Oh for the days of the rotary phone!

Younger people — translation: not baby boomers — don’t always see the humor in modern communications. But we do, because while they grew up with it, we didn’t. Humor columnist Jerry Zezima, a boomer whose work appears in Connecticut’s Stamford Advocate and is syndicated nationwide through the Tribune News Service, calls our complaints “the call of the riled.”

If you were to call me on my old iPhone to ask when telephone technology reached its peak, I would have told you it was the day Alexander Graham Bell invented it and that the entire industry has been going downhill ever since, except you wouldn’t hear me because the reception would be so bad that it would seem like the nearest cellphone tower was on Pluto, which would give Disney an excuse to charge me for phone service.

Now that I have a new iPhone, I would be happy to discuss telephone technology with you, unless I didn’t recognize your number, thought you were a scam artist and refused to pick up.

Still, I owe my technological upgrade to Josh Frankel, a retail sales consultant who knows more about phones than Bell himself, which admittedly isn’t difficult considering the inventor died almost a hundred years ago and isn’t on my list of contacts.

Speaking of which, the contacts mysteriously disappeared from my old phone, ascending into the iCloud on a day when it wasn’t even iCloudy. It was the final insult from a device that had no doubt been the inspiration for an advertising campaign that asked the eternal telephonic question: “Can you hear me now?”

“Yes, I can,” Josh said when my wife, Sue, and I went to a nearby AT&T store to exchange our old phones for newer models that, in my case, wouldn’t do much good anyway since nobody wants to talk with me.

My enthusiasm over the fact that Josh could actually hear me was tempered somewhat by the additional fact that I wasn’t on the phone at the time.

“You’re sitting right next to me,” Josh pointed out. “If I couldn’t hear you, a phone wouldn’t do me much good, either.”

Jerry Zezima

I heard Josh when he politely told me that I had the stegosaurus of phones, the iPhone 4, which I bought in 2012 and hadn’t really learned how to use aside from: (a) forgetting where I put it, (b) butt dialing complete strangers and (c) punctuating almost every conversation with indelicate language when, because I was invariably in a dead zone, it seemed like I was talking to a mime.

“You have to move up,” Josh said.

“You mean I’d get better reception on the roof?” I asked.

“No,” Josh replied. “I mean you need a better phone.”

Then he said that most people don’t use the phone part of phones anymore.

“Wouldn’t that be like not using the driving part of cars anymore?” I wondered.

“I guess so,” Josh said. “But if someone calls me, I know it’s not important. If it’s important, they’ll text me.”

Josh, who’s 27 and has been working in the wireless industry for eight years, knows whereof he speaks, even if it’s not into a phone. That’s why he was so helpful to me and Sue, who had problems of her own because her phone, an iPhone 5S, lost all of her emails.

“Fortunately,” Sue told Josh, “I have an iPad.”

“Do you have an iPad?” Josh asked me.

“No,” I responded. “But I do have iTeeth.”

Nonetheless, we both needed new phones. Josh suggested the iPhone 8, which has a larger screen and more advanced features.

Josh transferred everything from our old phones to our new ones, though he couldn’t recover my contacts, which numbered about 100 and probably included people I had never heard of.

“You’ll have to start all over,” Josh said.

“That’s OK,” I told him. “One of the first people I am going to put on there is you. What’s your number?”

Josh gave it to me, then showed me how to set up my contact list.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’d ask my 4-year-old granddaughter, who knows how to break into her mother’s phone by circumventing the password, but she isn’t here.”

“Put her on your contact list, too,” Josh suggested. “I’m sure she’d love to talk with you. And now that you have a new phone, you’ll come through loud and clear.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima. Take a look at Jerry’s newest book, “Grandfather Knows Best: A Geezer’S Guide To Life, Immaturity, And Learning How To Change Diapers All Over Again.”

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  1. Aaarrgh…I went through the same thing with my old iPhone. I opted for an Android. I found the tension rising when I read your column, but you always have a way of making it fun and funny. If I opt out of FB, throw out my phone and computer, does it mean I’m dead?

    1. Isn’t an Android one of those heavenly bodies between Mars and Jupiter? Or is it something you have to see a proctologist for? At any rate, I want to say thanks for your comment, Suzette, before you opt out of Facebook and throw out your phone and computer, at which point you won’t be dead, but you will be liberated.

    1. Thank you, Amy. I’m glad we dinosaurs aren’t extinct. “Can you hear me now?” isn’t the only saying we use. With Androids and iPhones, it’s also “Can you see me now?”

  2. This is the best read I have come across in a long time! Thank you! As a not-quite-boomer social marketer, I shall be forwarding this with glee to my boomer and silent-gen folks. Because I want so bad to throw it all away and be liberated too, with Suzette.

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