John Arnold: From one virus to another — now my damn phone won’t text

When his old phone broke someone loaned John Arnold a smart phone - here's how he got on...
John Arnold: From one virus to another — now my damn phone won’t text

HI-TECH: John Arnold appreciates his new smart phone, but has an “innate suspicion of everything virtual”.

DID ye hear about the elephant with diarrhoea? — ‘twas all over the town!

Well, ‘twas a bit like that with my mobile phone a few weeks back.

It’s not a fierce old phone — I think I bought it about two years ago. It’s a small black one and has four functions — making and taking phone calls and the same with texts. Amazing though, the newer the phone the smaller the ‘memory’ seems to be!

I had a similar device for seven years and in the ‘Inbox’ were 7,456 messages and 5,948 in the ‘Outbox’. I know you may well say, why in the name of all that’s holy hadn’t I deleted most of ’em? I suppose ‘tis in the same way as I hadn’t discarded letters I received in the last few decades!

I do often recall coming from Dublin on a bus the evening of an All Ireland Final, I’d be scrolling away up and down and might get rid of 700 or 800 texts that I considered superfluous. They might often include such mundane messages as ‘Dinner ready’, ‘Cows going up’, ‘Close the gate’, ‘Match tonight cancelled’ — in reality these weren’t really profound or important missives.

My old phone lies in a drawer in the kitchen under where the wireless used to be, and I understand that if I put in a certain Sin, or is it Sim?, card I can still view all those little gems.

Well, a few weeks back over a weekend, I happened to notice I’d not got a text in about four days. 

That was a bit strange as normally things like GAA Lotto results, details of Zoom meetings and other trivia would be coming through on an almost daily basis. So I sent a text to a handful of people and requested they text me back. They all got their messages and sent a reply, but I got nothing on my phone.

It seemed the phone was suffering from one-dimensional tele-constipation! I could still use it for calls and not bother sending texts.

On the Monday morning, I rang my phone ‘service provider’ — I won’t mention the company name, but it wasn’t 1 or 2 anyway. They quizzed me at length, had I left the phone fall, dropped it in water, was the Inbox for messages full, had I pressed some blocking device which stopped texts coming, had I failed to charge it, had I failed to pay my monthly subscription to the phone company or was in bed all the time where there might be ‘no coverage’? It was like the Great Inquisition!

When I satisfied Customer Service that I had done nothing wrong and hadn’t sabotaged, dropped, drowned, micro-waved or stood on the phone, they agreed to ‘Log a Problem’ with their Technical Team — but they said it could take up to six working days before the problem would be solved!

Six working days — I asked were they going to put up a new phone mast for me, or a line of poles to the house, or run an underground cable to the back door?

So, after the statutory six working days had elapsed, I rang again and went through my tale of woe once more. After listening to Greensleeves for 22 minutes, a very polite Customer Service Agent spoke to me with great news. I was informed my problem had been solved that very morning and that a text had been sent to me announcing the good news.

“But,” says I, “the problem is that I cant receive texts, do you get my meaning?” I was assured that it was just a technical error and soon full service would be restored, and ‘is there anything else I can do to help you, sir?’

Several possible replies to that query ran through my mind, but I just bit my stiff upper lip and hung up. In the heel of the hunt, three weeks had elapsed and things were nothing better.

Then, of a Saturday morning and I having two fried eggs for the breakfast, it happened. Beep, beep, beep —the text came in a shower, a flood... like the elephant with the problem! I think in total about 45 came through in about ten minutes, some dating back nearly a month.

Where had they been all this time? In the Cloud somewhere, in Cyber space, in a kind of technological purgatory? I never did find out, but service as normal was restored and about a week later, didn’t I get the long promised text from the phone company — exactly 34 days since I had ‘logged’ the complaint!

Oh lads, ‘twas great to have it back working, and you know, because it’s not a smart phone — now, I’m not saying it’s stupid, I need only charge it about every three days.

Well, as the seanachai Eamonn Kelly used to say, ‘things rested so’ until last Friday when, here we go again, same auld story. I was fit to tied, buck-lepping mad and ne’er a text arriving.

“Feck me pink,” says I to meself, “I’m not going through that whole caper again” — answering questions like as if I had deliberately broken the bloody phone. I calmed down after a bit, took a deep breath and rang the Customer Complaints once more.

In fairness, this time it was Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik I got to hear while I waited. I know the caper this time so I’m expecting normal service to resume by the start of July. Hopefully, by then, we’ll have the hay cut so that will occupy me more than thinking tedious texting thoughts.

So, rather than live in a text-less existence, a family member presented me with ‘the loan’ of a smart eye phone named after a fruit. 

Now, in fairness, it’s a great yoke altogether and whereas my little black number could manage four different tasks, this phone can do almost anything.

Since I first got a mobile phone about 12 years ago, I’ve had three in total. All needed a good strong press of the finger on the button to elicit any response at all, and that was fine with me. This new phone has a thing called touch-screen technology — apparently all the rage in Paris and Berlin, but I don’t know will it ever take off in the rural part of Bartlemy where I dwell!

You need only barely tickle the phone and it goes from Headbook to apps and whosapp and whatsnot and the devil knows what else.

I suppose it’s great. After all, it’s me that has got a QR code on a gravestone to enable future smart-phone wielding generations to ‘read all about it’.

But what beats me is, if the future of banking, money transfer, information technology and inter-personal communication will be heading this way, what happens if your battery dies? Maybe folks will have a box of batteries in the pocket, like matches long ago when people smoked.

For a fella that’s forever writing down things in notebooks, I suppose I have an innate suspicion of everything virtual and stuff being stored in cloud cuckoo land in some pie dish in the sky.

Just recently, we had the hacking scam, where private personal health files were got at. Having everything stored on chips and external hard drives seems to be the way things are going. Then again, all modern technology seems to be very susceptible to viruses — many man-made apparently.

Lord protect us, if a combination of scams and viruses all came along together and banjaxed our commercial infrastructure — banks, shops, etc. We have seen glimpses of what chaos could be caused on occasions of electricity outages — shops with electric cash registers have to close. I know we cannot stop technology and ‘progress’, but perhaps the pandemics and frauds of the last two years should make the world proceed with caution.

Meanwhile, please, please don’t text me until further notice, at least ‘til my little phone is decongested once more, hopefully within a month or so!

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