Line One
Buyin’ cell

By Bill Hudgins


Nothing lasts forever, and for my friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe the time has come to replace his mobile phone. His old phone is in fact mobile, though calling it a cell phone is being generous.

You see, Rufus doesn’t adapt well to change, so he’s had the same phone for a couple of decades. It worked great, but finally even Rufus’ geek nephew couldn’t keep it running.

Also, the genuine artificial leather bag that contained the phone handset, 4-pound battery and CB-sized transmitter began to disintegrate sometime in the Clinton administration. Successive layers of duct tape inside and out had given it a structural integrity almost as high as those plastic “burlwood” panels in today’s fancier sleepers.

But the tape also made the bag too heavy to conveniently carry into a truck stop restaurant, and the failing battery could provide only about 10 minutes of life before needing to be plugged back into the lighter for 10 hours.

So, regretfully, Rufus trooped into the MegaApp phone store.

Now, Rufus’ family all had fairly new, up-to-date phones, but he had always stayed in the truck whenever they upgraded. So he was unprepared for the experience, and was dazzled by the rows upon rows of glittering, sleek handsets shining like miniature versions of the TV department at Sears.

“May I help you, sir?” chirped a perky voice. Rufus turned and saw it belonged to a young woman whose name badge read “Cindy Your MegaApp Sales Associate.”

“Uh, I need a phone,” Rufus said, staring in confusion at the wealth of wireless.

“Well, you’ve come to the right place,” Cindy assured him. “We feature only the latest 3G phones.”

“Three Gs?” Rufus stammered. “I thought they only cost about $200.”

Cindy looked blank for a moment, then got it. “Oh, no, 3G is the kind of network the phone works on. Look, what do you plan to use your phone for?” she asked.

“Calling people,” he answered, looking at her like she’d lost her mind.

“Uh, right,” she said, her smile dimming slightly. “I mean, do you do a lot of texting, surfing, e-mail, blogging? Are you a tweeter?”

“Tweeter? No, ma’am, I’ve been married three times,” he retorted, offended.

Cindy’s eyes flicked from side to side, looking for someone else to be Rufus’ sales associate, but in vain. So she soldiered on. “I see. Well, do you have your old phone with you? Maybe if I looked at that I could get an idea of what you need now.”

Rufus had actually lugged it in, though Cindy thought it was a battered old briefcase instead of a telecommunications device that was cutting edge when she was cutting teeth. “Is it in here?” she asked as he set it on the counter with a heavy thump.

Once she realized the bag was the phone, Cindy set about educating Rufus on 20 years of changes in wireless communications. He got lost somewhere around 1996, and by the time she reached Twitter, he was hopelessly confused.

But Cindy was a professional, and she sensed a big sale. She spent the next two hours demonstrating the camera phone, showing him how to send text messages, helping him post a comment to the Land Line blog, downloading “Give Me 40 Acres and I’ll Turn This Rig Around” to the music player and finding Rufus’ favorite episode of “Green Acres” on  

By the time she got around to discussing plans, Rufus had experienced a near-religious conversion. He cradled the sardine can-sized and -shaped phone like a holy relic. His index finger pecked out a message to the current Mrs. Rufus, which he sent along with a photo of himself in the store.

By the time she was through with him, Rufus had signed up for an unlimited everything plan for a brand new MegaApp 2010. He had three different skins to protect his little jewel, chargers for home and truck, a carrying case that would hook onto his wide belt, a Twitter identity, a Facebook page and a Bluetooth earpiece.

He loaded it all in the truck and drove away. A few miles down the road, he turned around and headed back to the store. “Cindy,” he said as he walked in, “you never showed me how to make a phone call.” LL