Lum: Further technology woes

In my last column, I mentioned that during a computer crisis I tried to use my cellphone and got a robot voice telling me that the phone was out of service.

For the following few days, I used computer equipment borrowed from my friend Hilary — always stress-inducing, with everything just a tiny bit different enough to impede progress.

Meanwhile, Sheldon Fingerman and Kevin from The Software Store in Glenwood got me a computer with Windows 7 on it at a time when all new PCs come with Windows 8, which everyone I know (good news for Apple) claims to despise.

When my new computer was up and running, I turned my attention to the phone. Hilary has taken on the task of dealing with any kind of tech support, such as talking to India or China or a housewife in Nebraska, so she placed the call to Verizon.

Hilary was with me when I bought this phone from the Verizon store in Aspen in January, following years of arm-twisting from my family and friends.

I know little about cellphones other than that they are a pain to keep charged and are no good for emergencies if you forget to take them with you, but Hilary found what seemed to be the perfect solution: a phone that would cost $2 per day if I used it (unlimited calls) and nothing if I didn’t use it.

Knowing that I would hardly use it at all, if ever, I put $60 in my “bank” and assumed this probably would be good for a year. Over the ensuing months, I diligently charged the thing up every week or so, and it otherwise sat idle in my bedroom.

When Hilary called Verizon about my disconnect, she was told that my account had been terminated in July. When she asked why, the Verizon lady (Jessica) said she had no idea because it had happened so long ago. Jessica said that she’d call Hilary back within half and hour, but never did.

So off I had to go to the Verizon store to ask the young man at the desk why my phone had been disconnected.

There are few things more unnerving than the extraordinary, almost yawning false patience of a young tech person listening to a distressed old lady who has a problem with a phone she clearly doesn’t know zip about.

“You were disconnected in April,” he said. “They sent you a text message.” He read me the text message, as if I knew anything about texting. But why did they disconnect me? “I have no idea,” he said.

The upshot of this was that I had to get a new phone number and plunk down some more money (the $60 was nonrefundable) to get reconnected, and it was only after I got home that I understood the whole thing.

The agreement I had signed said, “Payment balance expires in 90 days. To carry your balance forward, simply add more funds before the expiration date and any existing balance will be carried over to the new expiration date.” Use it or lose it, and renew it every three months. What a rip-off!

Which the young man could have told me. Which Verizon could have told Hilary. Which the first saleslady could have warned us about. And they all could have told me that I should just put $10 in the bank if I were hardly ever going to use it.

When telling Sheldon about this, he gave me a great tip about cellphones. As long as your phone is charged, you can call 911 on it, even if you’ve been “disconnected.”

Su Lum is a longtime local whose portable typewriter and rotary phone never gave her any trouble. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at


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