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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

magicJack and Happy-Go-Lucky

“Do you have some kind of really cheap service where I can pay for incoming calls only?” I queried the friendly Verizon customer service woman after holding for a quarter of an hour. She seemed perplexed and said there was no such option, and had I not found my exorbitantly expensive unlimited plan, plus 3-way calling, unuseful? (All right, she didn’t phrase it exactly that way.)

Because I felt as if she was really interested, I explained that I’d been downsized out of a job being the hub of a virtual office, and I no longer required such services, plus which, I’d now purchased a magicJack at my local Radio Shack.

“Oh. What’s magicJack?” she inquired.

Feeling as if I was about to downsize her, I kindly explained that Verizon was most likely about to lose a ton of business because magicJack is a new little gadget you stick in your computer, and for the cost of it ($40+tax) and $20 a year, you can have unlimited calling all over the country, plus voicemail and caller ID.

There was a pause, then she put me on hold to research my cheapest Verizon option; I’d asked for Basic Budget which is no longer listed on the Verizon website. It was a very long time until she returned, during which I’m guessing she’d initiated a frantic huddle — wherever Verizon customer servers huddle. During this huddle, I wager they'd debated their options, worried about this impending monster called magicJack and what it might mean to their futures, and generally got their headsets in a tangle.

Finally the Verizon lady returned and gave me a new service plan at an amount well below what I’d been paying, and we closed the deal.

Here’s what’s good about magicJack:

• It’s cheap. You get to talk everywhere for however long you want for $20.

• You can see who’s calling, and voicemail emails are sent so you know when you have messages.

• As of right now, it’s a separate phone number, which is really good if you want a line you can turn off when want to forget about where your next paycheck is coming from.

Here’s what’s bad:

• Sometimes your connection cuts off.

• Sometimes your connection sounds like there’s a breathy, possibly drunken person with a vibrato on the other end.

• If you want your magicJack phone on, your computer has to be on, running down your battery and heating things up if you have a monster laptop like my HP Pavilion zd8000.

• Now I have three phones and three phone numbers: one for incoming calls, a cell for outgoing calls when my computer’s off, and my magicJack phone.

I do miss my Verizon service, but last night I saw the movie Happy-Go-Lucky with my friend Ardith who is also going through some hard times. Happy-Go-Lucky is the story of Poppy (played brilliantly by Sally Hawkins), a woman who deals with nastiness and losses with a determined, perhaps enlightened, optimism. When somebody steals her bike, she is of course shocked. But she goes through the grief process in a fraction of a second, and then laughingly but forlornly quips to the blank space where her bike used to be, “I never had a chance to say good-bye.”

That seems a good mantra for many things these days — my downsized job, my disappeared colleagues, my Verizon phone service.

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