Thursday, September 13, 2012

I hear a ring

Much to my luddish disgruntlement, I had to get a new cellphone. The folks at the AT&T store explained that the reason I'd been having trouble picking up a signal lately is that they're in the process of shutting down the 2G network that my old phone runs on. Too expensive and obsolete to maintain, they said. They had the temerity to compare it to 8-track tapes.

Fortunately, they still offer inexpensive dumbphones (I do not want a smartphone) for their pay-as-you-go "GoPhone" accounts. I bought a clamshell model for $40, and, while taking my mother to a doctor's appointment, spent my hour in the waiting room setting the thing up: setting the shortcut keys, choosing a slightly nicer wallpaper from the few on offer, entering my contact numbers (which didn't transfer over with the sim card) and deleting the AT&T house numbers it came pre-programmed with, and so forth.

I had to wait till I got home and could get on the computer to get my preferred ringtone, something else that wouldn't transfer over from my old phone. When I first got a cellphone, I had some trouble with ringtones. My first thought had been that a phone should sound like a phone, so I picked the pre-programmed selection that sounded like an old-fashioned phone. The problem with that became apparent at an airport rental car counter when my phone rang and I thought it was their phone that was ringing.

So I decided to pick a musical tone. I didn't want any of the electronic geegaw sounds in the pre-programmed repertoire; besides, several of those are so common that, again, I wouldn't be sure it was my phone. The obvious choice for me would be something classical, right? So I went to the AT&T ringtone store (which was damn hard to find on their website, and still is), and found among their meager classical selections the cat theme from Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf.

Perfect for me, right? It turned out not. The cat theme is played on the low register of the clarinet, and it just wasn't loud or piercing enough to be heard against any background noise at all if my phone was in my pocket. I needed something louder, and, more importantly, brighter in timbre.

Another visit. The cat theme was gone. I picked my favorite of what was there, St. Anthony's Chorale, the theme (not actually by Haydn, though Brahms didn't know that) of Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn. This wasn't particularly loud either, and it had a worse problem that I hadn't expected. My phone rang in the car, and I thought, "Oh, the radio's playing the Haydn Variations. How nice." Even though the radio was already playing something else. My mind just didn't associate this theme with a cellphone, and I feared that if I did train my mind to make that association, then whenever I heard the Haydn Variations I'd think, "Uh-oh, better answer my phone." Clearly, I would have the same problem with any other classical tune I selected.

What I needed, then, was something non-classical that 1) I liked, 2) would somehow "be me", 3) wouldn't also be too many other people, 4) would be bright enough to hear in a noisy environment, 5) I would be willing and able to associate in my mind with "my phone is ringing." Nothing in the AT&T store filled the bill. When the perfect answer hit me, I was able to find several versions on a cheap upload site, picked one that had good sound quality and a tolerable cutoff point, and managed to download it. Fortunately I also had the wit to create an account and save the site on a bookmark, so I just grabbed it again for the new phone, though I had the deuces' own time getting the thing uploaded on the phone. (It wouldn't upload automatically, so I had to use the web browser, and was stymied several times by not realizing that "search for" didn't mean (the unwritten default option of) "go to".)

Not to keep you in suspense, if you've never heard my phone ring: it was the instrumental opening of this.

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