Struggles with a “techie” phone

A year ago I surprised my wife at Christmas by replacing her several-years-old cell phone, which was just a phone, with one of those fancy iPhones. You know, the kind with Siri, the woman who (sometimes) is able to answer your questions.

Jenny was sort of happy, a bit shocked, and even a little miserable at the thought of having to learn how to use it. But Jenny, being Jenny, jumped right in, mastered some of the basics, and now doesn’t remember how she was able to get along without it.
This Christmas she did the same thing to me. Well, not quite the same thing. She bought me one of those new Windows 8 phones, the kind with something called “live tiles” that I had seen advertised on TV.
I already had a gadget phone that I never really learned much about. It was a Blackberry, and I knew basically how to make calls, read my e-mail and call up a couple of news websites. Almost everything else was a mystery.
Why did I buy a Blackberry if I wasn’t going to learn all the gadgetry? Well, I didn’t really. It was bought for me.
It all started about 2006 when I was working as the editor of the paper in Florence, Ala. The company that owned the paper decided its managers were not technologically savvy (they got that right). To force us to be more “with it,” they bought us all Blackberrys.
I proved over time that it takes more than owning a Blackberry to make me savvy about anything.
But over the past several months, I had been complaining that the Blackberry would freeze up, turn itself off and restart.  Then I read an article in Consumer Reports about how you should get a new cell phone every two years, because the companies build the cost of the new phone into the two-year agreement. If you keep the old phone longer, you’re still paying a monthly charge as though you have a new phone.
Maybe, I should get a new phone, I thought. But getting it and actually having to figure out how to use it are two different things, which is to say that the conversion hasn’t gone very smoothly.
The instructions said activating the new phone could be done online; I failed at that. But when I called Verizon, a very friendly woman somewhere in Alabama did it for me.
Everything was fine until I looked at my contact list in the new phone. Almost everyone was under the letter “M.” Being an old fogey, I guess, I had entered “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or “Ms.” in front of every name.
I tried to re-sort the list by last name. The entries locked when they were transferred and wouldn’t re-sort.
I had to re-enter each one by hand and delete the old one under “M.” Fortunately, there were only about 60. It’s one of those times when it’s a good thing I don’t have a lot of friends and relatives.
Everything else is going pretty well. I love my new phone, and I’ve already learned how to do lots of things with it – far more than I could do after six years with a Blackberry.
How did I do that?
I cheated. We bought our son Joe a phone just like mine. When I want to figure out how to do something, I just ask Joe.
He’s better than Siri.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at