Yeah, so … I bought a phone.
I’ve been procrastinating on writing this post for a month, but I just had to tell you. It’s been driving me crazy. But wait, before you write me off completely, before you decide that I’m no longer worth listening to, that my experience is fake, and that this is not a consumer fast at all, allow me to explain — not justify, just explain.
I didn’t upgrade my phone because I “needed” (aka desperately wanted) the latest bells and whistles. I didn’t replace my old phone the moment it started acting up. I didn’t even replace it the moment I was certain it had permanently bricked. I did try to have the old one fixed. I did look into buying an identical used replacement. I did live with a barely functioning and later non-existent phone for a long time. I did agonize over The Fasting Consumer challenge and whether or not I could/should endure phoneless for the rest of the year.
I asked all the “do I really need this?” questions and ballyhooed the benefits of Experiencing Life Without Until Such a Life Becomes Normal. And it did become normal. And I did survive. And it was a valuable experience.
But a month ago, I decided that the experience was over. Actually, my husband decided and I unreluctantly agreed.
We’re not huge cell phone people. When we first began The Challenge, my phone was three years old, my husband’s was two, and both were the first smartphones either of us had owned. We didn’t do the whole contract thing but instead purchased Androids outright and got crazy cheap monthly plans. My husband had a data-only plan and was reachable solely through email and a flaky internet-phone app. (Sorry, Peter. It was.) I had limited everything and didn’t mind. The phone was merely a convenience. Friends would often phone the house and say, “Um, I texted you three hours ago.” “You did? Oh. Sorry.”
But still, like many Western families, our phones had become prominent tools in our day-to-day lives — so much so that my husband was terrified of the phones dying in 2014. I should have been a little more terrified myself.
First my husband’s GPS stopped working: no transit apps, no maps, and certainly no running/cycling apps. That was in March. In April it was the battery, and by June the phone was taking ten minutes to boot and usually crashed before the boot completed. If you were lucky enough to get to the home screen, it was 50/50 (optimistically) whether or not you could then open the email program before it would crash again.
My phone had a less drawn-out death. The GPS got flaky in May. In June it started doing funny things and then one week it became possessed. No joke. It would randomly start playing audio tracks saved in bizarre places (often several at once), it would make its own calls–not pocket calls: I was holding the phone and watching it make calls–and then it just died, never to come alive again.
Peter has a tablet. It has no data, but he commutes on a bus with internet and is otherwise at work. So, he graciously said, “Take my phone. I’ll use the tablet.” So I did. Occasionally I could fire-off a text or check my email in a pinch, but eventually the phone had a sub-ten-minute lifespan and often couldn’t boot in time or would crash too many times to accomplish anything before the battery died. I realize now that it would have been better to ditch the phone outright than to hang on to it in the false hope that it might actually do something to aid in a sticky situation. Because it never did. It just made me want to throw it under a cable-car.
It was one such situation (not the first but maybe the twenty-seventh) that finally broke this Fasting Consumer. It had been a horrible day of missed connections, unaccomplished errands, bad news, and stressful kid traumas. I found myself exhausted on a train platform with two starving children at 7pm, waiting to meet Peter for over 45 minutes. He was, of course, waiting with equal frustration on another platform. Several hours later, after a fruitless argument about what constituted the boundaries of The Castro and after spectacular meltdowns from all members of the family (the most spectacular coming from yours truly), Peter said:
“Look. We’ve bought and wasted several train tickets due to miscommunications. We’ve taken taxis instead of Lyft [a cheaper alternative if you have a phone], and tonight could have been altogether avoided if we had had some way of reaching each other. We know we’re going to buy a phone in January anyway, and right now not having one is costing us. This is ridiculous. Go buy a phone tomorrow or I’m buying one for you. You can blog about it and blame it on me.”
Perhaps it is possible to come up with equally convincing “logic” for every decision we make as consumers, which is the very reason I wanted to be strict about The Challenge in the first place, but whether it was in a moment of weakness or a moment of strength–a moment where my reason stood-up to my stubborn insanity, the “logic” got me. And I agreed. And I’m not blaming it on anyone.
Two weeks later my Samsung Galaxy MINI arrived in the mail. I love it. It’s not a fancy IPhone6 and I don’t have an expensive monthly plan. I communicate, sync my shopping list with Peter’s, use transit apps, and for the first time in months run with music and track how fast and far I’m going. It’s a luxury and I recognize it as such.
Still, I caved. I accept that and I own the decision.
And The Fasting Consumer is not over. I plan to carry-on right through the holidays and finish strong, albeit, with a new phone.