When I was sixteen years old my Dad gave me a cell phone. The phone company gave it to him for free and it was an extra $10/month for the plan that included unlimited evening and weekend phone calls. I was in school during that day so this would be the ideal phone plan for this sixteen year old. Keeping in mind this was pre-internet or texting on a phone, it was just used to make calls.
This would make me the first person in my school to have a cell phone for about six months or so, hell even my teacher looked at my phone one day and said “you’re sixteen and I’m forty-three and I don’t even own a cell phone”.
This would change my life, one I was cooler, two my Mum could discreetly contact me if I was out late and it would be useful for other enterprising businesses I would get into during high school.
Well I’m now more then double that age and for the first time ever I have been without a cell phone for eleven days. Averaged out to that’s 0.57 days per year without having a usable cell phone.
Yeah yeah it’s been off for days here and there, thou always an option to bust it for reading or maps or pretending I’m busy when someone is pestering me at a boarder crossing or some tourist spot.
I wanted a phone with two sim card slots and an expansion chip for memory to travel with. I could keep my Canadian number and get a local number as I went. Well the only place I could find one for less then $800 was Costco. I wasn’t happy with how massive it was, thou I bought it. On day one with the phone I was helping a friend moved and the screen cracked, so far off to a good start.
Well this great travel phone I’d been using since I left shut off mid text eleven days ago and would never turn on again. This would be a problem as I relied on that thing for offline maps while running a muck, banking, WhatsApp communication, you know all the same shit as everyone else. Basically I was deviated, what the hell was I going to do? I’ve never seen another Acer in Central America &I don’t know the language well enough to discuss fixing details etc.
The guy whose coffee farm I’ve been working with for six weeks said he knew someone who could fix it, thou this fixer guy never seemed to be around. Javier the guy I’ve been learning about coffee from was going to take me to Santa Ana in El Salvador to buy another, yet the timing of this never worked out either.
Trying to arrange the random hours of stores with the random hours of who might actually have what phone on them at what time along with someone who can translate for me proved to be a bit tricky.
One day I asked at a phone fixing shop if they sold phones, out of a back room came a small new looking Samsung in the palm of a kid with no box and no cord to plug it in. I think it’s stolen thou the questions I asked are responded to with much more detail then I can comprehend.
So I took Javier to see the phone fixer guy with the questionable phone, this time the store was open, thou the guy with phone gone. Later the store was open, guy and phone their, though Javier was gone. So I asked a guy at the hotel to give me a hand. All was going well with the stolen phone thou I kept saying I needed it to be "unlocked", not a common concern around here. "Ya ya no problem, it's unlocked." Toss in my chip and nada. "Ya it's unlocked you just need to get a local number is."
My translator comforts my by explaining his Belgian phone wouldn’t work here and needed to get a local number.
I try to explain you get an unlocked phone anywhere in the world, using a local or foreign sim, It's not uncommon and it's not just a Canada problem.
This is going no place, so I pass on the phone.
Phone fixer guy says he can fix it, no problem does it all the time. He tested the phone and figures there is a little circuit blown (actually I think he is correct as the electricity in these countries is wonky).
I pass as I can send it back to Canada and return it to Costco and get the money back, thou that will be a touch complex. I know if he opens it and breaks a security seal then Costco isn’t taking it back, thou if he can fix it then I’m back in business, either I win or lose it all.
I am slightly comforted by some stories a friend of mine told me who works at Costco, he says Costco basically takes back anything. The craziest he’d seen was a guy who had a hot tub for ten years, he shows up one day with it in the back of his truck, it had stopped working, he had the receipt and wanted to return it. Costco manager said no way, ten years, well my Costco friend was reminded by his boss that really it wasn’t personal and it wasn’t his money so why did he care. They ended up giving him back a little under $4000 from the original $8000 he had paid.
SO I devise a plan to cut my translators loose and go by myself to the next bigger city by bus and try and get a phone on my own, really this shouldn’t be to difficult I made it here by myself.
About three blocks away from the phone fixer and I turn around, I'm going to ask how much to fix it.
Then I turn back around and head for the bus as I’ not risking a non-return.
Then I turn back and head for the fixer shop.
Now people are rightfully looking at me like I'm an Alien in the streets.
I stick with it this time head back to the shop where I ask about the price and how long. $30 (half the price of a brand new stolen Samsung) and ready by 10am the next day.
I make this look like if he fukts this up I'm going to piss my pants and start crying all over the broken electronics in his shop.
He explains, no problem he does this all the time and if it doesn’t work he has another plan where he just bypasses that circuit all together.
I make that piss/cry face once more and leave the phone in his overloaded shop of broken electronics.
We have a 10am date...
I stop by the market on the way back to the hotel to get some veggies and a drink. I hear a slightly liquored guy in the front seat of a truck calling me "gringo" , the only other time someone has blatantly called me "gringo" was three dudes in a truck while I was getting fuel my last day in Guatemala. These dudes were looking to start shit and I humbly explained I was Canadian not American. That means nothing to anyone except me as any white westerner or European is grouped into the gringo category.
This dude is saying "Gringo, hey you’re a Gringo". His friends pause to see if they should laugh or not.
I stop, take a step in his direction and say "Hey loco, you’re a loco" (crazy fuk) and keep walking.
The heckling ends.
Not ½ a block up two very drunk men are sort of starting to fight, well really one is pissing off the other and when the one getting pissed off stumbles 20feet to punch him, the antagonizer stumbles ahead some 10 more feet out of his reach.
This must have been going on for the whole block as three of the drunk friends are laughing their asses off and the fried banana guy left his stall and came out laughing hard too.
I look at fried banana guy, look at the guys and say "fukin Palado", also means crazy fuk thou funnier! We both laugh and I head back to the hotel.
'comon phone fixer guy.....
10am arrives and I excitedly walk into phone fixers shop, I greet him and ask how its going. He says not great, this clearly means the phone isn’t fixed, I’m not going to be able to return it and get my money back and he isn’t getting his $30.
He pulls up an image of the phone on a big t.v. and starts to walk me through the problems and explains he can’t get the right part for an Acer.
In fifteen minutes I’m on the thirty minute chicken bus ride full with bumping dance music and endless people getting on to push anything from fresh fruit and God calendars to wholesale medicine. I get off in what looks like a busy part of the city and start asking where I can buy a phone, after many confused looks a guy points me to a mall where I end up dropping $150 on the same stolen Samsung I almost bought for $70 the day before. Commissioned sales guy is happy, I’m happy and some nice people walk me to the bus stop I can’t seem to find where the dance music is louder and the sales tactics for candies and chargers is a little more dramatic. Welcome back to the world of letting technology handle my problems.