Things I Know 13 of 365: You get what you pay for

I’ll gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today.

- J. Wellington Wimpy

Ordering pizza a few nights ago, I sound like a non-hilarious version of “Who’s on first?”

“Can you repeat the last four number?” says the lady taking my credit card number.

I say the previous four and start to say the next four when she begins to repeat the orignal four back to me and as we’re talking at the same time, no one hears the other.

“I’m sorry,” says she, “Can you call back? This is a horrible connection.”

I hang up and hit redial.

As it’s ringing through again, I want to get frustrated with the connection.

It’s not the first time I’ve had trouble being understood when calling out.

Then, again, I have no room to complain.

I’m using Google Voice through my Gmail account – two services for which I’ve not paid, but use on a regular basis. Were this the halcyon days of wireless communication, after my pizza was ordered, I could have called customer service to report my dissatisfaction with my calls. I would have spent upward of 45 minutes on hold and been awarded the golden fleece of customer service, an account credit.

And, yes, I realize, I could report these inconveniences to Google, but I’d feel silly.

I felt silly yesterday when I tweeted out dissatisfaction with my inability to track changes in Google Docs. The student whose paper I was grading was a comma splice junky, and inserting a comment to denote where each comma should have been was proving an onerous task.  Fed, up, I released the tweet to the world – another service for which I do not pay.

Others with similar frustrations replied with affirmations of their likemindedness. Someone even suggested I check the “revision history.” This was something I’d considered, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.

“I want track changes,” I wanted to explain, “Just like they have in Microsoft Office.” (I know, bite my tongue.)

Still, though, there was something nice about the days when we bought big, beautiful, bug-ridden software packages. They were brimming with new features we’d uncover by mistake and then spend hours trying to disable.

Then, when that one thing we wanted to do wouldn’t work, we could complain in beautiful, consternated poetry and be justified because we had paid.

I get the argument that we’ve paid for Google. Today, when I logged in and saw someone on Facebook had liked my request for revision history on Google Docs because that tweet was sent by Interwebs magic to my status updates, I was reminded what I’ve paid. What were once the asides that filled my days like mental belly button lint are now pieces of data to fuel the machine and generate pageviews.

Yes, we can have the existential debate of what it means to give over our thoughts to corporations so that they can make money, but that’s not the conversation we’re having now.

I’m talking money. I haven’t spent any of it on Google.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with our agreement. My life is easier because of the free.

So, I’ll continue to keep mum about my frustration with the passing of Delicious which has been an invaluable volunteer link-sitter for the past few years. I’ll ignore the next commercial on Pandora that interrupts the songs piping through the station I’ve been doggedly curating for months now. And, when Hulu asks me which lady I’m most interested in watching test drive a new car while I’m catching up on episodes of Stargate: Universe, I’ll click without protest.

Free, has a costs.