Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fòn làimhe

These little matters are getting to be my field of play now. First the ticks, now the phone. I was a very late adopter of what Wikipedia tells me translates from the Gaelic as “hand phone.” This isn’t because I’m a Luddite. (If Great-Aunt Minerva left me a bundle, I’d head for the Apple store and buy one of everything.) It’s because I’ve worked from home for two decades and my town, due to its location, terrain, and geological oddities, didn’t have a remotely reliable signal for years. For a while now, I’ve been wandering around with a tiny old Samsung x427m, which I’ve appreciated for its simplicity and pocketable size. It is, though, utterly unusable in any other country in the world. So if I’m to have a mobile on the Challenge, it would have to be a different piece of hardware.

Yesterday, I went in and began an infuriatingly disjointed conversation with a young man at the AT&T store. In my ignorance of the technicalities of the situation I presented my needs inexactly. For his part, he insisted on answering my dumb questions with literal accuracy, mostly by saying, “No.” We then moved seamlessly but aggressively into a go-round on the difference between “can’t” and “won’t” on the issue of unlocking the phone so it could use another SIM abroad. Just as I was reaching the red-haze point of no return, I took a deep breath and said, “I’m going to Scotland in May. Tell me what you would sell me that will work there and tell me how it will work and how much calls will cost.” And I smiled. (Maturity is such a blessing. Such a rare blessing.)

The ultimate result was a pleasant and informative chat and the recommendation of a Sony-Ericsson w580i, “a stylish multimedia cell phone with good performance on all fronts,” a quadband GSM phone that also plays music (won’t use) and has an FM radio (might). It’s nice and small, and it even claims some rudimentary blogging capabilities (hmm). Then we circled back to the fact that since AT&T “can’t”—read “won’t,” the mendacious bastards—unlock it for me, I’d have to pay to have it unlocked to take a British SIM.

I realized, though, that I’m not going to chat on this phone, or make business calls, or do anything other than check in with Roger four times and call home every few evenings to let my family know I haven’t died of haggis poisoning. So my choice was more about functionality, up-front cost, and convenience, and less about charges per minute. Given the few calls I plan to make, at $1/minute it would probably be cheaper to pay the roaming rate, anyway. I may get the phone unlocked and buy a SIM just as a matter of principle, but I don’t need to.

I plunked down my $50, brought this “Street-style Walkman phone” home (stylin’ and walkin’—the same reasons I bought my Patagonia R1 Pants), and it will ride across Scotland, safely turned off and seldom used, in a ziplock tucked deep in my pack. Another decision made.

2 comments:

Podcast Bob said...

Hi Mark, just dropped by. Why don't you just buy a 'pay as you go' phone when you arrive? It'll be much cheaper I'm guessing. Just put a few pounds credit on it, charge it and off you go! Then chuck it away, or donate it to Challenge Control for the next overseas hiker to use next year? As an example try this http://www.mobiles.co.uk/virgin-motorola-f3-pay-as-you-go.html?utm_source=froogle&utm_medium=CMP&utm_term=motf3pag&utm_content=F3+ON2YN060

Hope it helps. If you need a delivery address I'll send you mine, but I would hope that Roger would be able to help you if need be.

Cheers Bob

Mark Alvarez said...

Thanks for the suggestion and the very kind offer of a delivery address, Bob. I think I'm set, but I'll check this out. Are you on?

Cheers,
Mark