". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Cell Phone Blues

Until a few years ago we did not have a cell phone. It's not that we didn't want one, but we simply couldn't justify the cost.

Then we received an offer for a cellular plan that would allow us to have two separate lines for about the same price we were paying for our unlimited long distance land line. So we decided to disconnect the land line and go all cellular. As a mom who does a lot of driving, both with children in the car and by myself, I can't overstate the extra sense of security gained by knowing I have a ready means of communication should I need it. The phone also comes in handy for staying in close contact with children who remain at home while I am out. And my husband and I enjoy having a convenient means of direct communication when one of us is at home and the other is not.

But the exclusively cellular lifestyle has its disadvantages. First, there are those "dropped" calls--connections that for no apparent reason suddenly just cease to exist. Second, there can be coverage problems. The cell phone companies are always working on this issue, seeking to expand the area in which their service is offered, but there are still those stretches where suddenly one can find oneself without phone service. (Of course, sometimes that can be a blessing!) Third is reception issues, the most annoying of which occurs when I experience an echo of my own voice as I am trying to have a conversation with someone. Fourth is the problem of sometimes simply not hearing the phone ring. We have designated one of our cell phones as the "house" phone--it is the one that almost always stays home, while whoever is away gets the "traveling" phone. But since there is only one house phone and no extensions, and since it is a tiny little thing with an unobtrusive little ringtone, if no one happens to be in the vicinity when a call comes in the ring may simply not be heard.

We have been aware of all of these issues for a while now. But this week another wrinkle has become apparent. Our cell phone plan allows for 1000 minutes of usage per month (shared between our two lines). Calls placed from one of our phones to the other (the bulk of our calling) incur no minutes, so for several years the 1000 minutes per month have been more than sufficient.

But in the last few weeks, in the aftermath of my mom's automobile accident, I have spent countless minutes on the phone with doctors, nurses, hospitals, nursing homes, insurance companies, relatives, and friends. Many of those minutes have been spent on hold, just waiting for someone to come on the line. So a few days ago it suddenly occurred to me that I had better check our plan minutes to see how we were doing. Turns out we are less than halfway through our billing month, but we have used over 750 minutes (three-fourths) of our time. Suddenly I find myself rationing phone calls and becoming extremely difficult with anyone who does not get directly to the point of the call. This morning I called to check on my mom and got a very chatty nurse who proceeded to describe in detail my mom's first night in her new location. Any other time I would have welcomed a nurse that cared enough to spend this length of time telling me about my mother, but today I found myself repeatedly looking at my watch, ticking off the minutes.

We have no plans to change our phone service. This approach has generally worked well and is the most economical way for us to get the service we want. And this has been an out of the ordinary month. But if you currently have a land line and have ever considered replacing it with all cellular service, these are some implications you might want to consider.


Kim said...

Does your plan have free nights and weekends? I put most of my calling off to the weekend because we don't have all that many minutes to spare.
This month we are having a similar situation, I spent 4 hours on the phone with various medical billing problems. Since dh doesn't have the option of curtailing his usage (his phone is for work) I'm going to have to rely on our rollover minutes to get by. Usually it's not a problem to stay within our plan but this month has been a struggle.

Mumme Mom said...

Are you in "the network?" IF so, you can call others in "the network" for no fee or minute time. I'm in, so on days you might need to rant to someone, feel free to call. And a certain sil of mine is in "the network," as is a SD looper. Jic you might have another week like you've had. Praying for you dear!

elephantschild said...

Oooo... without naming names, I just bet you've got the same cell provider as my Dh's work-provided cell... it's AWFUL. Our home cell is from a little dinky local company and the ONLY place I've had trouble w/ it was the hills and valleys north of Los Angeles.

Yay for the little guy!

(Oh, and by the way, YOUR time is important, too- so don't feel TOO badly about asking people to get to the point! That cell phone has caller ID, too, and probably voice mail!)

Presbytera said...

We had the same thing happen in Alabama when my brother was diagnosed with cancer. He spent so much time on the phone with church members and doctors etc that he quickly approached his limit. He was able to call and get extra minutes for the month for a nominal fee. Can you check with your service?