Friday, April 3, 2009

Brick and Martyr: TMI

The telephone broke this week. (So did the refrigerator and the water heater, but more on that later on.) Well, it had been breaking for a while. It had been submerged in water more than once, and was slowly losing features. The LCD panel was the first to go, of course, so all the caller ID features were gone. And last weekend it stopped ringing.

Fine with me.

But ultimately, no, the flashing light on the phone is not enough to alert me that it's ringing. And tragically, it sometimes matters. So I went to get a new phone. It was kind of funny. I was walking around Fry's and first saw a book on Tenzing Norgay. The only reason I know of Tenzing Norgay is because I'm a fan of the Coen Brothers, and the following exchange is from Intolerable Cruelty.

Wrigley: Who are you looking for?
Miles Massey: Tenzing Norgay.
Wrigley: Tenzing Norgay? That's someone she slept with?
Miles Massey: I doubt it. Tenzing Norgay was the Sherpa that helped Edmund Hillary climb Mt. Everest.
Wrigley: And Marilyn knows him?
Miles Massey: No, you idiot. Not the Tenzing Norgay. Her Tenzing Norgay.
Wrigley: I'm not sure that I actually follow that.
Miles Massey: Few great accomplishments are achieved single-handedly, Wrigley. Most have their Norgays. Marilyn Rexroth is even now climbing her Everest. I wanna find her Norgay.
Wrigley: But how do you determine which of the people on here are...
Miles Massey: How do you spot a Norgay?
Wrigley: Yeah.
Miles Massey: You start with the people with the funny names.

I swear: maybe 20% of the knowledge I have comes from a dogged pursuit of a particular topic while the other 80% comes from random mentions in pop culture. I saw this cool physics book
as well. (I'm looking for something for The Boy that is not too math heavy but also not juvenile. My own texts from school are pretty dry, as well, and this looked like a good mixture.)

Fry's is interesting. The branches communicate to the main office through a text-based system on (I think) a private network, and none of the hundreds of computers anywhere in the store are hooked to the Internet. But I had my Blackberry with me and began to wonder:

Is this really a good price for the Tenzing book? (It was $8; I can get it used for half that--including shipping--from Amazon.) Is it a good Tenzing book? (So-so. The minimal reviews on Amazon are all over the map.)

What about the Head Start book? I can get a new one cheaper or save a few bucks on a used copy, but I also get the reviews that say it's a practical book. About the mechanics rather than the more difficult-to-grasp optics, audio, etc. areas. So, actually, it's perfect.

I put those two books back.

I also wanted to pick up a scanner. (I have a scheme to put some things on t-shirts.) But the scanners just sit there in boxes with numbers on them. Very unhelpful. I realized I didn't know what I needed. I thought to myself, "What am I doing here?"

Fry's is the sort of place you go when you know exactly what you want. The best deals you get there are on discontinued things. (A lot of people think they're getting an incredible price on cutting edge stuff and end up disappointed. A lot of people get angry at Fry's. A lot of people are dumb.)

But then, a funny thing happened: I still needed a phone. I generally shop at Amazon because of the free shipping, so I went there. And you know what? It was too much information. Too much dubious information, actually.

I need a phone that's nigh indestructible. The only feature I can't live without is the speakerphone. (I hate holding the phone up to my ear.) The caller ID is good, too, because I don't have an answering machine or even a phone book, really, so if you want a call back, you better be IDed.

The reviews on Amazon were things like "Oh, these are great. We only had to take one of the three we bought back." Also, Amazon's inabiality to do a secondary sort sucks. In other words, yeah, I want the most relevant items first, but after that, I want the cheapest.

I went to Radio Shack instead. But, of course, there was no one in the Radio Shack, so I went to target. This was actually strangely reassuring. I had gone to Radio Shack for an antenna coupler last weekend and actually got one there for $2.70 and it actually worked! Almost everything at Radio Shack is ridiculously overpriced and then doesn't do what I want, so I was actually disturbed when I got in and out in five minutes with just what I needed.

Going in this week and finding a bunch of overpriced phones that no one was around to sell me was comforting.

Anyway, I went to Target and picked up a phone for about $25. I have no idea how good a phone it is, but it has a handset speaker and caller ID. It's probably good enough. Which is good enough. And I guess the brick-and-mortar stores still have their uses.

Of course, it hasn't been submerged yet. I give the Barbarienne 3-4 weeks to feed it to the toilet.

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