Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Joining the 21st Century

According to the online dictionary I use, smartphone is one word, lowercased. My version of Microsoft Word doesn’t know this; it puts a red squiggly line underneath the now-common term for a telephone that lets us do dozens of things besides talk. As of last week, I’m the proud owner of a smartphone. Actually, the one I bought is called a phablet, a combination phone and tablet.
I’d been thinking about upgrading my old cell, which was already a year past the end of its contract and embarrassingly out of date, but I’d put it off. I hardly ever used the phone, and it rarely rang. When it did, I was either startled or oblivious. Once when my brother and I were driving through Atlanta, the phone was plugged in to recharge in the car. It was resting on a molded tray between the seats when I heard a brrrrrr-ing sound I couldn’t identify. “What’s that?” I asked, looking around in surprise. “It sounds like a tornado warning.” Another time, in a restaurant, I was sure it was someone passing gas.
The most annoying thing about my old cell phone was the phone number. It had obviously belonged to a criminal, or at least a slippery character, before it was assigned to me. Every day I received at least one urgent call from someone needing to get in touch with a certain Dale S. without delay. Sometimes it was a recorded message and sometimes a live person, but it was urgent, guaranteed. Dale got more calls than I did, so naturally I began to resent the ringing of my phone. I should have had my number changed, but instead I tried to correct the situation one desperate authority figure at a time, a losing battle.
It wasn’t Dale’s popularity that made me cave in. It was the possibility of doing retail business on my phone using a little technological wonder called the Square (to learn more, check out The Square is a free device that plugs into the headphone jack of a smartphone and allows the user to process credit and debit cards. I don’t have mine yet, but I’ve seen it in use and have already installed the app on my phone. With my Dracula book already in circulation and Mr. Joe coming out in a few months, I didn’t want to be limited to taking cash or checks when selling books.
My new smartphone is a wonder. No one’s called me yet, but I think I’m going to love it once I learn the features. The second thing I bought, after the phone, was a book to tell me how to use it: Samsung Galaxy Note for Dummies. I’m working my way through the chapters. For some of us, smartphones are intuitive the way computers were intuitive: over time, lots of time.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Maniac, Maniac

Yesterday morning I rushed outside in my shortest shorts, the ones I only sleep in, after a moving truck pulled up next door. Two men were headed toward the back of the truck, presumably to load or unload something. It was eight o’clock, and the truck was blocking my garage—the very situation that turns me into a maniac.

Was I going anywhere at that hour? No. That hardly mattered; my chest got tight the minute I spotted the truck. My heart rate took a flying leap at the thought of being stuck two hours later when I had to leave in the car for my nail appointment. Don’t even try to apply logic to that.
I live in attached housing and don’t have my own driveway, just a garage and the one space in front of it. The people who live on my street understand the parking parameters, but visitors often don’t. They block residents’ garages and occasionally impede the flow of traffic on the street. Delivery and service vehicles are generally forgiven; we all need those once in a while. So why did the moving truck send me into a tailspin?
I suspect it’s a touch of claustrophobia. My morning coffee was a likely contributor, too, considering the time of day. Finally, those of us who tend to be territorial don’t do well with vaguely defined spaces that border on public spaces. There you go: perfectly reasonable explanations for why I burst out the front door like a psycho in my short shorts, jumped off the porch step, and cleared the ground cover like a rabbit.
Afterward I pictured myself running across the yard with my car keys like someone in a cartoon. Attack mode was a new low. Normally I just seethe at the offending vehicle from inside the house and no one’s the wiser. How many times could I charge across the lawn without gaining an unfortunate reputation in this small neighborhood? I’ve lived here for fifteen years, and so far the worst thing my neighbors have called me was a hermit.
Even hermits need to take the car out of the garage.
Maybe everybody has a hot button, something that drives them so crazy they have to fix it now. Maybe yours wouldn’t even bother someone else. My nail technician says hers is getting the “sticky stuff” from the gel polish process on her hands. Twice yesterday she stopped doing my manicure to grab for a paper towel.
I’ve been thinking about how to contain my blocked-garage mania. The obvious way would be to stay in the house when it happens. Another would be to cut my caffeine intake, so yesterday I stocked up on the K-Cup solution, Half-Caff. Fortunately (bright spot alert), it turned out that the moving truck was not settling in for the day. In fact, ten minutes after seeing the raving maniac in my front yard, it was gone.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

United What?

A new reality show starring a family of twenty-one people—friends of the famous Duggars of “19 Kids and Counting”--has just been announced. The group fondly known on “19 Kids” as “the Bates” are getting their own show.

Sorry, I cannot watch a show titled “United Bates of America.” It isn’t because the name isn’t clever; it’s because “Bates” is incorrect. The plural form of Bates, the family’s last name, is Bateses. Calling them “the Bates” should have been nipped in the bud when the Duggars started doing it. Now the whole nation will follow along. Where were these people when plurals were taught in English class? After all, we don’t say “keeping up with the Jones.”

Sometimes at my old job, we had contests to name new products. At other times, a group from the project would sit around a table and brainstorm. Whatever process was used for the new show, it seems somebody along the way could have piped up when “United Bates of America” was suggested. Didn’t anyone realize they were making a grammatical goof?
Since I started this blog, I’ve been accused of…well, how can we say it? I’ve been told I’m not at my best when dishing out grammatical advice. People prefer funny. There is nothing funny about my opinion of “the Bates.” I don’t mean the twenty-one people in the family; they seem like nice folks, and I wish them well. I mean the mistake we’re bound to hear again and again as summer becomes fall and one ad after another introduces us to “the Bates.” Enjoy the show if you watch it. I have to save my teeth, which I would surely grind to nubs during the first season.

For those of you who would like something funny rather than the 5:00 a.m. ravings of a caf-fiend, I'll take it under advisement.