Movin’ On Up… to the iPhone

23 Jul

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my first big changes recently came when I purchased my new phone.  I bought the iPhone 4S which is quite the upgrade from my old phone.  My old phone, or “The Calculator” as it affectionately came to be called, was famous among my group of friends in Barcelona.  Let me give you a little history.  My first year in Spain I had a cheap, pay-as-you-go phone with none of the bells and whistles; no camera, no internet.  I don’t even think the display had colour.  But I got tired of topping up the phone with 5€ here and there, because in those days of ramen noodles and stealing rolls of toilet paper from the bar, 5€ was a lot to me.  I would usually run out of credit halfway through a night out on the town when all the shops were closed and I couldn’t find my way to the party where all my friends were.

So, in September 2007 I decided to get a contract and that’s when I bought the Calculator.  Why, you ask, when 5€ was a lot for me to spend, would I think a fixed monthly contract of 40€ would be better?  I have no answer except to say that I was 23 years old, financially supporting myself for the first time in my life, and still figuring things out.  Plus, I just really wanted a cool phone!  And believe me, the Calculator was cool back in 2007.  It was the Nokia version of the old Blackberry World.  Back in 2007, I think a good number of people in the US had internet on their phones.  A quick Google search has reminded me that at this time in the States, the Motorola Razr was still popular, touch screens were just becoming more common though most of them required the use of those tiny little stick-pens, and the very first iPhone had just been introduced that summer.  My memory from Barcelona at that time, however, (based on the very scientific observations of my group of friends, people on the metro, and my students) is that the majority of Spanish people were a little behind the US in terms of technology.  Being able to sit on the metro and check my Facebook was quite enviable at that time.

As the years passed, however, Spanish consumers sprinted to catch up with the States in terms of their accumulation of

My friend Natalie on her Samsung

technological gadgets.  My last few years, almost all of my students, including my young teenage students, had Blackberries or iPhones.  I would leave my phone tucked in my bag during classes out of shame.  I didn’t upgrade to a new phone for a number of reasons.  First, I was able to get out of my contract when my mobile company folded- one of the first signs of la crisis.  I bought a new sim card and went back to the pay-as-you-go system but with an internet option this time.  While my phone looked outdated and ginormous, in terms of its features it was much better than the phones of many of my friends.  Since so many of us had a history of getting pick-pocketed or robbed, many decided to stick with the cheapest phone available- the 20€ Samsung flip phone.  Also, as I learned to be a little less impulsive with my spending, buying a new phone that was simply sleeker on the outside seemed frivolous when I could use that money for travel around Europe, memorable nights out with friends, or my yearly plane ticket home to the States.

I began to notice that my phone must really be starting to stand out about two years ago.  While sitting at a bar in the Borne with my phone on the table, a man walking past did a double take, stopped short, reeled around and asked with all sincerity, “Is that a phone or a calculator?”  I was less embarrassed about my phone with my younger students, even when my six year old student, Iker, would comment every week, “Ohhh, ¿tienes la calculadora hoy otra vez?”  (You have the calculator again today?)  Every week I would laugh and continue the lesson.  Until one week when I responded, “Yes, Iker, my mobile looks like a calculator.  I know.”  To which he cried out incredulously, “¿Es un móvil?”  Apparently, Iker had not been making a joke every week.  He was genuinely curious as to which part of the English lesson would require a calculator and why we never ended up using it.  The poor kid must have been baffled.

What happened when I tried to download Apps on the Calculator
“Sorry, your mobile phone is too old and can’t run WhatsApp Messenger.”

My calculator-phone was something so ridiculous, that it was a quick fix to any lull in the conversation with a group of new people.  Honestly, it was the phone of instant friendship; it brought people together.  We were out a few weeks ago with a group of my friend Karin’s friends who were travelling around Europe.  I took my phone out to check my messages and caught my friend Sarah’s eye.  I silently gave her the “Is it time?” look and Sarah gave me the nod.  All I had to do was slip my phone onto the table and immedietly someone asked slowly with a laugh, “What is that?”  All eyes turned as I responded, “It’s my phone.”  Everyone cried with (drunk) laughter as jokes about TI-83’s and making graphs were tossed around for the next ten minutes.

Now I’ve turned the Calculator off for the last time (after I took the above photo, of course).  And I’ve moved onto the iPhone which offers even more of a constant connection and more apps than I even have space for.  It’s just one more thing that is really making it sink in that I have truly closed a chapter on a very important part of my life.  I know it may seem silly, but this is not even the most insignificant-seeming thing I’ve felt teary-eyed over.  The other day a plastic bag from Caprabo, my neighbourhood grocery store in Barcelona, got a hole in it.  Throwing it away I almost started crying because I realized that Caprabo was being replaced with the giant Stop & Shops and Shaw’s of Massachusetts.

Even more than feeling sentimental, though, it got me thinking about one of the lessons I am most grateful to be walking away from Spain with.  While I was there I learned how to live simply.  I learned how to be less materialistic.  I learned what I need to be happy and what only gives you a temporary feeling of comfort.  And, despite what my recent iPhone purchase would suggest, I really hope those lessons are something I can hold on to.

Look out for my next post where I’ll talk more about the very un-American idea of living simply.

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