Ball and Chain

ball and chainNo one gives a second thought to communicating with anyone at any time in the world of smart phone technology today. This trend began over a quarter century ago; it was an ill-fitting shoe personally. Before retiring from Domino’s Pizza in 1990 they made me install a car phone, which wasn’t horrible at the time because not far off the interstate system out in the rural areas where I spent my free time was rewarded with NO SERVICE. The satellite pager that I was instructed to carry 24/7 possessing the capability of tracking me down nearly anywhere felt like a ball and chain.

In total denial the last thing I wanted to do in my twenties was retire on disability, go home and die. Attempting to disguise a pronounced limp and increasingly worthless left arm was not easy and most likely the masquerade only existed in my mind.

The two major responsibilities given to me on the eve of my unwanted retirement were to sell the stores in Puerto Rico and put together the golden parachute of stores for the recently forced out president of DPI. I was given a lead to a potential buyer to the Puerto Rican stores and flew to San Juan to begin negotiations. It was immediately apparent to me entering the guarded compound the potential buyer was a cocaine dealer and confirmed when eager to pay the asking price. Young and still fairly naïve I wrongly assumed corporate had done the due diligence on their cash flush buyer so I proceeded with the sale. A few days later I went fishing with the retiring president and failed to bring my ball and chain. The fishing trip was a disaster falling several times very hard, my ruse was exposed. Returning home my ball and chain had a gazillion pages on it most were from the VP. I called and the source of the Puerto Rican money had reached Ann Arbor. Doug Dawson was yelling to stop the sale and proceeded to threaten my termination for not carrying that pager. After the day fishing I knew my retirement too was forth coming so after being threatened I said, “Friend, I don’t give a good god damn” and hung up. The next day the retiring president called me in his office and said close the door. Mike said, “Man, you need to chill. You don’t need to spend the rest of your time working.” I reluctantly went in my office and packed.

no-talkingNearly two and a half decades later I have a much different view of technology and appreciation for it, especially communication technology. Thanks to John Anschutz at Shepherd I had texting capability from my laptop before that became common lexicon. I could also make phone calls from the laptop, but typing at nine words a minute I could exhaust my monthly time allotment with one phone call. Hey, don’t laugh, I had to become totally paralyzed to increase my words per minute.

The AT&T card was useless after moving to the country so I canceled the service. I missed access to the internet anywhere and the loss of texting curbed my independence because I could no longer text for help. Since I had signed up the monthly fees for data cards with texting had risen significantly so I gave our budget a rest. Because I will be hunting again communication is a must. Carey and the children have had a family plan with Verizon for years and the signal strength is good here in the woods. I suggested to Carey calling Verizon suspecting they would have the best deal.

google-voice-logoI am very excited to share with my ALS friends what Carey discovered. My bride explained the situation and it is quite remarkable the solution the customer service rep provided because it removes revenue from Verizon. He set Carey up with a data card, four gigs a month for $50, and use Google Voice for the cell phone. What is Google Voice? I asked the same. Google Voice is a totally free service for sending and receiving text messages from a phone number you select becoming your mobile number. I went to http://www.google.com/voice selected a phone number and I was texting in minutes. A tip when selecting your number, type in your city or zip code then click SEARCH NUMBERS. Attempting to search for a specific number you desire is a frustrating waste of time, experience talking.

I have not set up Google Talk and suspect that is not completely free. Google Voice has several extremely convenient options. You can select to have text messages, voice mails and missed calls forwarded to your email and you can respond appropriately. Google Voice is designed to manage several phone numbers, mobile, work and home from one location, but a dream come true for disabled individuals. Google Chrome browsers users there is a fantastic desktop extension for Google Voice.

In my able days I cavalierly shunned communication avenues preferring complete privacy at times, but in my case it was definitely a matter of you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Check out Google Voice and please share with everyone in the ALS communities. Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend! dj

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