Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Just Don't Leave Me Voice Mail

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published October 24, 2013]  © 2013 

Just so we’re clear, when the iPhone 75 comes out, I will still be using the iPhone 4S.  I bought the 4S a year ago and learning how to use it has taken at least five years off my life expectancy.  Intuitive?  Only to the teenage technogeeks who design them.  God forbid Apple should provide a comforting printed manual for civilians. 

My husband, Olof, maintains that my iPhone is America’s smallest land line.  That’s because it rarely leaves its perch on the kitchen counter.  I live in terror of losing the thing if I take it with me and then I’d be forced to get a new one.  It’s not the cost.  Against all advice, I bought the insurance along with the Customer Service for Idiots plan.   It’s strictly a mental health issue.  I’d rather extract my spleen with a rusty cheese knife than get another iPhone set up again.   I have a veeeerrry low tolerance for techno frustration.

Last month, the recently-retired Olof and I took the first vacation we’ve had in six years.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that my iPhone was going to be the sole method of communication with family and friends during this multi-stop trip.  Olof turned in his company phone on his last day of work and has elected to go cell phone commando ever since. 

The only people who were more worried about my being the sole source of contact on this trip than me were, of course, the family and friends.  Well known to them, my long-time strategy with cell phones when they ring is to push buttons and scream in the general direction of what I hope is a microphone. (My younger son does an absolutely vicious, and may I say, uncalled for, imitation of this.) 

Surprisingly, I’ve actually mastered texting which I now use a lot more once someone showed me how to turn off Auto Correct. When Olof was sick last fall, I tried to text the friend who was picking us up that we were in front of the Ximed Building at Scripps Memorial.  Auto Correct was not going to let me type Ximed if its last microchip depended on it.  The friend kept texting back “Where?  Huh?”  I was ready to hurl that phone under the tires of the next passing vehicle. 

Before we left on this trip, I realized that the one modification I had to make on this phone was to change the number of rings until voice mail kicked in.  I miss approximately 100% of calls because by the time I realize the phone is ringing and retrieve it from the kitchen counter, it has already gone to voice mail.  I’ve never quite gotten the hang of voice mail which has a habit of making itself deliberately (and frankly, maliciously) inaccessible.  So given the upcoming trip, it seemed imperative to avoid anything going to the voicemail graveyard where it would never be heard from again. 

Now, even on my previous Dumb Phone, changing the number of rings before voice mail kicked in was so easy a child could do it.  More to the point, I could do it.  I looked up the on-line instructions for how to do this on an iPhone 4S and I swear, I really am not kidding here, you need a degree in engineering to do this.  The guy at the AT&T store on Pearl couldn’t figure it out despite being presented with the printed instructions I’d brought him from Apple’s own web site.   Even the lady at Customer Service for Idiots struggled.

Of course, one of the reasons you can’t extend the number of rings until voice mail answers is that, unknown even to Apple Tech support, you can’t actually do that on an iPhone.  You can, however, change the number of seconds from the default 20 to anything you want, although the Customer Service for Idiots lady advised not making it more than one minute or people would give up without leaving a message.  Okay!  Works for me! 

Ultimately, we compromised on 40 seconds.  But seriously, here’s just the first three steps:

1. Open the phone app and dial *#61# on the Keypad. Press the Call button.

2. Locate this text on the screen: "Setting Interrogation Succeeded, Voice Call Forwarding, When Unanswered, Forwards to +" and record the 11-digit number after the + symbol. 

3. Touch the Dismiss button. Now enter this code on the Keypad: *61*+ followed by the 11-digit Forwards to number recorded in step 2, followed by *11 and *ringtime#.  

Clearly, Apple pulled a former writer of Japanese calculator manuals out of retirement to create this text.  A minor detail is that to get the plus sign you have to hold down the zero until the plus sign comes up, a detail mentioned nowhere in the instructions.  More of that Apple intuitiveness, I guess.

Against all odds, we actually managed to get to our various destinations and to rendezvous with friends and family.  And thankfully, I never had to access voice mail.  That’s next year’s project.  I can only deal with so much technology at a time.


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