Sunday, January 3, 2010

The idiocracy Decade

A Ten-Minute Play


Me, played by a handsome, youngish man-about-town

Verizon computer voice, which is the only voice you hear if you call.

A Verizon In-Store Salesman, played by a young, well-dressed man with a slight moustache

A disembodied voice, played with a strong Indian, or Pakistani accent (your choice)

I walk into the study on New Year’s day and pick up my cell phone, one of those nifty PDA-Smart Phones, and try to make a call. Nothing happens. No noise, no cheerful lighting up to tell me it is ready to do my bidding. Nothing. So, I figure it needs jogging. Since you can’t kick its tires, I do the next best thing—I open it up, remove the battery, and then put it back. The screen lights . . .

“ahhh . . . it works.”

A Quizzical look appears on my face.

“Hmm . . . I’ve never seen that sign before. Wonder what that means.”

I try to turn it on.

Nothing happens.

“Crap. What’s going on. I better call Verizon. This thing is only two years old, and it looks dead.”

I pick up the phone and call Verizon.

The voice answers,

“Hello, we are eager to help you. If you want to activate your phone, hit one . . . if you wish to . . .” it goes on, never quite hitting on something I actually want to do. Finally, The Voice asks me for my ten digit cell phone number. I key it in. Then it asks me for my password..

“Huh? Do I have a password for my damned cell phone?” I hang up.

So, I get into my car and drive to where I think there is a Verizon store. But the store is no longer there. I inquire of my GPS where another Verizon store is. It directs me, but keeps wanting me to do legal U-Turns while enroute. Apparently, it doesn’t like the way I have chosen. Finally I arrive at the store, where I am greeted by a slick looking young woman who, without ever looking up from her cell phone, on which she is keying in something, tells me to go wait in line.

I wait.

Finally, it’s my turn. I hand the phone to a woman seated behind the desk. She checks it and tells me it isn’t working.

“Yeah, that’s why I’m here. I need it replaced under my insurance policy.”

“Oh, well yes, you do qualify, but we don’t carry that phone any longer. I can order one for you, but that will take up to 10 working days.”

“No, I don’t want to wait. I want to walk out of the store with a replacement in my hand.”

“well, we no longer carry that phone.”

“yes, I understand, but you must have the upgraded model.”

“No, I’m sorry, we don’t. We can sell you an upgrade, but it will be from our line displayed along the wall. I will get you a salesman.”

“Thanks . . .”

So I browse, looking at all the slick smart phones—the Droid. Hey, that sounds cool., I think. I look at them, but I have no idea how to turn them on, so they are just sleek, shiny little black, inanimate objects to me.

A salesman appears.

“How can I help you. Tell me, what you want to do with the phone.”

“Well, I want to make calls with it . . . oh, and I would like it to synch with my address and calendar on my computer . .. like the Palm did.”

“OK, well, we have a variety of smart phones.”

“But with each of the smart phones, we will require that you sign up for a $30 data package.”

“Um, what’s a data package?”

“Oh, that provides you with unlimited Internet access, as well as e-mail on your phone. “

“Oh, you mean, it somehow connects with my home system?”

“Uh, no, it is an independent Internet connection.”

“And it’s $30/month?”


“But I don’t need Internet access on my phone, or e-mail for that matter. I get both at home.”

“Well, then maybe you don’t need a smart phone. You should get just a basic phone (slight disdain in his voice).”

“A basic phone?”

“Yes, we have several models here.”

I look at the basic phones.

“Can I synch with my Outlook with this one?”

“Well, we don’t support that function. But I think you can get third-party software for $39.95 to do that.”

“So, as part of my insurance package, on which I have been paying $6/month, you are willing to sell me an upgraded cell phone that is functionally degraded from my current one.”

“Um, yes.” He asks for my credit card.

“I thought the insurance covered this cost.”

Well, it provides a mail-in rebate of $50. When you mail in your receipt, they will send you a Verizon Visa card that you can use anywhere to retrieve the $50.”

“Why don’t they just take the $50 off this bill?”

“That isn’t the way it works.”


I leave with my degraded upgrade phone.

I’m wondering whether this is a portent of things to come during this new year.

I arrive home. To find my wife fussing with her Norton Internet Security program. It keeps asking her whether she wants to upgrade. We don’t think we need to do that yet. I walk away.

She begins an online "chat" with someone in India or Pakistan.

“Hey, hon, we need to break off because we have to leave to meet Erika for dinner.”

She tells the guy we have to disconnect and she will call back later.

We leave for dinner, arriving, interestingly at a new Indian restaurant. It’s crowded.

We sit down and begin chatting, while looking at the menus.

My cell phone rings—we have our home calls forwarded to my new cell phone.

I look at the incoming call. It’s an 800 number, so I ignore it. A voice mail comes in.

Later, after dinner, we are at Erika’s house and I check the voice mail.

I listen and a stream of garbled voice comes at me.


I hand the phone to my wife. She looks as puzzled as me.

I then hand the phone to our daughter. She bursts out laughing.

The message is from an Indian or Pakistani, calling from somewhere about something, but we cannot make out a single word he is saying. We conclude it has something to do with the Norton call, which was interrupted. We figure we’ll figure it out later and go home.

We get home. It’s fairly late, 10ish. We’re both tired, so we retire for the night.

At 12:30 in the morning, a telephone rings, waking us both out of a sound sleep. It's an Indian/Pakistani calling. He wants to tell us that we need to make a call and we will get our problem resolved. Half asleep, Carol tells him that it is 3:00 AM and she has no interest in calling anywhere. He says,"oh", not, "oh, dear me, I am so sorry I awakened you." Just, "Oh".

Idiocracy. Maybe that’s what we will call this decade . . .
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