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RAMON PRESSON: Breaking up is hard to do

RAMON PRESSON: Breaking up is hard to do


Who knew it was so hard to give someone your money? For more than a month now my wife has been trying pay off an iPhone ahead of schedule. Four separate lengthy phone calls to the four different AT&T departments she was directed to didn’t succeed. Neither were lengthy waits at two different AT&T stores. Not until she entered a store for a third visit — this time nearly wielding pepper spray and a whale harpoon — did any AT&T rep realize just how serious Dorrie was about paying off her phone.

Denying the Breakup

I believe the company sensed that we were trying to break up with them. And we were. We were looking to pay off the phone and end our service agreement. We wanted to date other cell carriers. But AT&T was clingy and co-dependent, unable to accept our lengthy relationship was over.

Imagine if a girlfriend/boyfriend responded this way:

Guy: I know we’ve been together for a long time, but I just don’t feel this relationship is working, and…

Girl: Wait, are you trying to break up with me??

Guy: This is really hard, but yes, we’re breaking up.

Girl: There’s no WE on this breakup.

Guy: OK then, I’M breaking up.

Girl: Well, THAT ain’t happening.

Guy: Listen, you don’t have to agree or like my decision, but…

Girl: But nothing! You are NOT breaking up with me. We’re going to be together forever.

Guy: Stacy, I wish you wouldn’t make this more difficult than it already is.

Girl: It doesn’t have to be difficult, Alex. We’re not breaking up so just change the subject. Let’s chat about our plans for the weekend. I’ve been wanting to check out that new…

Guy: Stacy, please, I’m sorry. We’re not going to have plans for this weekend, or next weekend, or tomorrow, or the next day. We’re breaking…

Girl: (sticks her fingers in her ears and says loudly…) NaNaNaNaNaNaNaNaNa — I can’t hear you — NaNaNaNaNaNaNaNaNaNa

Guy: Oh my gosh, will you stop!? People are staring.

Girl: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you, we must have a bad connection (makes static sound). Try calling back later.

Guy: Stacy, look at me…

Girl: The voicemail box of the person you are trying to reach is full

Guy: You’re being impossible!

Girl: I’m hungry. I’m thinking Mexican food or Thai. You decide.

Thwarting the Breakup

I believe phone companies make it difficult to break up with them so that you’ll eventually just give up trying. The TV commercials make switching seem quick and simple. It is not.

Throughout history, administrations and entire governments have made easier transitions after rigged elections and military coups. It’s easier to get on the list for a kidney transplant than it is to get your SIM card successfully transplanted into another carrier’s phone.

In the process of sharing my misery with colleagues and friends, as well as with complete strangers who were unable get away quickly enough, I learned that many, many people have had nightmare experiences in attempting to switch carriers, regardless of their original provider. This new awareness of a widespread problem has led me to launch a support group for traumatized phone and cable customers.

Speaking of Misery…

The Stephen King novel Misery — and movie starring James Caan and Kathy Bates — features a psychotic fan, Annie Wilkes, who holds her favorite author, Paul Sheldon, hostage after she learns that he plans to kill off the beloved main character, Misery, in what Paul intends to be the final novel of his Victorian romance series. Sheldon wants to move on from romance novels and write more serious stories. Annie will not accept the death of the character and the ending of a series that has given her life meaning. Annie Wilkes makes her prisoner re-write the manuscript and bring Misery back to life.

In the upcoming sequel, More Misery, the author, Paul Sheldon, is taken hostage by a group of Verizon terrorists when they uncover Paul’s plan to switch to Sprint. Spoiler Alert: In the movie’s climatic scene, Paul escapes and in his final act before flinging his cell phone over the bridge and into the raging river below, he calls the phone company and requests a landline be re-installed in his home.

Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin ( and the author of several books. Reach him at [email protected]. To read Presson’s previous columns go to

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