Durham County

Neil Offen column: Calling for help (if only smartphones worked that way)

Your smartphone does so many things. It would be so nice if one of those was actually making phone calls.

That little device in your pocket — my friend Dick calls it a “thingamagig,” which is actually the name of the new Samsung model — can play games. It can play music. It can find the nearest sustainable-farm-to-table-gluten-free-nearly-vegan-sushi place in the neighborhood.

Or, if you’re interested, in a Portland, ME., neighborhood.

It also can tell you the weather in Portland, ME., and take photographs of the rain in Maine as it falls mainly on the plane, just as you are arriving there at the airport.

It can keep track of your bank accounts and remind you when you’re overdrawn (although it rarely reminds you when you’re under-drawn).

You can take notes on your smartphone and talk to it and read trashy novels on it, frequently all at the same time while you are driving on the interstate.

But phone calls seem to be an afterthought.

Of course, it’s true, no one actually needs to talk on the phone anymore. You can always “talk” in air quotes, raising two fingers on each of your hands and making little bending movements with your fingers, which people know are ironic quotation marks even if they don’t know what ironic means. That way you “talk” to people on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Google Chat and, if you are really old-fashioned or just plain old, diesel-powered email.

But let’s say you want to talk and your fingers have lost their sense of irony. Well, your smartphone actually can help you do that, although it’s not particularly easy.

All you have to do is go to your smartphone’s telephone app. That’s the app with a picture of a phone on it that actually looks nothing like a smartphone but more like the handle on the princess phone your parents had in their bedroom in 1966.

Once you’ve found that, then you can “dial” except you don’t actually dial. In fact, no one under the age of 45 actually knows what a dial is. Instead, you click on the little icon for the keypad, which is just like dialing, except it isn’t.

This is assuming, of course, that you know the phone number of the person whom you want to call. If you do not know the number of the person whom you want to call, you can click on contacts, which will improve your eyesight so that you can see the list of everyone whom you might have called in the past.

You scroll down the list of people, including those whom you have never met, those whom you don’t remember and those who have called you to see if you were interested in buying a lifetime insurance annuity.

Or, on the other hand, you might be better off to just see if they’re on Facebook.

Neil Offen can be reached at theneiloffencolumn@yahoo.com. Past columns can be found at www.theneiloffencolumn.wordpress.com.