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Down on the Farm: Phone help please

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People around here, including myself, were crabby enough as the long winter dragged into a dreary, wet spring.

Then to top it all off, Company A bought the local cell phone tower from Company B.

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The corporate finagling forced our entire town to get new phones.

What a disaster. Just when the weather was pushing us to the end of our durance, we were given yet another enemy: our own phones.

Now, instead of grumbling about the weather, people wander around staring at their phones mumbling, "I hate this thing, I hate this thing."

The phones were free, true. But new phones, in order to distinguish them from old phones, come loaded with gadgets completely unrelated to making a phone call.

Mine came with a complete pull-out keyboard. The only way you can type on the thing is with a tweezers.

The phone was clearly designed by a committee of technical gurus who flunked English. The same gurus assumed we're all as smart as nine-year-olds and able to figure these things out in two minutes own like any nine-year-old would.

The phone can do anything you want it to. It can take pictures. It can cruise the internet. It can send text messages. It can send email. It can turn on the coffee maker.

Just don't try to place a simple phone call.

To try to make the thing work, I searched for the manual. Could I have thrown it? I dug through the box. I dug through the garbage.

The only two leaflets I found instructed me on how to use the phone to keep my list of addresses, how to "synch my calendar," how to check my stocks, how to Twitter, how to Tweet, how to play Scrabble with friends overseas, how to check the Twins score and on and on.

But to make a simple phone call? No instructions to be found.

Instead, I fumbled around with the phone for an hour. I accidentally connected to the Internet four times. I can't imagine what the bill for that will be.

If I had an emergency during those first days with that phone, I wouldn't have been able to call 911 unless there happened to be a third-grader nearby.

Turns out, the instructions for the phone are on a DVD which I had stashed in the same drawer with the other DVDs I never watch.

Instruction manuals should be on paper. You should be able to page through them to find what you need to know. You shouldn't have to sit through a video tutorial that covers all kinds of things you don't want to know before it gets to the point where it teaches you to place a simple phone call.

Instructional videos for technical gadgets only add insult to injury. To prove that the gadget is easy to use, they don't make it easy to use. Instead, they hire ditzy actors to say how easy it is to use.

"It's easy! Just pull down the 'function' menu, select 'edit,' enter the contact information, push the right arrow twice, hit the star key and tell the phone to call 911."

Some people just love these gadgets. They enjoy figuring them out so they can bat you over the head with their knowledge. "It's easy!" they gloat.

More often than not, they're in third grade.

But many of us have responsibilities other than figuring out our phone. We have crops to plant, lawns to rake, dinners to eat.

To the people in this world who actually work, the phone is a tool, not an end in itself. We don't use it to play Scrabble. We don't snuggle up with it on the couch for hours on end.

We also don't run into light poles while walking, or sit at intersections for thirty seconds waiting for the stop sign to change while we finish texting "U R 2 kewl!" to our friends.

We just want to make a phone call! Will somebody please help us?

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