It’s time up and time out for my cell phone

You’d better sit down before I say this as I don’t want the shock to induce a coronary issue in any of my special Boomerbroadcast friends. I rarely use my cell phone. It’s true. Survival in today’s world is possible without the electronic appendage that’s become so vital and addictive in everyday life today. I have a ‘lite’ phone plan from Zoomer Wireless (affiliated with CARP) that costs only $18.31 per month including taxes. I can text—if I knew how. It takes messages—if I knew how to set my voice mail and retrieve messages. It allows me to access WiFi in public places—if I knew how to do it. The thing is, the only person who ever calls me on my cell is my honey and by the time I hear it ringing deep in my purse, I’ve missed the call and I have to call him back—which I actually know how to do—if I remembered to charge it and managed to figure out how to turn it on.

Count me out.

It’s with a great deal of impatience and annoyance that I watch the rest of the world unable to function without their phone constantly clamped to their ears. I go nuts when people pull out their phone at meals and I must confess I’m not exactly polite when I ask them to put it away and enjoy the company of the people they’re already sitting with. “But it’s my grandson” they say when taking a call during a girls’ lunch. Unless your grandson is on life-support and the power just went off, then IT CAN WAIT. I’d like to think I’m worth at least an hour of your time.

Years ago when cell phones finally came within the financial reach of everyday people like you and me, I was a late adopter of the technology. Then, one cold, snowy night in December 1995 as I was heading north of Toronto on Highway 404 beyond the reach of service stations and habitation, it occurred to me that I could have a problem if something went wrong with my car. So, I purchased a cell phone, one of those huge contraptions the size of a brick. Bell Canada offered a special “Emergency” plan for $5.00 a month which suited me fine and gave me piece of mind when driving alone beyond city limits. As time went on, I updated my phones but still rarely used them.

Now I have two phones; one for Canada and a wonderful little flip phone that I bought at Walmart in Florida for $14.98 for when I’m in the United States. I purchase two-year pay-as-you-go cards for only $149.00 from TracFone at Walmart that give me more air time than I’ll ever use in my entire lifetime. Unbeatable. (Canada has a lot to learn from American cell phone plans.) And that includes voice mail, unlimited texting, camera and all the usual features. My phone card is expiring in a few weeks and now I have to make a decision—to let it go, renew it or investigate something new and improved. I’ve banked thousands of unused minutes on TracFone and the price is right, but trying to figure out and compare different phone plans causes more stress than I can handle. My CARP plan more than meets my needs in Canada.

I’m just an old lady who wants to be able to use her phone in Canada and the United States without all the fancy features. I just want to be able to call my honey if I have a problem when I’m out. And I don’t want to pay more than $20.00 per month. My friends all know I’m not cell phone friendly and call me on my land line at home—which I will not get rid of because I do not want to tote my phone around on my belt for the rest of my life and when I go to the bathroom. My life is peaceful and my friends aren’t bothered by my phone pinging when we’re enjoying a cup of tea and a good gossip. Unfortunately, the reverse isn’t true, “Oh – I just have to check that”. I don’t need a phone to wake me up in the morning; an old-fashioned clock does the job to perfection. And apps? Don’t need ’em; don’t use ’em; don’t want ’em.

Maybe I should just pull the plug.

My husband loves his cell and talks to his buddies on his cell more often than the land line. The downside is because he’s not technologically inclined he requires the constant services of our friend Mike to sort out technical issues. I’m feeling so guilty about the amount of time required of Mike that I think we should put him on the payroll. I abdicated all I.T. functions a couple of years ago when computer issues threatened our marriage. Since then, peace reigns on the domestic front.

I’ve written before about how frustrating it is when our electronic thingies never work the way they should and have penned polite blog postings to Bill Gates but the problem persists. We need our computers, cell phones, Wifi and other goodies, but I sure wish they were cheap and simple. Our monthly telecom bill costs more than our mortgage payments used to be. Apparently there are ways to disconnect from the greedy clutches of the cable and satellite companies but I’m not willing to risk the transition. Missing my favourite channels or programs just once might be enough to bring me to the breaking point. It’s a fragile line. They’re coming to take me away, ha ha, is closer than we think, thanks to all these technical challenges. Or, I could just opt out altogether which is sounding more appealing every day. Using public pay phones, if I could ever find one, would save me a ton of money and a lot of stress. There must be a better way.

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The Only Woman in the Room sounded familiar for a reason

Usually when I add a book title to my “To Read” list I include a bit of description of what it’s about for when it works its way to the top of the list. I’d forgotten to do that when I recorded The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict but the title did remind me of all my years working in construction. As Corporate Marketing Manager for EllisDon Corporation, I was very often the only woman in the room when I attended meetings in a male dominated business. While the book turned out to have nothing to do with construction it did have quite a lot to do with business, in a round-about way. It wasn’t until I reached the half-way point in the book that I realized why I’d flagged The Only Woman in the Room to read.

The story begins in 1933 with a beautiful young stage actress named Hedwig Kiesler in Vienna, Austria being pursued by an older admirer. His name is Friedrich (Fritz) Mandl and as a manufacturer and distributor of guns and armaments, he’s one of the richest men in Austria. Using all his skills as a master manipulator, he courts and eventually convinces teenaged Hedy to marry him. Although both are of Jewish ancestry, he insists they convert to Christianity and marry in a Catholic cathedral. Considering the threatening political climate for Jews at the time, it seems like a reasonable decision. Mandl is a strong nationalist and friend of Mussolini who supports Austrian independence. Then, as the political climate changes and Hitler allies with Mussolini, Mandl switches loyalties and supports a fascist Austria with shady ties to Nazi Germany.

Hedy’s marriage to Mandl soon deteriorates from being his adored bride to being a captive bird in a gilded cage. He monitors her every move, dictates what she will wear and who she associates with. Before long, he locks her in his castle and restricts her life to the point she plots her escape. By disguising herself as her lady’s maid and making a run for England, she feels she will be out of his reach. There, she meets American movie mogul Louis B. Mayer and his wife who are recruiting emigré Jewish movie and theatre professionals who are threatened by the Nazis. Hedy travels to America on the same ship as the Mayers and is hired as a contract actress.

As they were trying to come up with a less German-sounding last name for Hedy, the penny dropped and I realized why I wanted to read this book. BAM! This was a fictional account, written in the first person, of the life of Hedy Lamarr. That was the reason I’d flagged this book. And apart from her famous beauty and career in the movie industry, she was a very smart lady. Sadly, she suffered the fate of many women in the past whose professional accomplishments were overlooked simply because they were women.

When she was the trophy wife of Fritz Mandl back in Austria, she was present at many meetings, dinner parties and cocktail discussions about defense systems, armaments and military strategy with senior military leaders. She absorbed the knowledge and was able to put it use later. After Hedy Lamarr escaped Austria just before the start of World War II, she always felt guilty about not being able to forewarn others of the impending danger associated with Austria’s alliance with Nazi Germany.

Her torpedo guidance system was at first rejected by the Navy because it was designed by a woman.

Early in the war, German U-boats sank a mercy ship loaded with orphan children headed for America. This cruel act profoundly affected Hedy and she resolved to use her knowledge against Germany. With the assistance of composer George Antheil, she analysed the problem of allied torpedoes missing their targets and together they developed a “synchronized alternating radio frequency device” that prevented the Germans from jamming Allied torpedo radio signals, throwing torpedoes off target. In order to get the navy to use her new invention she had to get it patented and tested, which they eventually accomplished. Despite the obvious benefits of the new torpedo guidance system the navy discounted and turned down her invention. To her great shock and horror, their response was “Stick to your films. We think you’d be better able to assist by selling war bonds than building torpedoes”.  Using the author’s incredulous voice as Lamarr she writes “How could the military allow their soldiers and sailors to lose on the seas—to be killed in vast numbers—because they wouldn’t use a weapon system designed by a woman?”. Sound like a familiar refrain?

Many years ago, in the sixties, I remember a supervisor at Bell Canada telling me something similar when I submitted a list of suggested improvements in efficiency in the Cable Assignment Department where I worked at the time. He waved the piece of paper in my face and said “Who do you think you are? There are men in this department who are getting paid a lot more money than you to come up with solutions to these problems” and he dropped my list in the waste basket. I can still remember that supervisor’s name and feel my blood pressure rise when I think of it. I know how Hedy Lamarr felt. Ironically and as vindication, her torpedo technology was eventually adopted by the navy in the 1950s and was ultimately part of the technology that was further developed to become the cell phones, WiFi and sophisticated technology we use today. Take that mister misogynistic narrow-minded navy man!

The Only Woman in the Room focuses on Lamarr’s early life and war efforts rather than her film career which is already well documented. There are some inaccuracies and factual omissions that are inherent in historical fiction, particularly when taking the liberty of writing in the first person. At only 272 pages in hard copy, the book was a fast read and stopped at her second husband; she ultimately had six husbands and many lovers. There’s conjecture about the paternity of her adopted son which is not addressed in the book. I did enjoy it though and only wish the author had written a couple hundred more pages. I’d rate it 7 out 10.

To order The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict from Amazon click here.

(Disclosure: If you order through this link you will get their best price and I may receive a teeny tiny commission from Amazon.)


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Thoughts on a trip to the mall

It’s a rare occurrence when I visit one of the local shopping malls that I come home empty-handed. In fact, when I do leave without purchasing anything I feel rather virtuous and self-satisfied having once again narrowly escaped the sirens’ call. Giant, shiny shopping malls that sprang up in the suburbs across the country in the last few decades are modern cathedrals—a holy gathering place where humble worshipers go to deify the goddesses of consumerism. The bright window displays of the latest fashions draw us in and tempt us to lay down our souls and over-loaded credit cards in the name of instant gratification. How many times have we gone out to purchase a single needed item like a new pair of winter boots only to leave with multiple bags of not needed and not appreciated extra items of clothing, jewelry or skin care products?

The curse of consumerism hasn’t escaped me. If I’d purchased fewer pairs of shoes and purses during my working years and been less concerned about strutting out in the latest disposable fashions, I’d have a lot more money in my RRSP to draw from now. But, that’s all past history. The important thing is I learned something and that lesson affects my behaviour today. If I could give young people a word of advice it would be financial freedom = overall freedom. Save for the future.

A lot of my boomer friends reached a plateau around mid-life. Many of us had been at jobs that were unsatisfying or highly stressful and wanted to consider other ways to spend the rest of our days. We wanted options. That’s not possible when you’re broke, have crushing mortgage payments or onerous consumer debt. By middle-age things should be getting easier but because of profligate spending in our glory years we were chained to our weekly paycheque.

Now that I’m retired I’m free to do what I please. Doing what we like doesn’t have to be expensive. It can mean having the time to ride our bikes on a beautiful day, visit friends during the week for a cup of tea and a chat, even during the day which is so lovely. There are so many little benefits that come with retirement but let’s face it, retirement is that much more fun and satisfying when we can scrape together enough toonies and loonies every year to indulge our hobbies, take a vacation or splurge on a golf or tennis club membership. If we’re creative types, we need money to purchase canvases, paints, craft supplies, or a little fishing boat or RV if we’re outdoorsy. During our retirement years the one thing we all have is common is we have to watch our spending habits. Some may continue doing part-time or volunteer work after retirement. The beauty of it all is now we have options.

Seniors have made a science out of pinching pennies—although now that Canada has discontinued the use of pennies, I guess I should say pinching loonies. Not only does it give us an intellectual challenge, it helps ensure we’re going to be able to finance a comfortable lifestyle for as many years as possible. There is no way in the world I need another pair of shoes. I have more than enough of everything but going to the mall to get my hair done on a quiet Tuesday morning still requires a hefty dose of discipline to not pick up that cute pair I saw on sale in Ron White’s window. The best way I’ve found to keep myself in check is to not visit the mall unless absolutely necessary. When I see a gorgeous white blouse at Hudson’s Bay on sale, I remind myself I already have too many white blouses hanging in my closet that are barely worn. Although I admit, I feel somewhat vindicated when I think about a mother I saw interviewed on Oprah once who confessed to owning ninety-three (93) pairs of jeans—and her five children didn’t have health insurance. I’m not that bad!

Then there’s the online shopping issue and it’s not to be underestimated. And, as we get older and less inclined to get out and drive to the mall or local store, we’ll be increasing our use of online shopping. It is convenient and allows us to price shop from our livingroom LaZgirl. But we have to watch those sneaky advertisers. Once we purchase an item online, we’ll be forever bombarded with ads for the same or similar items available from different retailers making it sometimes too easy to click “Purchase”.

It’s all so seductive.

I have more success with staying away from the mall altogether and constant vigilance is necessary. Who isn’t a sucker for a good sale, especially when it’s a brand we favour? They’re always trying to outsmart us. Many large retailers are closing bricks and mortar stores in favour of fewer outlets and expanding the online experience. I wonder what shopping will look like in a couple of decades. Considering all the changes that have taken place in the last few years, it’s hard to imagine what things will look like when drone delivery and digital technology amps up further.

Even the grocery store can be seductive these days with their Joe Fresh clothing line and too many tempting edible treats that should never land in my grocery cart but somehow do. But the biggest culprit is still THE MALL. Breathing that hallowed air with sunshine streaming in through strategically placed skylights, wearing my most comfortable and stylish ‘shopping’ shoes, it’s far too easy to succumb to temptation. Just like losing that last 10 or 15 lbs., it’s all up hill and takes a lot of discipline. Sometimes it helps to remind myself how lucky I am to have such first world problems and nothing exemplifies this better than a trip to the mall.




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