Cellular revisited…
March 5, 2010

About a year ago I wrote a rant about Cellular service and as I recall decided the best course was to do nothing until my contract time was over. It’s over! It ended in December 2009. I decided to be cell free! I feel … I feel… I feel a sense of freedom! Getting there was fun!

Last spring (2009) I made the discovery that my cell phone was text message capable. That is it had the feature for sending and receiving text messages turned on. The truth is I had no idea that I was the proud owner of such services mostly, I suppose, because I don’t text. As it happened, I was standing in a long line-up in a department store waiting to cash out when my phone rang. Dutifully I opened the phone, brought it to my ear and said hello. There was no answer. I pocketed the phone and continued my wait in line. But the phone was insistent. It rang again! This time I happened to look at the tiny screen as I brought the phone to my ear and it read, “Papa r u coming 2 lunch“. To which I responded out loud, “No!” and hung up the phone. I had no idea how to respond other than saying “No!” out loud. I turned the phone off and put it back into my pocket.

You can only imagine the trouncing I took from my then 12-year-old granddaughter for not answering her message. She was less than impressed when I told her that I did answer her message by saying, “No!” She then proceeded to give me lessons in texting. I watched and listened intently and the very next day went to TbayTel and asked them to disconnect the text feature on the phone. They said they had done so and I left happily knowing that I would never again have to deal with another text message.

The reality is I really don’t want to talk to people on a phone all that much and especially by typing cryptic messages on an undersized keyboard. It all seems pretty inefficient and impersonal to me. I was a happy man.

Fast forward to October. Same year. I’m sitting in sanctuary chatting (face to face, live, warm body type chat) with family. My son was over and we were catching up on his most recent adventures when my cell phone rang. That was unusual in itself because I didn’t often have it turned on. But I digress. The cell phone rang. I opened it up, put it to my ear and said hello. There was no response so I glanced at the screen to see if a number showed that I might recognize. Nope! There was a … you guessed it! … a text message. It read, “…Larry get over here. Melissa is on top of James and I am getting peed off… lol“.

OK. I am certain you will understand my perplexity because 1. I am not Larry; 2. I don’t know Melissa or James; 3. I don’t care what Melissa is on top of, and; MY PHONE DOESN’T SEND OR RECEIVE TEXT MESSAGES! Sorry! I didn’t mean to shout! My son waded into the moment saying that he would respond and did so telling the sender that the message arrived at my phone in error…there was no Larry at this number and signed it, “George”.

I put the phone away and within seconds it rang again displaying the text message, “Who the f@%k  (they wrote the real word) is George?” And again my son texted, “The owner of this phone.” and again I hung up the phone and put it in my pocket.

But the phone was insistent. This time the message read, “Don’t you want to know who this is“. I thought “No.” and put the phone away. It rang again. “Aren’t you curious” I thought “No” and put the phone away. It rang again. “I’m legal” the message read. OK! OK! Too much information. I turned the phone off and determined next business day to call TbayTel and have this feature deactivated once again.

Heh! Heh! You thought the story was over! I called TbayTel and got a very pleasant young sounding male voice on the phone. I explained that I had earlier requested the texting feature be deactivated on my phone and apparently it had not been done. Could he please check and see if that was the case. “Yes” he replied. “You have texting on your phone and it is active.”

“Would you turn that feature off, please.” To which he responded, “But its free and it is part of your package.”

“Yes,” says I. “But I don’t want it.”

“Why?” he queried.

Surely you see where this is heading, don’t you? “Because I don’t text”, I said.

“Why?” he asked again.

“BECAUSE IT IS MY PHONE AND I DON’T WANT TO SEND OR RECEIVE TEXT MESSAGES!” my exasperation breaking through. (Sorry, I know I am shouting again.)

“OK”, he replied. “Its done. Have a great day.”

Now I can’t help but wonder about the conversation that went on in his office after we disconnected. Probably something like this:

Customer Service Employee: (to his colleagues) Hey you guys will never believe the call I just had…some old guy who wanted me to disconnect his texting service…”

The last month of my relationship with my cell phone was blissfully quiet. No texts. No phone calls. Hmmmm? I wonder if it was turned on?                     –GRB

Tugging at the heart strings…
July 16, 2008

Today I received one of those e-mails that get forwarded many times that are designed to tug at one’s heart strings to cause something to happen in support of an idea or an issue or an action. I don’t often read them because they cater to emotion rather than logic and reality. But this one was forwarded by a person whom I trust and respect–so I read the message.

It was a heart warming and good story of a Sargent in the Canadian Armed Forces who was accompanying a fallen comrade, killed in Afghanistan, home to his family. The person telling the story in the first person is moved by the whole idea and is requesting that we, the general public, participate in a movement to show support for the Canadian Forces personnel stationed in Afghanistan by wearing something red every Friday. Hence the title “Red Friday”. The intent is for a ground-swell of support for the military across Canada. It is attributed to an employee of the Workers’ Compensation Board.

It was a good story! It succeeded in its intent–to involve the reader in the emotional turmoil surrounding the Canadian Forces presence in Afghanistan. But there was something about the whole thing that bothered me then and is still bothering me. Let me explain.

  1. The language of the story wasn’t Canadian. I am not aware of fallen soldier’s bodies being returned home on commercial airlines by a single NCO. There is considerably more flag waving and attention given to the return of our dead.
  2. The phrase “…and are voicing our love for God, country and home… ” is not a Canadian phrase. While I am not a linguist and have nothing other than instinct on which to base my comment, it is a phrase more commonly associated with American politics: e.g. …God country and the American way… Canadian’s don’t normally talk of God and country in this manner. Although I do note that Prime Minister Harper is using that phrase more often in his public appearances.
  3. The whole of the message was attributed to an emloyee of title with the Workers’ Compensation Board thus lending an air of authenticity to the whole thing. The message has been sent by an individual, in authority, in a Government institution. It must have weight. I checked! The person who apparently originated the message does exist in all the details reported in the email.
  4. But the message goes on to request the recipient to pass the message on to all and sundry; to help create a movement, aground swell of support for our members of the Armed Forces deployed in Afghanistan. To not forward the message lays the guilt trip–“IF YOU COULDN’T CARE LESS — THEN HIT THE DELETE BUTTON”. So what is one to do if you don’t agree with the message but sympathise with the loss of a life?

I did some checking and the message originated in the United States in 2005 and has gone through a number of iterations until its present form today relating to the Canadian Armed Forces. You can find the details at http://www.snopes.com/politics/war/redfriday.asp . So here we have a rehash of a movement that started in the States in 2005 to involve the American public in supporting the involvement of the American Military in Afghanistan. Surely we don’t have to borrow ideas to show support for the Canadian Military. Are there ways we can show support that is more meaningful than wearing a red piece of cloth once a week or hanging a ribbon-shaped ‘fridge magnet’ on our cars.  How about writing a letter to some of the soldiers you know currently serving at home and abroad. Afghanistan is not the only place in the world where Canadian Armed Forces are currently serving. Whereever our military serve there is danger. Many of the youth I taught are currently serving in areas of conflict and I pray for their safety frequently.

But sometimes I wonder what all the “To Do” is about. Here we have a group of Canadian citizens who have chosen a particular career–the Armed Forces. It is a career choice that involves a high degree of risk and the possibility of death. One choosing a military carer has to consider those options when serving for it is the nature of the military to be involved in conflict. Governments have a military to be deployed in actions that are hazardous to one’s health. I deliberately emphasize the verb ‘to choose’ because we do not have the draft in Canada.

Our government has chosen to place our Armed Forces into Afghanistan where there is increased risk of death for those serving. But that is the nature of military and govennments and soldiers. So, we have a group of people who have chosen this work and now that they are doing their jobs there is a movement to have all Canadians acknowledge the action in some way. The reality is not all Canadians agree with the action of the government. But I digress. There have been 85 Canadian military deaths in Afghanistan specifically in the 5 years Canada has been involved in this action. On average 17 deaths per year is the count to date. Each one of those deaths is a tragedy for the families and friends of the fallen.

I look at that number and other numbers come to mind. According to the World Health Organization’s Mortality database there were 1,034 deaths in Canada in 1997 and 30,49 deaths in the US attributed to firearms. The Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics for 2001 from Transport Canada report 2,778 vehicle related deaths. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports 43,000 motor vehicle deaths in the US in 2005.

Each of these deaths is a tragedy and yet little is done to curb the root causes here at home. The dead don’t get flag draped coffins or parades or people lining overpasses as the funeral cars travel the route. In fact the practice of pulling to the right and stopping when a funeral procession approaches is mostly ignored these days. These numbers make me wonder why Canadians are not equally upset by the annual figures of equally senseless deaths here at home; particularly when the numbers are significantly higher than the deaths attributed to a military action in Afghanistan.

Back to my dilemma! With all these thoughts stirring in my mind along with my own political views about the Canadian Armed Forces presence in areas of conflict, how shall I respond to the e-mail? I think I will make time tomorrow to write a letter to each of the men and women from my community currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. I think I’ll go and visit my friend Jack, one of the few remaining WWII veterans still alive in our community. I think I’ll send a donation to MADD while I’m at it.  I’ll have to see what is can be done to make a statement about the sale of firearms in Canada. As for the e-mail–well, I don’t think I’ll wear red this Friday.                            GRB