you are here to stay.

Of course, thinking of you reminds me of past phones I’ve had in my home. Like my first one in Queens, which was a black rotary phone, the kind you use your index finder to rotate the dial clockwise, then releasing when you hit the finger stop.  Not as complicated as it sounds, it is now a relic from another day, as I’m sure that not many people today have ever used such a phone.

In my day, we didn’t own the phone, we rented it from Ma Bell and our phone numbers included letters. I still remember my first phone number, AX7-2822. Then came the princess phone in pastel pink or powder blue. I would’ve killed for one of those.  Throughout the years, there have been other developments in the home phone biz, including push button phones (goodbye, rotary!) and cordless. We’re a mobile society after all, and no stinkin’ cord was going to tie us down!

We dreamed of video phones as seen in The Jetsons, but that never really materialized—except on Skype. We fantasized about having a shoe phone like the one Agent 86 had in Get Smart, but, at the time, a portable phone that wasn’t a landline seemed outrageously beyond the realm of belief.

The first mobile phone was probably this one, owned by Agent 86, Maxwell Smart on the classic TV show, "Get Smart."

And now, my precious landline, you have become just another casualty of the past, thanks to Generation X, Y and whatever. They don’t have the history or the bonds that we boomers have with our home phones. They don’t own one and they don’t see why we still hold on to ours.  Not even my son can figure out why I care so much about you, given that I have a cell phone.

But cell phones are fickle and disconnect calls in a flash.  Whereas you, my landline, are old reliable.  Which is why I’m holding on to my 40-bucks-a-month habit.  To paraphrase the late, gun-toting advocate, Charlton Heston,

If they want my landline, they’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

So, landline, can you ever forgive me? Surely, I’m not the only one who’s tried this and failed?