The Not Quite World Wide Web

New year, new phone. My twenty four month contract [with a well known supermarket which shall remain nameless] was due to expire. I’d never been entirely thrilled with the phone. Though larger than its predecessor it was still tiny. It was also slow enough for me to be able to hoover the entire house or read all of War and Peace while it loaded anything and possessed the memory capacity of an average flea [and certainly less than our garden pond fish, who remember they are ravenous a whole winter after they’ve been fed]; besides, its screen size was inadequate for someone of advancing years and less than perfect eyesight.

The expiry gave me a chance to review my technological needs. If I had one, single, overriding aspiration it was to acquire mobile internet-that which some call ‘a dongle’.

If you’ve followed Anecdotage throughout the three [yes, three!] years I’ve been churning it out you will know that on occasions I, along with Husband clamber into a home-on-wheels and set off to destinations afar. Access to internet has always been inconsistent. Sometimes there are extravagant claims that Wifi is free and available throughout a site and there is nothing of the sort. Other times we pay some ridiculous sum for the privilege of two hours access on one device only to find-it is not available. Or we can get internet if we stand on top of a picnic table outside the toilets as long as nobody else in the vicinity is hunched over their laptop. Often we are teased by intermittent flashes of connection only to have our hopes dashed before Google has so much as loaded the local tourist board website or I am halfway through one of the long distance Scrabble turns I’m in the habit of taking. We skirmish over who has priority over the one hour’s Wifi on one device. I stress about getting blog posts published [yes, yes, it is a load of rubbish-but still…].

Now I have it; mobile internet-a ‘dongle’ if you like. It is a little, dinky, white slab like a pebble with a black gash along the centre. That’s all. I have tried it at home and it works. Eureka! Now I just have to travel somewhere.

In a week or so we are off to the Caribbean. Last year I reached a new nadir in my mobile phone experiences when all the credit on the tiny, useless phone got sucked out of it within about twenty seconds as I foolishly attempted a Facebook ‘check-in’. The subsequent complications [when there was no credit to phone the bank regarding failed cash withdrawals] are too painful to relate. Barbados has some of the most expensive mobile charges in the world.

The bad news? The little dongley-thing will not work in the West Indies, due to there being no agreement with any of those islands. One thing I know: I will not be using my new [much improved] phone for anything once I am there!

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Don’t ring us!

                One phenomenon you notice when you are at home more during the daytime is the proliferation of unsolicited telephone calls you are subjected to. Now I know there are rafts of methods of dealing with this exasperating annoyance, and I have tried very many of them, but I have also become somewhat interested in those hapless captives who man the phones and what has forced them into the undoubtedly desperate position whereby they must telephone people all day who have no wish to speak to them, or indeed to even pick up the phone.

                I’m guessing it must be quite wonderful to even find someone at home during daytime hours. As the recipient of so many of such calls I am able to tell instantly whether it is a ‘cold’ call or not. For one thing there is almost always a delay after I’ve uttered my usual, neutral ‘hello?’ This hiatus is usually the time when I replace the receiver, curse a bit and return to whatever absorbing activity I was engaged in before.

                If the caller is quick enough to make a start on their pitch it tends to go something like this:

                CALLER: Good afternoon ma’am. How are you today? [often heavily accented].

                ME: I don’t want to buy anything, thank you.

                CALLER: No I am not selling anything ma’am. I just wondered if you-

                ME: [firmly] I am not interested. Thank you. Goodbye.

                Note how polite I am! This is partly down to habit and also because I can’t imagine many occupations more tedious and soul destroying than theirs. The conversation can vary, of course. Sometimes they will ask for ‘Mrs PreviousSurname’, a surname I had for a previous era, in which case I adopt the haughty strategy of ‘I’m sorry, there is no Mrs PreviousSurname living here’. Sometimes they ask for my son, who has not lived here for many years, and on occasions we are still asked for the previous occupier of this house, a lady who moved on nearly twenty years ago!

This begs the question, where are they getting their information from? –From an ancient archive? –From a museum? The response to my denial of identity, if they think quickly, can be to ask if I am the homeowner. Indeed, this is sometimes an opening gambit. I tell them we have double glazing, a conservatory, cladding, insulation, insurance, that we don’t want a timeshare, didn’t have payment protection insurance, have made wills, our life insurance is all sorted and we are not in debt. These assurances may or may not be true, but the truth, in these circumstances is of no consequence. The fact is, if we were seriously to want any of these items or services we would go out and find them.

Husband’s method of dealing with cold calls can, on occasions be somewhat cruel, like a small boy teasing a fly, as when he demanded a ‘password’ from the caller, eliciting an, at first confused and then an increasingly enraged response.

I suppose, since these days more people are doing without land lines in favour of mobs the irritation might one day go away? In the meantime, what methods do you employ? Answers on a postcard…