Cell Mates

Posted on March 2, 2017 under Storytelling with 2 comments


“ Operator. Well could you help me place this call. “

 Operator. Jim Croce

Alexander Graham Bell spent his summers just a few hours up the road from us in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. He was an amazing inventor. He is credited for inventing the phonograph, the iron lung, the first hydrofoil boat and he was one of the pioneers of aeronautics. But of course, he is best known as the inventor of the telephone, which revolutionized the way people communicated over long distances.

Telephone technology has grown by leaps and bounds over the decades. Many of us remember the days of “party lines” which was really an efficient conduit for transmitting gossip. Calling an operator to get a hold of a friend was the norm. Our number was 117.  Then came a major revolution with the development of the rotary dial phone and things progressed to a button system. Now, the vast majority of people don’t have a landline. Almost two billion people worldwide own cell phones. And many people own more than one mobile device.

When I arrived in India several months ago, I was given a SIM card with a local Indian number. It was good for phoning and texting but for some reason that escapes me, I couldn’t get data. Asking me the  reason for this is like asking me to define a “black hole.” I looked it up. A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out. Sometimes I think my brain is akin to a black hole when it comes to technology.

On the advice of a friend, I acquired a second phone. This would give me the capacity to purchase data and use this device for tethering to my phone. Then, I could be connected just about anywhere, any time. Or so I thought. Electronic devices can sniff out imbeciles like me a mile away. I purchased enough gigabytes ( GB ) to last me well into the next century. I am told that one gigabyte  is equal to 1,000,000,000 bytes. Everything went swimmingly well for a few weeks and then for some unknown reason, I couldn’t tether any more.

I decided to “ Bell the cat!”

It was a particularly hot and muggy day when I headed in to the town of Kanyakumari on foot. I had a good sweat on when I entered the office of the service provider who sold me the data. My first stab at an explanation drew blanks as neither salesperson spoke English. Their office wasn’t air conditioned. There wasn’t even a fan. A “ good sweat” turned into a river very quickly. After much hand waving and gesturing, it was decided that I should go next door and talk to their technicians. In a room not much bigger than a shoebox, five men toiled away. This room also served as a central depot of sorts at there were a gazillion wires and circuit boards in every space not occupied by a human. It was cozy and felt like the sauna I once frequented on our university’s campus.

The head tech was busy so one of the second in commands started fidgeting with phone #2. In short order, his buddies weighed in and many opinions abounded. No solution appeared to be forthcoming, I cooled my heals ( a misnomer if I ever heard one! ) for several more minutes waiting for the boss. It didn’t take him long to expose the moron sitting across from him ( me ). He politely said that my data roaming had been left on and the reason my phone wouldn’t tether, is because I had no data. I found this puzzling as earlier in the day, a report had come in on my phone that I still had 5 GB’s remaining on my plan.

I sheepishly walked the handful of steps back into Hades 1 and laid down 549 IRS ( about $11.) for 10 more GB’s. It only took a few seconds and I was back in business. When he handed me back my phone, I was slightly confused ( heat exhaustion possibly? ) when I saw my GB balance. It was 15. I’m pretty good at math. When I asked the young male clerk to explain this to me, he uttered, “ You must have gotten a bonus.” To me that was code for, “ I don’t have a damn clue why you have 15 gigabytes.”

I was almost at the door when it dawned on me to try and tether.  And sure enough, it didn’t work. After 45 minutes of blood sweat and tears ( mostly sweat and tears and some muffled profanities ), I was in exactly the same boat. For the first time in India, I seriously thought about letting out a blood curdling yell like Peter Finch did in the movie “Network.” “ I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”

I took a couple of deep breaths.         

A young woman appeared behind the counter and her English was more than passable. Between sobs (!) I explained all that had transpired in recent days and more importantly, in the past hour. She grabbed my phone, went to the settings and in under 10 seconds, the problem was fixed. I didn’t need more data after all.  I wanted to leap over the counter and hug her but I also didn’t want to get arrested and go to jail for the terror this might cause her.

I know a much more efficient way of tethering. It involves two empty Campbell’s soup cans and a piece of string . A perfect way to stay connected.

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Highland Hearing Clinic

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