Every once in a while I get the feeling that I am really not part of this world. You know, like you've just come out of the Kalahari desert, lost and disoriented. Except that bushmen can find their way around by the stars. I can't find may way around in the mall, because I find the signage confusing. Nothing is written in words, just internationally accepted symbols. I frequently land up at the baggage counter for a pee. Anyway, thats a different story. What I was getting around to saying is that every once in a while I get the feeling that I'm lost and cellphones are guaranteed to make me feel that way.
My basic attitude towards buying cellphones is to get away with buying the cheapest one possible. I would much rather spend my money on fine alcoholic beverages, you see, than buy expensive cellphones so that the people who make them can buy fine alcoholic beverages. So when my finely honed instincts drag me towards the crap-phone counter, Sheela and the boys feel I'm being a cheapskate. "Dad", one of the boys said, "even the guy who washes the car has a better phone". There was much truth in that statement. The guy who washes our car is quite a happening dude.
I really can't understand, for the life of me, why a "better" cell phone is better. Consider the one that they persuaded me to buy. Its from the Sony Walkman series whose selling point is that you can listen to music on your phone. When it was thrust into my hands and its features explained, I did something I don't usually do - I thought. "Guys," I said, "this is a silly idea. On the rare occasions that I listen to music, I like to do it in the peaceful surrounds of my living room, preferably in the company of a chilled bottle, not when I'm having a heated conversation about missed deadlines." The lads corrected me on this point. "Dad, this is really cool. Trust me", said Gautham, who's been watching too many American movies.
He did not speak a lie. It seems that the entire teenage population of the world thinks that this concept is cool. Sony is raking it in till its arms hurt and one or two of the dour faced Japanese elders at Sony corp are rumored to have actually smiled. If I was a Japanese elder at Sony corp, I would have been exchanging high fives in my underwear with other Japanese elders. Now of course all phones are a music special and allow you, should you fancy it, to listen to Eminem holding forth on Puke when you should be paying attention to the stern looking lady from HR.
But the real problem with cellphones is the service providers. I have my usual tiff with them once a month because they call up about a week before the payment is due and ask me if I have made the payment and if I have, to provide them with the cheque number, the name of my bank, my sixteen digit bank account number, my mother's maiden name, three distinguishing marks on my body and the name and gender of my childhood sweetheart. Really. And they usually get the timing down to within a minute of my having received a seriously pissed off call from one of my customers for having missed a deadline. I am really not in a mood to exchange light hearted banter with the lady about my commercial obligations with her cell phone company.The payment isn't even due, damn your soul, I yell at her. Even as I do it, I realize that its not her fault. She is just doing her job, trying to earn an honest living. Respect that, you ass, my conscience is saying to me. But even my conscience finds itself at a loss for words when we have one of those rate plan conversations. The phone rings. You pick it up. Nice lady coos to you and before you know it, she is explaining a tariff plan that apparently requires a PhD in abstract mathematics to understand. The main principles of a cellphone tariff plan are as follows
1. Like life, the universe and everything, it cannot be understood by mortals
2. It is better than your current tariff plan
3. You will end up paying more in the total but less per call.
The episode usually leaves me with a throbbing sensation in the temples. I retire to my den, curl up with a book and conduct some research into the therapeutic properties of chilled beer. Then the boys turn up with the latest news.
"Dad, the guy who washes the car has an i-phone."