Dear Mom: Sorry, I am lost here in cell phone purgatory |

Dear Mom: Sorry, I am lost here in cell phone purgatory

Special to the DailyMarc Carlisle

Dear Mom, I got your message. Sorry I didn’t call back, but I didn’t even know you called. It’s the phone company’s fault. Its analog service in Breckenridge was down on the weekend, but I didn’t realize it until late Sunday, when my cell phone beeped that I had seven messages, even though the phone hadn’t rung once.I tried to call you, but the cell phone service was still out, so hopefully you’ll read this in the paper and know that I’m not a bad son who doesn’t call his mother.Sincerely,MarcI bought a cell phone four years ago with some doubt about whether I needed a phone on top of my land line at home.

Nothing I’m doing has ever seemed that urgent that I need 24/7 telecommunications, and I’m not in sales.Now, of course, I don’t know what I did without a cell phone. I can play golf, ski, hike or travel and still be accessible. Like most schlubs, the phone I bought was made by Nokia, meaning I ran with the herd on my purchase.And for the service, I asked around my real estate agent friends, and once I found out they all used AT&T, my choice was made.Until this fall, the service has been fine; service was there when I needed it, although where it worked or didn’t work was a bone of contention – how the New Hampshire coast could be roaming, but the High Country desert of central Washington was in-program could not be explained.I did save money on my home phone by switching to measured service at $9 a month without long distance because I was not making long-distance calls from home or making many local calls, either.The phone itself is now almost anachronistic, since it only has text messaging, but doesn’t flip up or take pictures or play games or receive e-mails or have a personalized downloadable ring tone.If I had my way, I’d still have a rotary phone at home if I could, but they don’t even make those anymore, so as long as my cell phone works, I’ll probably keep it.

Not if the phone company has its way. While service has been fine until this fall, I can no longer make calls on Saturdays.When I dial a number, I get only rapid beeping, the cell phone equivalent of a busy signal, no service available, try again later. This is irritating, but understandable – you can’t build the church for Easter services, and there may be times when there are more people on the phone than the system can handle.But the weekend’s my busy cell phone time; that’s when I make my weekly calls to family and friends when my minutes are free, and to be shut down defeats a key reason to have a cell phone.So I’ve called customer service at (800) 888-7600 enough times to know the voice recognition software that answered my call was looking for the phrase “repairs and problems” to route my call to technical assistance, where I was told, in effect, that I was the problem.No one would admit that the system was down. Each one, following “company policy,” had me reprogram my phone, try different numbers, and try the phone outside in the cold and snow.One even suggested that I should change my location, maybe drive to Farmer’s Korner for service, plan to ride the Summit Stage to Frisco to make a phone call.

Even though I can’t make calls from anywhere, I won’t be getting any service credit since, according to the tech reps, service has never been down. Although at one point I talked to technical assistance moments after talking to three friends all of whom had AT&T service and none of whom could make or receive calls. And I’m not buying a new phone, either. I got that pitch twice, that the solution was to buy a $240 digital phone and a more expensive service program, ironically from the same company that can’t make my current service work with no guarantee that digital will work any better.Like any other lazy creature of habit who pays his bill on time, all I want is the service that I’ve paid for or, if the service is down, some indication of what’s the problem, and what’s being done to fix it.Maybe the problem’s that AT&T has merged with Cingular, and as part of the cutbacks, service in the mountains will suffer.All I know is that I don’t need to have my 88-year-old mother mad at me because I won’t call her. When it comes right down to it, I don’t want anyone from AT&T to call me to explain, I want them to call her, if they can get service. Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at

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