Immobile phones - Joel Hall

By and large, I consider myself to be a pretty tech-saavy person. I know my way around the inside of a computer, drool over high-tech, digital cameras, and can't wait to buy BioShock 2 for my XBox 360 Elite game console.

I am totally lost, however, when it comes to cell phones. Until I moved to Japan in 2004 to work as an English teacher, I didn't even have one. There was always a land line, a pay phone, or somebody's phone nearby, so I always got by.

Due to the fact that I didn't know Japanese at the time I arrived, I really needed a cell phone. It was a lifeline to an English-speaking person, in case I got lost or was getting ready to pick up a half-dozen chicken embryos, as opposed to raw eggs (which are packaged the same way in Japan).

The phone was light years ahead of anything out in America at the time, but due to the language barrier, I could never master all of it's various functions. I could have very well sliced myself and all of my friends to ribbons with lasers by butt dialing the wrong combination of numbers.

When I got back to the States, I resorted to a very basic, very simple cell phone. It was really one step above a Jitterbug, the only difference was that the numbers weren't as big as quarters and I could send text messages.

For three years, I've been pleased as punch with the phone, until last week when I dropped it on the concrete. I was doing too many things at once and my hands could not hold onto my coffee, notepad, breakfast burrito, and my phone.

My seemingly indestructible phone looked OK from the outside. Upon further investigation, however, I noticed that a couple of side buttons had dislodged, the speakerphone function didn't work anymore; the speakerphone button now controlled the camera, the alarm settings didn't work, and the battery would only keep its charge for 30 minutes.

To add injury to insult, the light beeps my phone usually makes when selecting options was replaced by the sound Pac-Man makes when he runs out of big pellets and makes a wrong turn.

I had purchased insurance for my old phone and attempted to replace it. However, every time I called, I was transferred to some call center in Southeast Asia that hung up on me every time I was transferred to another department.

When I finally did get to somebody who was helpful, they informed me that the deductible to replace the phone was about $20 less than what I paid for the phone three years ago. For the same price as my insurance deductible, I left my old cell phone provider and got a Blackberry phone on another network.

It's kind of a surreal experience. I now have a super high-tech phone, but since the menus are all in English, I have no excuse to avoid learning how to use it.

In the first few days, I've successfully managed to make a phone call, send a few text messages, and even browse the Internet. However, I'm daunted by the numerous menus, within menus, within menus.

I've also encountered a bigger problem I was unaware of until now: My fingers are HUGE. Either my fingers are the size of Snickers candy bars, or my phone has the smallest buttons on the planet.

I know that, eventually, I will learn my way around this new technology, but my first challenge will be learning how to make a phone call without pressing all of the buttons at the same time.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.