Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Unlimited Life

My family and I were living a cramped, restricted life before we made the change and set ourselves free. No, I’m not talking about boxers vs. briefs. We finally signed up for the unlimited cell plan.

I guess it’s a matter of perspective. I mean, I remember when cell phones hadn’t been invented yet and I used to get a phone bill with long distance charges. That’s right kids, it used to cost more – way more – to call someone in another area code. It was like thirty cents a minute to call someone in another state. And you had to dial a 1 before the number! It was crazy.

And don’t even get me started on calling someone in another country! Not only was there a delay that made it almost necessary to say “over,” as if you were using a CB radio, but it cost three bucks a minute. And keep in mind, those were ‘70s and ‘80s dollars, so that’s equal to seven hundred bucks a minute today. You didn’t call your relatives in England just to shoot the breeze. That’s what letters were for. And don’t even get me started on air mail postal rates…

Anyway, it was a big deal when the fist cell phone plan came out with an unlimited calling option. That was back when we used to use our cell phones as actual phones. Now they are more like internet browsing-enabled video cameras that can send text messages and can also be used to make phone calls in an emergency.

But we used to use them to call people, and it was amazing when we no longer had to dial a 1 and we could just talk for as long as we wanted to someone in Montana. In this case, “as long as we wanted” meant about forty-five seconds until the call was dropped, because cell phone calls didn’t work very well at all. And also, there was no cell reception anywhere in Montana.

Then came texting. Believe it or not kids, when texting first came about, no one used it because you had to hit the same button seventeen times to make a capital “A,” and if you accidentally hit it eighteen times, it became a Greek alpha, an exclamation point, or an apostrophe.

Then along came the Blackberry, that had the entire regular keyboard on the front of it so you could finally text real words. The only problem was the keys were so small that if you were born with human thumbs you were physically unable to hit less than four of the buttons at once, so texting had to wait a little longer.

Finally, the screen became the buttons and we could text! I texted someone for the first time in my thirties and immediately hated it. Why would anyone decide to type out what you wanted to say instead of just calling them? I have unlimited calling minutes, for goodness sake!

But you crazy kids stuck with it and made it mainstream, and now I get frustrated if I need to actually call someone instead of texting them. My unlimited calling minutes mean nothing to me anymore. You can have them. My unlimited texts, however, are gold.

When texting began, we had a plan that had a certain amount of free texts and then ten cents per text if we went over. It worked at first, because no one my age texted each other. Then it got more popular, and pretty soon my wife was using up our free text allotment by the first Tuesday of the month.

Unlimited texts plans became a necessity for us before Son Number One got a phone, but that definitely would have forced the issue. An American teenager can send two thousand texts per hour, just to one other kid from their school that they don’t even really hang out with.

So, we added our first teenager to our cell plan, and entered into the epic battle with the last cell phone bill hurdle – DATA. As the phones got smaller and the technology got better, our data usage began a steady climb. By the time Son Number One got his first phone and thirty seconds later started streaming nine straight hours of YouTube videos, we were up to the largest limited data plan they offered.

We set a data cap for his phone and purchased a Costco-size tub of earplugs to put in every time he reached his data limit and came to us to whine about how unfair life was under our roof. We had to restock the earplugs a few times, but never the data.

Then along came Son Number Two. Limited data was simply no longer an option. I called our carrier and offered to trade them my unlimited call minutes for unlimited data, but they weren’t interested. So, it came time to bite the cellular bullet and go completely unlimited.

I fought it for as long as I could, but once I swallowed the bitter pill of my monthly bill increase, I have not looked back. Going unlimited has been one of the best experiences of my life. I was not expecting, and cannot really explain the feeling of total freedom it gives me.

There were times in the past when someone in the family would accidentally turn off their Wi-Fi for days at a time. I won’t mention any names, but her initials are “My Wife.” I eventually stopped pulling my hair out over how that could happen and just accepted the fact that she used our entire month of mobile data while in our living room. Do I worry about that now? Heck no!

What’s the Wi-Fi password here? Who cares!? We have unlimited data.

Are the boys streaming videos in the car? What do I care? We have unlimited.

Does the Candy Crush game that runs nearly constantly on a road trip connect to the internet to download ads? I have an unlimited plan that says I don’t care anymore!

Is that movie in 3G? 4GLTE? 5G? Who knows and who cares? Hey movie, you take as many G’s, L’s, T’s, and E’s as you need. We have an unlimited amount. Get yourself a BLT while you’re at it.

I’m drunk with power. I have a movie streaming on my phone right now that I’m not even watching. I download things now just because I can.

Our teenagers have turned unlimited data into a competition. They give me regular updates on how much data they have used and argue with each other about who used more and how fast they used it. I am strangely proud of them.

Hmm… You know, come to think of it, while unlimited is amazing, it might not be all that healthy.

Once this initial rush wears off, we might need to think about buying another gross of earplugs and putting limits back on the boys.

And probably on ourselves, too.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen

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