Dick Wolfsie: Tech wreck

Many technological advances in the world have stumped me over the past couple of decades.

In each of the next few weeks, I will revisit some of the columns I wrote in the last 22 years where I shared my frustrations and will update you on how my techy skills have improved … or not.

In 2009 I wanted to buy a phone. Not an iPhone or an Android phone — just a plain old telephone. This perplexed the young clerk at Staples.

“Let me understand this, sir. You don’t want a phone for your pocket, a phone that plugs in your ear, or a phone for your car. You want a phone that just sits on a, on a … ?”

“A desk. Sits on a desk.”

“And you want it to have a …?”

“A cord. Yes, I want a cord.”

“If we have one, it will be back in the far corner next to the carbon paper and floppy disks.”

The manager came over and directed me to the office phones. I bought a pricey new model, took it home and eagerly opened the box. Out fell the directions. Sixty pages. Hello!! I just want to make simple calls.

I refused to be intimidated. If I could set up a computer (which I couldn’t), I could certainly plug in a phone. So I did. And I got a dial tone. Maybe I could throw the other 59 pages away. Then, my cellphone rang.

“Dick, it’s Bob. I’ve been trying to call you on the new home phone number you gave me, but you don’t pick up. Are you avoiding me?”

“Of course not! I plugged it in, but maybe it doesn’t ring.”

“Hmmm, that’s usually a pretty standard feature.”

I found the customer service number on the back of the instruction manual. The troubleshooting advice above it said I shouldn’t use the phone that isn’t working to call for assistance. Great advice.

I called AT&T from my cell phone.

“Hello? I wonder if you can help me. My new landline phone doesn’t ring.”

“When doesn’t it ring, sir?”

“What do you mean, when doesn’t it ring? It doesn’t ring when someone is trying to call me.”

“How do you know that, sir? Maybe no one is calling. Did you plug in the power booster?”

“The power booster? Why do I need that? It’s a phone, not a weed whacker.”

“Sir, phones today require an additional oomph because of all the features. You’ll find that explanation on page 34, right next to how to interface your iPhone with the on-screen directory and the switchable data port.”

He droned on and on about the phone features for 20 minutes. Why isn’t there a reverse mute button?

Update: When we got to our new house three years ago, I once again insisted on having a landline, as a backup. I gave the number to only Bob and my editor, Heidi, and apparently everyone in the world who wants to give me a better mortgage rate or sell me gold. The other night, Bob called me on the landline while I was talking to Heidi. I pressed several buttons, desperately trying to put one of them on hold, but I still had no clue what I was doing. I was disconnected from both calls.

But here’s the good news: The next day I found out that Bob and Heidi had a lovely conversation.

Retired television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected].