My Lifeline

Two years ago I was under pressure to buy a new phone. The choices were astonishing, but all I wanted was a cell phone to replace the small flip-phone that was going south on me. I’m not a big data guy. I don’t need to be connected 24/7 to my email server. I don’t listen to music or watch YouTube on my phone. I needed a phone not a pocket rocket computer. I wanted to make and receive calls when I was away from home. That’s all I was looking for – an emergency line for necessary calls. It was almost impossible to find one, and what was available was almost as expensive as the tricked out ones with bells and whistles. Why not, I said, and caved for an iPhone on the family plan – 2 phones and a bill that wasn’t much different than what we were paying for 2 phones and 2 different plans.

The iPhone is very seductive. I’ve never had a Blackberry or a Droid or any of the other hi-tech devices, but now I know what the iPhone hype is all about. I can make calls. That’s why I wanted a phone in the first place, right? But, now I just pull up the Contact or look at my Favorites, touch the screen and Apple does the rest. Every day I synch my phone with my PC’s Outlook calendar and contacts as well as getting a direct feed from my email server. If I’m anywhere near a wi-fi network, and they’re everywhere, my email is updated in real time. If I want to know what the market is doing I touch the Stocks app, and if I’m worried about the weather here or someplace else I check the Weather app. I use the Clock’s alarm every morning and I have Seattle, Saigon, and Sun Valley/Salt Lake City tabbed in the time zone feature in case I have a brain cramp and can’t remember the 14 or 15 hour time differences. In fact, the phone knows what time zone I’m in even if I don’t. I read the NY Times when I’m in the back of a taxi and I use the calculator to convert US dollars to Vietnam Dong. I check out what my kids, grandkids, and friends are doing on Facebook and use Google Maps and the GPS app to figure out the best way to get somewhere. I make almost free calls from Vietnam to the US using Skype, and when Marilynn and I argue over who starred in what movie, we Google it and settle the dispute. I do sometimes listen to my music, as long as it’s there, on airplanes and I just spent time with a friend who is starting to download books to hers. I never imagined how dependent I would become or how useful this thing is.

You can imagine how I felt 10 days ago when I was getting ready to set the alarm and couldn’t find the phone. I still can’t believe it’s gone, but gone it is. I reached into my jeans pocket to get money to pay the cabbie that night, and the phone must have slipped out of my pocket onto the back seat. By the time I called my own number the sim card had been removed and I got a “temporarily out of service” message. My guess is that within and hour it had been resold. These things are very expensive in Vietnam – roughly 5 times the US price and very desirable. It felt like my lifeline had been cut. It didn’t help that Marilynn’s phone had some kind of meltdown the same week. Here we are in Saigon without phones – and everyone does business here by text, call, or email. We opted for the beach and stuck our heads in the sand. We hired a car from a friend in the travel business, got him to give us a loaner phone, and went to MuiNe for a long weekend. It worked.

On Monday when we got back I charged the old Model A type phone I bought when we first got here. I got a new sim card and now I can at least call or text people. Marilynn’s phone is up and running, so we’re back in business. Marilynn’s assistant in Seattle bought me a refurbished 3GS iPhone and it’s on its way by FedEx. It’s really quite amazing to lose your phone, look into the abyss, and have to admit that it really is your lifeline. I don’t want to go through this again, but since I lost it almost everyone I’ve talked to has told me their story about losing a phone – some have lost 2 or 3. Right now I’m thinking about having it surgically implanted. I don’t want to go through this again.

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