Monday, January 11, 2010

So if Hamlet had been a Sprint subscriber...

I've been thinking for years about updating my poor cell phone.  The numbers have worn off, the keys are starting to malfunction, the battery holds much less time than it used to, and it doesn't conform to the SMS (Short Messaging Service) standard which all the kids use to "text" nowadays.  It's old-scool, baby.  And after years of research and waiting, I finally struck out and bought a new phone.

In fact, it's sitting by my left foot right now.  A brand new state-of-the-art epitome of computing and communications technology -- the "released this year of 2010" Nexus One from Google and HTC.  It contains cutting edge technology like an AMOLED display screen, a top-of-line 1GHz Snapdragon processor, and even a rear-facing auxillary microphone designed only to capture the ambient noise and filter it out of the call.  It is a triumph of our collective genius and represents the newest vanguard in the smartphone war.

It's also getting sent back to the factory.  Unopened.
Which is not to say that I don't want to snatch it off the floor from its current location, tear the tape off the packing box, toss the packing cushion over my shoulder and tear into the branded box containing the phone.  It'd be easy -- I could probably do it without even getting up for scissors.  But as much as a chunk of my brain is telling me to go ahead, telling me that the phone that does everything I want it to is right there... within my grasp ...  I won't open it.

I purchased the Nexus One last Thursday because it represented -- ahem -- a nexus of reasons to buy.  First of all, it's brand new and shiny.  There's an appeal to that which cannot be simply discounted.  It would be a phone that people would notice and say, "ooo, what's that?".  And not in the "Ford Edsel" way people say that about my current cell phone.

Second, the price was right.  Of the four major carriers' smartphones (such as the iPhone, Droid, Pre, Hero, Blackberry Whatever), the N-1 represents the lowest cost to purchase.  In addition, the primary carrier for the N-1, T-Mobile, has a set of plans which are completely non-contract.  Cancellation at any time is the choice of the user.  That's attractive to me, who has no idea where I'll be in six months.  And the price on them is at the bottom of the carrier comparison.

Third, function.  Smartphones like this get sarcastically referred to as tiny computers, but that's basically what they are.  The N-1 is a tiny computer with an always-on Internet connection.  I'd love to have my personal calendar, contacts, email, and communications tools always on hand, especially because I don't have a "proper" computer.

So why didn't I keep it?  Why had I already decided to return it (and keep it, then return it, and keep it, and finally return it) when it finally arrived from the 5-day "overnight" shipping?  It's partially about money.  The student discount I was counting on can't actually be applied to that plan, it turns out.  And the plan I thought I could get: well, it turns out that doesn't really exist.  And while I could go bleeding edge and get a data-only plan, that locks me into a 2-year contract (for some reason).  And T-mobile has the smallest data network footprint of any of the large cell providers in the U.S.

But aside from the money, it's also about the prestige -- or lack thereof.  What have I accomplished to deserve having a purchase like this?  Nothing! 

Over the Christmas break, it started to grate on mind whenever something would happen that required money.  My car had some significant problems and maintenance issues.  It went in for a $25 oil change, and came out with me saying no to $600 worth of service.  "Mmm, you really need a new car," says my mom.  "Well, after you get a job, anyway...".  We discussed cell phone plans (for my parents, also looking to replace an old phone) and I mentioned I'd like a phone that could do data and stuff.  "Oh, so you need a job before you can upgrade."

She's not being catty.  There's just a big long list of things that I can't do until I get a proper job.  Buy lots of new clothes, for example.  Buy a computer.  Replace my aging car.  Get rid of my loan debt.  Pay off the credit cards.  Buy a house.  Even something as intangible as having a girlfriend is something I actively discourage myself from.  For practical reasons, who wants to be dating a guy who's two or three steps from having to move back into the parents attic?  I certainly wouldn't feel too confident about the fortunes of a girl under such circumstances.  So, I have no desire to have that be what someone says "if only he had..." about.

When I was growing up, it was a real goal to work towards.  Having a job meant a sort of freedom and responsibility.  "No, you can't have any more Oreos until you're old enough to buy your own!"  That becomes an Oreo aficionado's raison d'etre.  It seemed an attainable future goal when I was 14.  Now that I'm 31, the oasis is just as far away, for some reason.

It's hard waiting around to see if people want to hire me for the thing I've spent all these years studying for.  My friend the conductor came up to me last night and asked what I'd heard about my latest application.  Nothing.  That's what I've heard.  I've received no invitations, no follow-up information requests -- not even a confirmation to say "Hey, we got that stuff you sent us."  So what does that mean?  Does it mean they haven't even cracked open the envelopes?  Does it mean they decided on the guy from Montana, and it's all over?  Does it mean they're watching my every move from space to see if I pick my nose in private?  While any one of those situations would be awkward, I haven't the slightest idea if any of them are true.

It was fun to order this phone, because it felt like I was going somewhere.  In reality, the cart was certainly ahead of any horse.  I'll probably have to pay return shipping, so the total monetary cost of this fool's roundabout will probably be about six or seven dollars.  That ought to teach me a lesson!  I'll also have that photo of the box, as a reminder of what happens when I think I can afford something which turns out to have all kinds of metaphorical (and extra actual) costs.

Not to worry.  Just have to get that job...

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