Greetings From Smartphone Boot Camp

I’m learning how to use my first smartphone.  After twelve years of getting by with simple, pay-per-minute flip phones, I worked up the courage to take on the challenge.

First, let’s not underestimate the determination of an electronic illiterate who buys and activates a cheap flip phone.  The decision was made in 2004 out of necessity, when both of my parents — who lived on the other side of the Bay Bridge — asked for a number where they could reach me in emergencies 24/7.  I gnashed my teeth and got that little monster working, although six months passed before the voicemail was fired up.

My parents and I each understood the risks of this technological update in our lives, but we lacked the restraint to avert disaster.  I began calling them during the day with Mary Hartman problems, and they began calling me during the day with Mary Hartman problems. The phone and our dysfunctional relationship fed on each other.

The cell phone was more good than bad, though.  My parents were at home most of the time, and when they watched newscasts they learned about political demonstrations, police standoffs and other scary stuff that I might have wandered into if no one had called to warn me.  I also received calls that anyone with aging parents doesn’t want to think about, but the calls were necessary.

Occasionally, I called them with Breaking News from San Francisco. Those conversations usually opened with “I just want to let you know I’m safe, and outside of the yellow tape area…”  There wasn’t any big change in that regard because during the pre-cell days I offered the same assurances from pay phones.

My father passed in 2006, and my mother passed four years later.  I didn’t use the phone to talk to very many other people, but kept the cell plan in the unlikely event anyone else needed to contact me when I was away from the landline.  Eventually, the landline was disconnected because it was gathering dust.

For years now, I’ve watched other people tap away on touchscreen phones in public places.  It can be annoying, but every now and then one of those people would take a photograph of something really neat.  If I had a camera with me, it wasn’t usually a very good camera. My pictures were hit or miss.

Last week my smartphone arrived.  It was bought online during a clearance sale.  The manufacturer has discontinued the model, but the phone isn’t obsolete unless you need the latest technology for work or you’re a supercilious asshat.

The manufacturer is smart.  The company has taken down the online owner’s manual for that model, so rookies are encouraged to buy the latest full priced gadget.

I learned that too late, so I’m now the proud owner of a reasonably priced phone which I’m learning how to use through trial and error. Mostly error.  A demonstration on YouTube showed me how to get the SIM card into the darned thing, though.

That YouTube video was enormously helpful.  I couldn’t figure out how to get the 3-1/4 x 2″ card into the phone, and the man in the video explained that the actual SIM card is the rectangular Chiclet thing you have to pop out of the larger card.

Plato advised against discouraging anyone who is making progress, even if the progress is moving slowly.  This may be a good time to refer to that wisdom.

Actually, once the phone was activated, I began making good progress.  A few photos and two videos have been uploaded to different sites, and some basic apps have been installed.  I’ve also discovered the convenience of using a stylus on the touchscreen keyboard.  My pinky finger kept making typos.

Developers are building modern condos in San Francisco at lightning speed, but we still have some interesting sights.  The Civic Center has old government buildings (along with a few new ones), including a 1932 classic at 101 Grove used by the Department of Public Health. A couple of photos of the outside of that building are below.  By the way, the First Aid sign on the Polk Street side of the building is outdated, and is kept in place for its historical value.  Patient care is no longer provided at this address, with the exception of a travel vaccine clinic located on the ground floor.

I took these pictures yesterday, which my imaginary friend claimed was impossible.  He can be a shit sometimes.


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