I was driving south on Interstate 35, about 40 miles out of Austin, playing a CD I’d made for myself. This song was Elvis, singing “Amazing Grace.” I sang along with it, even though I can’t carry a tune, and began to wonder whether — even though I’m a heathen — I could have “Amazing Grace” played at my funeral. Maybe the funeral coordinator could explain that, even though I was an agnostic, I still got goosebumps every time I heard that song.
My phone rang. It was my husband.
“I’m calling from the AT&T store,” he reported.
He had that excited, gaspy tone of voice men seem to get when they’re in the presence of high technology. Great. I knew what was going on. This was the day I dreaded every two years, when my husband and son decide to turn in their old phones for new ones. They usually insist on getting me some low-rent model, too, so I won’t feel left out.
I said that was just great and then we hung up. I got Elvis all cranked up again and we were both belting out “Amazing Grace” along with the choir when I took the wrong turnoff for the new toll road to Mopac. I was sitting there, in the middle of a traffic jam, when my husband called again. “Can you come by the store?” he said. “We need to transfer your phone list.”
I finally got back onto the toll road and was starting to regain my lost confidence when I noticed I was on 45 West and didn’t see any signs for Mopac. Wonderful. I’d somehow missed that turnoff, too.
So, I paid a 50-cent toll to get off 45 West. Then I did a U-turn to get back onto 45 East. That cost 50 cents, too. By this time, I was out of change and beginning to fume. Evidently I was the only moron around who didn’t have a toll tag. I left several coins at the booth, including a foreign coin. A euro, maybe. I figured, what with the plunge of the dollar, it was probably a good investment for the state.
Then, I finally turned onto Mopac. That was another toll. The woman who took it was so nice that I didn’t complain to her that toll roads have absolutely no allowance for mistakes. I just gave her a crumpled bill.
My husband was still hanging around the AT&T store, looking annoyingly excited, when I got there. I handed my old phone to the young sales clerk, who said I’d have to wait a few minutes so he could download my photos.
“I don’t have any photos,” I said. This is because I am the only human being on earth who hasn’t embraced the camera-phone concept. If I pick up a phone, it’s to make a call. If I want a photo, I’ll pick up a camera. I don’t like to confuse my technological needs. I am confused enough already.
The clerk stared at me like he’d just, personally, discovered a cavewoman emerging from the darkness of the dinosaur era. “You don’t have any photos on your phone?” he asked. I noticed my husband in the background, looking embarrassed for me.
“Only inadvertent ones,” I told him — referring to several photos I’ve taken of the kitchen floor over the years, when I’ve pushed the wrong phone buttons.
“You’ll be able to text on this new phone,” my husband said, happily.
“Good,” I said. “I just don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t text.”
“Your old phone blocked the texting function,” he said helpfully. I guess this explained why I’ve only received one phone text in my life, which was a snarky piece of gossip from my friend Joyce who was at the airport. Blocked, huh?
I left the store, still in a foul mood, clutching a phone I’ll have to bond with (even though I felt as if I were just getting to know my old phone. I’m a loyal person in a high-tech world that rewards loyalty with the shelf life of a ripe banana.)
Driving home, away from the high-tech world, away from the unforgiving toll-road world, I turned on my CD again. I desperately needed music that would save a wretch like me.