“I’m so old that the last phone I truly understood was the black one that had a rotary dial and one of those spiral cords on the receiver.”

“I’m so old that the last phone I truly understood was the black one that had a rotary dial and one of those spiral cords on the receiver.”

That’s what I should have told the young clerk at the cellphone store when I went in to get a new phone. It might have saved her some time in determining that, when it comes to modern “smartphones,” the cellphones can be more intelligent than the owner.

Still, it didn’t take her long to size me up. She asked me two or three probing questions about how I used a cellphone, and I stood there and stared blankly. Once I sort of nodded helpfully. At one point, I think I might have gestured with my hand as if I was holding a phone to my ear.

Finally, she asked, “Phone calls and a few text messages?” I answered, “Uh, yeah. ... ”

“But I was thinking of trying to get into some of that online stuff.”

Is “stuff” a technological term?

She immediately took me from the counter to the display phones and pointed out two phones that I later learned were “entry level” smartphones, which I presume she started me out at because there wasn’t a level that was lower.

The clerk told me some of the capabilities of the first phone, which I forget, and she told me that it was free if I signed up for a new two-year contract with my cellphone carrier. And she told me some functions of the second phone, which I also don’t recall, but I remember that she said that phone was free, too.

Then, I brought up some of the other phones on display, asking questions about things I didn’t understand that I’d read about in newspaper articles or heard talked about on TV. I think I asked about “4G” and used the term “apps.”

So, the clerk started treating me kindly, but firmly, the way I imagine she would have talked to her grandfather, as she guided me back to the two original safe phones. And I love her like a granddaughter for doing that because if I’d bought a phone at some “already entered level” I might have become so frustrated that I would have gone back to writing letters.

“Dear Sis, Got a new phone the other day. Call you sometime soon. ... ”

You perhaps should not expect any immediate phone calls from me, either. Give me some time to get used to my new phone. Two or three years ought to be fine.

Don’t get me wrong, the clerk was very helpful, and explained the phone to me thoroughly before I left the store. Her guidance has allowed me to make a surprising and satisfyingly large percentage of my phone calls successfully. Some of them have even been on the first try.

Still, I have inadvertently contacted some new friends. One guy actually asked, “New touch-screen phone?”

The problem is that I sometimes touch the screen in the wrong spots, and then I panic. You’ve heard of feet of clay. I think I have fingers of clay.

By the way, the phone came with pieces of that “magnetic” plastic on it to protect the face and the back of the device.

I’m thinking of leaving it on the phone, the way my Aunt Jessie left plastic coverings on her furniture to protect the upholstery. Apparently, when I say I’m old and out of touch, I’m not joking as much as I’d hoped.