The consequences of smart phones

While waiting for the bus outside Powell’s after Charles Stross’s book signing for his latest novel, Halting State, I finally decided to try to the new-fangled Transit Tracker phone thingy. You call a phone number, type in your Stop ID, and it tells you when the next bus/streetcar/train/people-mover will arrive. In reality, it seems to tell you when the next people-mover is scheduled to arrive, but given the mercurial quality of Portland transit schedules and the amazing decrepitude of the posted schedules (I recently saw one dated 2003 – at a “temporary” stop!), it’s sure as hell better than nothing. So I pull out my phone, dial 1-503-238-RIDE, and hear a pleasant, cheerful, clearly-not-sitting-in-a-call-center female voice say, “Hello?”

Have I mentioned that I finally succumbed to the allure of a smart phone? I picked the Blackberry Pearl after seeing Brad Fitzpatrick using some bleeding edge Blackberry model – which he promptly dumped for the iPhone. The Pearl has one of those half-keyboards, 2 letters per key. It turns out that R, I, D, and E all fit on the part of the keypad that double as numbers – they just don’t fall on the same numbers as the traditional keypad.

Back to the phone call. I haven’t figured this out yet, I’m just mildly confused. The nice lady says that she’s working with Trimet to fix this call routing problem, but that it usually only happens the first time you try. I hang up, instantly figure out the problem, and then am too embarrassed to call the nice lady back and tell her what the real problem is. Just think, there’s probably another person who gets all the calls made with the full keyboard smart phones. I wonder how many thousands of previously innocuous phone numbers are now unusable? Some friends of mine once accidentally had their phone number listed for U-Haul in the phone book one year, but at least that went away as people threw out old phone books.

For the unfortunate Blackberry user, the solution is – of course – to add another set of key combinations to your hopefully capacious memory for disconnected trivia (I’m a UNIX user, no problem!). Just hold down Alt and hit the key till you get the letter you want, it will use the correct number for you.

Now, the question: Call back the nice lady and tell her what’s going on, or assume that Trimet has figured it out?

3 thoughts on “The consequences of smart phones

  1. Giggle. Out of curiousity, do you use Google Transit at all? At least from a non-local perspective (i.e. have no idea what goes where), it was really cool.

  2. I used Google Transit for a while, and it was cool except for having some fairly serious bugs that caused me to be late a few times. Which still would have been fine except that I can’t figure out how to report bugs (bugs in Google products appear to be found and reported by Google employees only, or else magically divined). It seems to have been updated recently, so I’ll give it another try.

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