Menckens Ghost

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Torture by Smartphone

Torture by Smartphone

November 8, 2017

By Mencken's Ghost

A museum in Paris features torture devices used in the middle ages, such as the rack.

Centuries from now, a torture museum of the 21st century will feature smartphones as the most popular torture device of the times. 

My latest torture by smartphone began with the installation of a new garage door opener at my new house in Tucson.

The opener is Wi-Fi enabled and designed so that the garage door can be opened and closed remotely via a smartphone.  It's similar to the thermostats for my new HVAC system and to the cameras and settings for my new security system, all of which can be operated remotely via smartphone—at least in theory.  Even my new dishwasher is Wi-Fi enabled, although I've never connected it to my smartphone. 

My new refrigerator, oven, microwave, wash machine and clothes dryer are not Wi-Fi enabled, but, like so many products nowadays, they have too many features and settings to comprehend in one lifetime. 

To digress even more, when my wife and I were shopping for the new wash machine, we asked the salesman about the life expectancy of modern wash machines.  He said that we'd be lucky to get ten years out of a machine, due to the complicated electronics going bad.  He went on to say that we could buy a commercial model of a Speed Queen washer, which, because it is made the old-fashioned way out of heavy-gauge steel and simple electronics, lasts over 25 years.  The downside is that the machine is very heavy and has an agitator in the middle of the drum.

Anyway, back to the garage door opener.  The owner's manual that came with the opener had a four-step process for getting my smartphone to mate with the opener.  The only problem was that the process didn't work.  It was like trying to get a squirrel to mate with a porcupine, or a Trumper with a never-Trumper.

This resulted in three days of calling the technical support department of Liftmaster, the company that manufacturers the opener.   As with all calls to all technical support departments, each call necessitated waiting in a long queue and listening to scores of options in order to speak to a human, or I should say, a geek.  The last option always goes like this:  "To speak with a technician, divide the number 86 by the number 3, enter the result on your phone, and stand on your head and sing the Star Spangled Banner."

By the time a geek came on the phone and began speaking to me in geek-speak, I had been transformed into a raving lunatic, similar to a person with Tourette's syndrome that you see in rags on a city street corner yelling to himself.  Fortunately, before I was institutionalized by my wife as a danger to society, I found out on my own that the problem was that the android software on my four-year-old Galaxy phone was not compatible with the newer android software on the application for the garage door opener.   As such, I decided to go to a Verizon store and buy a new smartphone, thus subjecting myself to a new torture.

It happened to be the day that the i-Phone 10 had become available for sale.  And it happened to be the Verizon store across the street from the University of Arizona, which has 35,000 students—34,872 of whom seemed to be at the store.   They were spending a thousand bucks on a new phone and hundreds more per month for a calling plan of infinite gigabytes, so that they could perpetually look at their smartphone while walking, driving, attending class, having sex, and going to the bathroom.  My wife and I used to walk through campus, but it's become too dangerous with all of the distracted students stumbling about between classes.

The media would have you believe that college students are buried in tuition debt, but that is obviously at odds with purchasing a thousand-dollar phone.  I have no debt and many times the net worth that the students will probably acquire over their careers.  Yet I bought a new Galaxy phone for $168 at the Verizon store and kept my limited gigabyte plan, which is shared with my wife and son.  These personal facts about a $168 phone and high net worth are related, although the media and other American institutions no longer tell the proletariat that there is a relationship between frugality and wealth.  This certainly isn't taught by greedy colleges and K-12 schools, which have an insatiable appetite for public money but yap about social justice.

Anyway, the transaction at the Verizon store took about an hour.  I should have taken a folding camp chair with me, as electronics stores have very limited seating, a layout that is carefully planned, so that customers spend their time walking around and looking at the gadgetry on display, which increases the likelihood of an impulse purchase.  It's similar to a rancher putting a bull in a pasture of cows in heat, except that the bull can figure out what to do without calling a geek. 

The salesman assured me that he could transfer my contact list and applications from my old phone to my new phone, as long as I knew the corresponding passwords.  Unfortunately, I had left my typed, four-page list of passwords at the house.  As a result, I took the new phone home and spent the rest of the day getting the apps downloaded and working again, including the garage door app.

Meanwhile, geniuses with PhD's in economics can't figure out why American productivity has flat lined.

Let me close with an invitation.  You're welcome to tour my new house.  Just look for the house with the garage door that is constantly opening and closing. 

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