The NSA wants my cell phone data? Meh. Most of it is on Facebook anyway!

So this whole “the government is going all Big Brother on us” thing is everywhere right now, and I’ve come to an important conclusion about it all.

I don’t really care.

Like I know that, as an American, I should care that my Fourth Amendment rights are potentially being violated. But honestly, I had to Google what the Fourth Amendment even was. And considering that we’re talking about an amendment written so far before the existence of cell phones that it was fifteen whole amendments before women were allowed to vote, I’m not sure that it’s actually being violated here.

In talking to a lot of my friends, I found many of them (except for the extreme righties, who are still protesting the amendment that gave my kind and people of other races the right to vote and who claim creationism is the only thing that should be taught in schools) don’t care either.


But Sara, you freaked out over all of Bush’s Homeland Security stuff! You’re such a hypocrite! You’re only saying this stuff is okay because you support Obama.

Well, you’re right and you’re wrong.

I DO support Obama. I’m the freaking poster child for supporting Obama. I own a sparkly Obama tank top.

And wore said tank top on stage with Bruce Springsteen. Because that’s how I roll.

But there are several key factors that I feel aren’t being addressed here.

For starters, I’ll admit, when the idea of Homeland Security stuff was first introduced, it sounded scary. It felt like the Harold and Kumar 2 version, where the dumbest possible people were going to look for the worst in everyone and we’d all end up with Big Bob in Guantanamo if we even said the word “bomb” within thirty miles of an airport.

Want to know how much my daily life has changed since then?

Not a whole lot. Is it annoying that I have to check my luggage to go anywhere because I’m incapable of packing my toiletries in small enough containers to carry on? Yes. But I don’t travel that often. And if we’re being entirely honest, that is the full extent to which the NSA has overall interfered with the quality of my life.

So with that said, if the government has already been monitoring my phone records without my knowledge and it hasn’t been a problem, I’m fine with them continuing to do so. If they start sending the SWAT team in every time I text my best friend that I’m going to kill my mother (which I would NEVER say, mom, honest! Please don’t hurt me!) then okay, I feel my Fourth Amendment rights are being violated.

But, at least as far as we’re being told, they’re only monitoring who people are contacting, not the content of phone calls or text messages. So the government now knows that my dad calls me every three minutes for approximately nine seconds, that my best friends and I text a lot, and that my mother calls me every single afternoon at the very second that she leaves work/as soon as I start working out. Oooooooh. Seriously important stuff here people!

The truth is though that for law-abiding citizens, cell phone records aren’t exactly super incriminating. Sure, you don’t want your significant other getting ahold of them if you’re cheating. But the government doesn’t care if you cheat. The media does, if you’re famous, but the government practically condones cheating.Hell, so many people in the government itself cheat that they’d probably cover for you, if that’s what you’re worried about!

It’s also worth noting that anyone who thinks they have any privacy, yet uses a smart phone/has a Facebook or other social media account/uses a cell phone at all for that matter, is an idiot. Even if you DON’T walk around in public having excessively loud cell phone conversations about extremely personal matters (which most of us do), it’s super easy for people to hack cell phones. Not me, because A) I don’t have those skills and B) I don’t care, but people who DO care can hear your conversations if they want to regardless of who they are/if they work for the government. And if you’re updating your Facebook with what you ate for dinner every night, you’re broadcasting your every move to the world anyway. Why do you really care if the government knows WHO you’re talking to when you’re putting all that info out there on your own?

And to be totally honest again, even if the government actually WANTS to listen to my conversations and read my text messages, it would be a HUGE waste of their time, but I don’t care that much.

Want to know what they would learn?

Here’s the conversation that my mother and I have every day.

(Phone rings) Me (without even looking at the caller ID): Hi mom.

My mom: (Depressed Eyore voice) Hi Sara.

Me: What’s up?

My mom: Ugh, I’m just leaving work. (Pause) Are you at the gym?

Me: Yup.

My mom: I should go to the gym. But I had such a long day. Blah blah work blah blah feel fat blah blah work blah blah your father blah blah work blah blah blah you’re a horrible person and fail at life blah blah.

Me: I actually had something interesting happen today. I—

My mom: I’m pulling into the garage, gotta go, bye!

Me: Sigh.

EVERY SINGLE DAY. I pity the government agent whose job it is to listen to that EVERY DAY. Really. I do. But if they want to, cool. Good for them.

And if they want to read my text messages, they’ll see a lot of conversations with Ary about the zombie apocalypse (don’t ask), a lot of emoji combinations that are code for “I’m going to jump off a building” and “I super lesbian love you” between me and Darya, messages telling the boyfriend that I’m heading to the gym and asking what he wants for dinner, and ten billion pictures of Rosie. And a bunch of pictures of Rosie pooping, which I send to the boyfriend. Yes, I’m a weirdo. But he laughs every time I send those, so it’s really okay. And he even makes up little songs about her pooping. We really are the perfect couple.

But I’m getting off track. If the government wants to see all that, then yes, they too can see pictures of my dog defecating. In fact, I’m happy to send those pictures to them if they want (I even have a few politicians topping my list of people whom I’d like to send pictures of Rosie pooping to! John Boehner, be ready!) Now if they start coming after me to see if I scoop the poop based on those pictures, I’ll start yelling about my Fourth Amendment rights, but until then, I’m cool.

Yes, I would be much more freaked if we were still in the Bush years. NOT because I’m a diehard Democrat (see pictures above) and being a hypocrite, but because I trust the Obama administration to not misinterpret what they see in my messages. I’m half convinced that the Bush administration went into Iraq over a text acronym that someone intended to mean, “Where’s My Dinner?” or something along those lines. With Obama, at least I’m not worried that an army of NSA SWAT guerrillas will come swinging in through my windows screaming about “Weapons of Terrorist Functions” if I text my best friend and ask her WTF she’s talking about when she starts saying where we should hide when the zombies come for us.

Although, maybe the government SHOULD be reading our conversations. I’d rather be safe than sorry when the zombies DO rise up. Which, according to Ary, is happening any day now.

Which actually concerns me more than Verizon’s cooperation with the government.

An iPhone screen is like a heart: easily broken and expensive to fix

The thing that I have been dreading since I first got my iPhone finally happened last week.

I broke the screen.

Now maybe I’m looking at this calamity the wrong way. My dad always says the two best days in a boat owner’s life are the day he buys his first boat the day he sells his first boat. Maybe breaking an iPhone is just a rite of passage that all Apple-addicts must go through at some point in order to reach full emotional maturity.

Or maybe I’m just a freaking idiot because I broke it while walking Rosie. In stilettos. Which, in hindsight, was perhaps not my smartest plan. She saw another dog and took off, and I flailed wildly to keep my balance, in the process dropping my phone. Face down. On the concrete.

But even then, I didn’t panic. As a major klutz, that was not the first brush with concrete that my phone has suffered. And in each previous plummet, it survived unscathed, with perhaps a scratch on the screen protector.

But not this time. This time, the entire face was shattered. And with it, any veneer of cool that I had possessed that day.

So I did what I always do in times of emotional and financial crisis: I called my daddy. Who patiently waited out my sobs, then postulated the theory that the evil goose that’s been stalking me was really to blame for the broken phone.

Then he told me that it really wasn’t so bad in the long run. My grandmother broke her ankle walking Rosie last year (which, to be fair, was because she insisted on walking over a patch of ice to try to find Rosie some un-snow-covered grass to pee on, despite my repeatedly telling her that Rosie LIKES peeing on snow), had surgery to correct it, got a MRSA infection in the bone, and almost lost her foot. A year later, she’s FINALLY walking on her own and doing fine, but in the grand scheme of things, a broken iPhone is NOT the worst Rosie-related catastrophe in the world.

Who knew the face of evil could be so cute?

And while he’s probably right, I’m broke. And don’t have a landline. And use my cell phone for EVERYTHING under the sun. Literally. It’s a phone, an internet device, a mobile hotspot, a music player, a camera, a mirror, a coaster, a Frisbee, etc.  Seeing me without my phone in my hand would be like seeing my dad without a Starbucks cup. Like seeing my mom without makeup on. Like seeing Jesus without his crown of thorns. Like seeing Dan Snyder without his cloven hoofs and devil horns.

It would just be confusing and wrong. And while the phone still technically worked, every time I looked at that cracked screen, it broke my heart a little.

So under my dad’s advisement, I went to the Verizon store and lied through my teeth. Which, I’ve found, is ALWAYS the best policy when dealing with Verizon. My mother and I are still on a family plan together and I’m technically not allowed to do ANYTHING with the account, so lie number one was that my name is Carole.

Which, because my mother refuses to deal with Verizon AT ALL under ANY circumstances, is a lie that I’m used to. I now know her social security number, Verizon account password, bra size, the vision restrictions on her driver’s license, the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow and any other random information that they might ask for to access the account.

Then came lie number two, which was a result of my cardinal rule when dealing with Verizon:  NEVER admit to breaking your own phone. If you do that, you’re not getting a new one, even with the insurance. Instead, I decided to play two truths and a lie. I said that I’m a teacher (true), and a kid was playing with my phone at school that day (also true), and that the kid dropped it and it broke (LIE). Then I batted my eyelashes and asked, in my best Blanche Dubois, “I have always depended on the kindess of strangers,” damsel-in-distress way, if there was ANYTHING that they could do to help me.

Normally, that works.

And had it been ANY other kind of phone, it would have worked in this situation as well, but unfortunately, Apple is its own entity unrelated to Verizon. And the Verizon store can’t give me a new iPhone, no matter how cute I am or how pathetic my story is.

At which point, I dropped the “oh please help me Mr. Big Strong Man” act and was all business.

Which meant calling the Apple insurance company, telling them the same lie (hey it MIGHT have worked this time around. Plus the Verizon store guy was still there and in case I needed to pull the damsel-in-distress thing in the future, I didn’t want him to know I’d lied), and finding out that iPhone insurance means you get a BRAND NEW REPLACEMENT PHONE THE VERY NEXT DAY.

I was ecstatic! I did a little happy dance! I cried tears of pure joy! I hugged the Verizon store guy!

Then they told me about the $200 deductible.

Of course, with the way my mind words, I hear $200 and immediately convert that into two Springsteen tickets (or one plus Ticketmaster fees).

Then I convert it into the number of pairs of shoes I could buy (3-4). But I’m not giving up either of those, and I couldn’t live with the cracked screen, so it was better to give up two weeks worth of groceries instead. I’ve been losing weight for summer anyway. Who REALLY needs to eat?

New iPhone it was.

And, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, the next day, when I got home from school, a BRAND NEW IPHONE was waiting for me, ready to use! It wasn’t even a refurbished one like when you have to go through Verizon for the insurance. And, because unlike all things PC, Apple does NOT suck, restoring it to the old, broken iPhone’s backup was a piece of cake.

And all was again right with the world.

The new phone, however, does have a far more protective case on it. And I suppose the real lesson that I should have learned is to change my shoes before I walk Rosie after school. Which, let’s face it, probably isn’t going to happen. Because, as the old 80s Saturday Night Live Billy Crystal sketches always said, “It is better to look good than to feel good.”

Well, I have internet and cable again…for now… but I still hate FiOS

Friday’s blog created a little bit of a stir online, so I figured it deserved a follow-up explaining the incident that sparked the song and letter to Comcast.

I’d been a Comcast subscriber in every apartment I’d had since graduating from college. That didn’t really make me a Comcast fan, however. In general, I’m against any company that holds a monopoly because with no other options, there’s no reason to keep prices low or provide high-quality service.

And there were plenty of times when Comcast royally pissed me off, usually relating to the commonly-held misconception that any woman who calls for help with cable or internet service must have the television on the wrong setting because she can’t possibly understand how these things work.

Which, if they’ve spoken to my grandmother, I understand why they would feel that way.

But because I’m actually fairly tech-savvy, I get annoyed quickly with customer service people who automatically assume that two x-chromosomes make you an idiot. And I had that experience with Comcast on quite a few occasions.

Up until last March, however, I had no other options if I wanted high speed internet and cable tv. My condo rules prevent me from getting a satellite dish, and no other services were available in my building. So even though there were other companies around, Comcast held a de-facto monopoly in my building. Which, through no fault of their own, annoyed me.

So when a FiOS rep came to my door one Sunday afternoon, offering a faster internet, more high definition channels, and lower prices on a different network that was newly available in my building, it sounded like a great deal.

And for the first month, I was thrilled. Sure it took all day to install the new service for no reason that I could understand. And true, my internet didn’t actually seem any faster. And it was annoying to learn a whole new set of channels. But I was out of Comcast’s monopoly! I couldn’t have been happier.

Then my first bill arrived. The FiOS rep who had sold me on FiOS had told me that my total bill, with internet and cable, including a multi-room DVR, HBO and Showtime, would be $99 a month. So I was pretty surprised when my bill was well over $200 a month.

I called FiOS, positive that they had made a mistake. “No,” I was told. It was no mistake. The representative must have made a mistake when he gave me that price. But while they were terribly sorry, there was nothing they could do about it. I had signed a contract and to end that contract early would cost me $360.

I was pissed off, but there wasn’t anything I could do. And as long as my service was working, I wasn’t that unhappy.

The first time my FiOS tv and internet went out completely was in June. I’d gone to see the Gaslight Anthem in NYC, came back very late the same night, and when I woke up the next morning, I realized my service had been out since the previous afternoon. I called FiOS, and they got a repairman out the same day to fix it. I was awed—Comcast had never been that quick. Granted, Comcast almost never needed to send anyone out to fix a problem—most Comcast problems could be fixed with a reset signal. But after that, it worked fine through the whole summer and most of the fall.

Until three weeks ago, when it stopped for no reason.

This time, I was pretty annoyed. There’s no reason for a service person to be sent out twice in six months. It happened on a Wednesday, and after two hours on hold and another forty-five minutes of walking through troubleshooting over the phone, I was told that the earliest anyone could come to fix it would be the following Tuesday. I said that was unacceptable, spoke with a supervisor, and was eventually given a repair date of Friday, between 1 and 5, but as I couldn’t get home until 3, I was assured the repairman would show up after 3.

I didn’t realize that meant 7:30pm. And when I called them to see where the technician was, I was told there was a three-hour grace period. And when the technician DID eventually show up, the problem was that when someone else got FiOS, that tech had pulled my wiring out by mistake.

Three weeks later to the day, the same thing happened. But this time, after speaking to a supervisor, I was told that they could come out Friday between 8am and 8pm, but that I had to be home the whole day to wait.

Which means that they think that a FiOS repairman is more important than a high school teacher.

I made enough of a fuss that they agreed to come after 3 again, because I refused to take off of work for a problem that I hadn’t caused. But of course the technician this time called me at noon to say he was there. I explained that he was just going to have to come back at 3pm, and was not too happy to have to deal with that during a class that I was teaching.

Then, when word of my anti-FiOS internet campaign got around, Verizon Support began tweeting me on Twitter, trying to resolve the problem. Their solution? Log onto their website to register the problem.

I asked the question back on Twitter, how exactly did they expect me to do that when my Verizon internet service wasn’t working? I could tweet from my phone, but really? Wow, way to be out of touch, Verizon!

The technician did show up at 3 that day, ignored me when I told him exactly what the problem had been last time, then seemed surprised when it was the exact problem that I had said it was.

Which means that twice in three weeks, a FiOS technician has screwed up my service and I’ve had to deal with it. They’ve made no effort to adjust my bill for the time that I spent without the services that I’ve paid them for, and no attempt to address the problem with any kind of a real solution.

And on the flip side, Comcast at least showed that they have a sense of humor, by replying to Friday’s blog with a comment saying that they miss me too, forgive me for leaving, and are waiting for me with open arms.

So while I know everyone is exceptionally polarized about which service provider is better, and I know that quite a few Verizon fans would like to argue with me, all I can say at this point is that the next time a FiOS tech messes up my service, I expect to be released from my contract WITHOUT paying the $360 fee. And Comcast, you’ll be getting a call from me as soon as that happens. Which, if the next couple of weeks are anything like the past couple of weeks have been, should be pretty soon.

I hate FiOS… Comcast, baby PLEASE come home!

Dear Comcast,

Well, you said I’d be sorry for leaving you for FiOS, and you were right. This isn’t easy for me to say. I’m not used to crawling back to my exes. But I was wrong to leave you. I miss you, and I want you back.

When you first moved into Cable TV Montgomery’s old building in my neighborhood, I didn’t really notice much difference between you and CTM.  Sorry, I’m just being honest.  I was a kid—what did I know?

But I definitely remember running into you again in college. When you got to the University of Maryland, you were the biggest deal around, which is saying a lot considering we were there when the Terps won the NCAA basketball championship!

Everyone wanted you, and I was the one who was lucky enough to get you. I still remember how special I felt when we would spend time in my dorm room together. We made everyone who still had aluminum foil covered rabbit ears on their televisions so jealous.

Our relationship weathered some incredibly difficult times. You were there with me through September 11—I remember how I felt when you told me what had happened, but you were there with me that whole awful day, reassuring me that it would all be okay. Don’t think that my leaving meant that I didn’t appreciate any of that. I do. And I always will.

I know that you were shocked when I told you it was over between us. Please know that it wasn’t that you did anything wrong specifically. We were fine together. But by the time I left you, we had been together so long that it felt like the spark was gone. And I’m not going to lie, you really hurt me when I wanted us to move to Xfinity together, and you told me that you weren’t ready for that.

If I’m being totally honest, that’s what sent me into the arms of FiOS. You and I had been together for over ten years, and I felt like you weren’t ready to commit to taking that next step with me. And if you weren’t ready then, I felt like you wouldn’t ever be ready. And I didn’t want to spend my whole life waiting for something that wasn’t going to happen.

That’s when I met FiOS. I wasn’t looking to leave; FiOS just showed up at my door one day. Literally. It came knocking at my door, promising me all the things that you weren’t giving me. Fiber Optic speed. More high definition programming. A multi-room DVR. Lower prices than you had. And a commitment to all of that, right away, when after ten years, you still couldn’t give me that. I mean, you didn’t even have Comedy Central in HD. I felt like you were never going to change.

When FIOS and I first got together, I thought I was so happy. Everything felt perfect. I should have known better though. When something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

And in this case, it definitely was. The honeymoon ended quickly. FiOS had much higher fees than I’d been led to believe, and my bill was more than it ever was with you. But I stuck with it anyway, because I still thought I was getting what I wanted.

And imagine how hurt I was when I saw that right after I left, you went to Xfinity with other people! Ten years with me, and a month after I leave, you’re doing THAT? Well, I had no intention of coming back to you after I heard that.

I did see your Xfinity a few times though. I didn’t tell you that I saw it, because I couldn’t face you yet. But I saw. And I was so jealous, because even though I wasn’t ready to admit it, I missed you. And I wondered what was wrong with me that you couldn’t give ME Xfinity. I kept telling myself I’d made the right choice, because FiOS was giving me the things you weren’t. But that wasn’t true. And I wasn’t happy.

Last night was the final straw though. FiOS didn’t come home. Again. With no explanation, no reason, no warning. And as I sat there, with no cable, internet, or phone service, I asked myself what I was doing.

I tried calling last night to get an explanation about the sudden disappearing act. But the only answer I got was that I should wait at home from 8am today until 8pm for FiOS to come back. A twelve-hour window of waiting. And I said okay! That’s how bad the relationship had gotten. I was never a doormat like that before. And as I sat there with no distractions to prevent me from thinking about the situation, I realized that I deserve better than this. And the only time that I really GOT better treatment was when I was with you.

I don’t want to fight with you or rehash any of the problems that you and I had over the years. We were both wrong at times. But I realized something important last night: I don’t love FiOS. I don’t even LIKE FiOS. I liked the idea of FiOS, but the reality never once measured up to the image I had in my head. And in all the years I spent with you, I never felt as unappreciated as I did last night.

Comcast, I’m so sorry for the way I treated you. I should have told you what I was feeling and waited until you were ready to take the step to Xfinity with me. I know that now. And I don’t know if you can ever forgive me. But I hope you can. It’s over between me and FiOS and I wish I’d never opened my door that day. You’re the one that I want. The only one I can truly be happy with. So Comcast, baby, please, please come home.

Love,

Sara

If your cell phone gets wet, lie. If it falls in the toilet, LEAVE IT!

I hate Verizon.

But I hate all the other cell phone companies MORE, so I’m sticking with them for now.

I’ve actually been with all of the major cell phone companies since 1996, when I got my first cell phone.  It was the original Nokia.  It was about the size of a cinderblock and worked in approximately 0.00000000001 percent of places I went to.  But I had a cell phone. And NO ONE I knew had a cell phone that wasn’t attached to a car in 1996. Except the drug dealers. And me. But no one else did.

 And while Verizon epic sucks, they epic suck SLIGHTLY less than AT&T, Sprint and TMobile.

Over the years, I’ve learned some tricks to handling Verizon. First of all, when you call them, ALWAYS lie and say you’re the policy holder even if you’re not. I’m still on a family plan with my mom (because it was cheaper for both of us now that my brother and father have defected and gotten iPhones), and even though we’ve told them roughly 500 billion times that I’m authorized to make changes, somehow I’m still not allowed to. But if I call and say I’m my mother, I can make changes to the plan with no problem. And this is necessary because my mother refuses to call Verizon under any circumstances. Ever. Even if they cancelled her plan, I would have to deal with it.

The biggest problems come with the phone insurance though. Because in theory, the insurance is fabulous for if your phone dies.

In reality, it never actually applies.

But there IS a way around this.

You just have to be willing to lie a little.

For example, water damage isn’t covered. So when my brother jumped in the pool with his phone in his pocket several times (yes, ladies and gentlemen, that genius is now a doctor. I fear for the future.), the phone wasn’t covered by the insurance.

By the third time this happened (I’m sure he’s a good doctor. But literally, multiple times forgetting to take his phone out of his pocket before jumping in a pool—you do the math), my brother decided to tell Verizon that he didn’t know what happened to his phone. He must have lost it.

Presto! New phone.

This is always the way to go. Whenever they ask you what’s wrong with it, just say you don’t know.

This comes in particularly handy if your phone winds up someplace where you’d rather gnaw your own limbs off than go after it.

This happened to my friend Janie*. We were at a bar one night and she went to the bathroom. The line for the women’s room was too long (as is often the case), so she, being braver than I, went into the men’s room.

(*Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

When she came back, she had a look of horror on her face beyond anything that I had ever seen. Seriously. Picture the girl in the closet from the Ring. That kind of terrified.

I immediately asked her what happened. Was she okay? I assumed that at the very least she had just witnessed a grisly mass murder.

It was worse.

Much, MUCH worse.

She had dropped her phone in the men’s room toilet.

I tried to comfort her. “It’s okay,” I said. “Just go to Verizon tomorrow and tell them you lost it. It’ll be fine.”

“But I didn’t lose it,” she said, and to MY horror, she plopped the wet phone on the table in front of me.

Yes. She went in after the phone.

Of course, the best part of this story came later, when we went to another bar. We were sitting at a table and the phone kept vibrating randomly. Janie was talking to a guy who was friends with one of my friends, and he picked up her phone and asked her why it kept vibrating.

Janie explained about the men’s room toilet.

To the guy’s credit, he didn’t cry or run screaming. He just politely excused himself and spent the rest of the evening in the men’s room washing his hands. He didn’t come back until after last call when they MADE him stop washing his hands and leave. Poor guy.

If it had been me who dropped a phone in a men’s room toilet, I would have left the phone where it was and gone to Verizon the next morning with my story straight. “I don’t know what happened to it. I think it was stolen.”

Now, if you don’t have the insurance or aren’t a good enough liar, I’ve heard that rice works to soak up the excess moisture. But if that doesn’t work, just give me your password and I’ll call Verizon and say I’m you.

I’ve gotten very good at that game.

And if anyone from Verizon is reading this, my name is Tigran Kapinos.

I told you I’d get you back someday for putting that cricket video, Tig!