10 November 2009

The Obama Phone

In May of 2009, a new internet website was launched that would change all of humanity: http://www.safelinkwireless.com/. This site introduced a program that offered a free cell phone with free monthly minutes available to individuals who were currently recieveing other forms of government assistance (such as food stamps, SSI, Medicaid, etc.)
There are a few other stipulations:
1. You must have the phone sent to a residential address
2. Only one phone will be sent to each address
(There were some more stipulations, but they were in a big paragraph with really small writing.)

This phone, now commonly known as the "Obama Phone", changed my job drastically .

Obama Phone Side-Effect #1.
The Address Scramble

A good number of citizens currently receiving goverment benefits do not have their very own residential address. Many of them have no address at all, many recieve mail at other agencies such as ours (which is not considered a residential address), and some recieve mail at a residents shared with other able-bodied phone-hungry adults. Thus began the Address Scramble of 2009, where everyone claimed their sister's and their mom's and their dogsitter's address to receive The Obama Phone (which resulted in a mobs of complaints two weeks later that the rightful owner of the address surprising received the phone instead of them... and equally surprisingly would not hand it over). Somehow, those complaints ended up aimed at me...

Obama Phone Side-Effect #2.
Incorrectly Directed Death Threats

Since I had assisted approximately 200 people in navegating this website over the past half of a year, I was the only face they could think of when things went wrong. It has become my problem that phones won't charge, free minutes haven't been received, and phones screens have been broken when phones have been used as weapons. When I try to explain that I don't know anything about the phones (and definitely don't have replacements hidden somewhere in my desk), I am often met with verbal violence (and long, fierce detonations of The Look). I have memorized the toll-free Customer Service number, further deepening my association with phone-problems.

Obama Phone Side-Effect #3.
ReachOut Wireless

Sometime after the birth of the Obama Phone (respectively, the First Phone), ReachOut Wireless emerged, with a slightly less professional-looking website, and a shady inquiry for the full Social Security number instead of just the last four digits. I began starting the application with a personal disclaimer that I knew nothing about this cell phone service, and can't repair, refund, or in any other way reconcile the storms you may encounter during cellphonehood. ReachOut had no record of all of the Obama Phone addresses, so everyone who didn't nab an address during the Musical Address episode in the Spring dove for one now (and many who were successful looked forward to further success). Affectionatly called "Not the Obama Phone but the Other One", ReachOut uses phones that sometimes have cameras, making it a fan favorite.

Obama Phone Side-Effect #4.
Phone Juggling

You may be familiar with the "one for drugs, one for girls" multiple cell phone designation, but those aren't your only options. Today, I witnessed a particularly spectacular feat:
Mr. Monty came into my office to use the Long Distance telephone line (a service we offer to anyone needing to call outside of the area, at a limit of three times per month) to call his family in California. During that call, a phone rang somewhere in this jacket. His mother got the "holdonasec" while he answered a call from his case worker, wondering about paper work. His case worker got the next "gimmeaminute" while he gave the iloveyou to his mom. Directly after our line was hung up and he picked up the cell with his case worker, another ring came from his pocket (it was Sweet Home Alabama). His "Boo" was told "donthangup" while he pacified his caseworker. When "Shawty" got sick of waiting, the casworker got "konemoment" while I'm pretty sure "girlyougottachill!" reached both receivers.

It is not uncommon for me to be talking to someone who is talking to someone else, which causes a lot of those "Oops I answered the wrong question--I was wondering why you asked me that" moments.

The teenager in your life will no longer be the only one who only gives you 1/8 of their attention.
Get ready for an Obamaphonation.


  1. Anna. I read your whole blog in one sitting, it's beautiful.

  2. I am not happy to hear that Virgin is going to be giving away Obamaphones to poor people.

    I pay good money 4 my phone and this is just wrong. Free phones for homeless people. No way!


  3. Mr. Patrick:
    My husband and I also pay for phone service, but the service offered for free to this population is quite different--there is only about 70 minutes each month alotted, and the phones are of considerably lower quality. It is true that this service is sometimes abused, but it can also be very valuable in case of emergencies, appointments, and employment for those who currently have no income.