Starting Over

Discovering myself, my family and friends in a foreign land, second time around

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Apple or lemon


My phone has not been well lately. Suffers from fever, lack of energy and impaired cognition. I plug it in every chance I get, but it gets exhausted very quickly. I took it in for a diagnosis, which led to its being admitted for further observation. Ultimately it was discharged, not cured. “Motherboard problem” they said.

If it was any other phone, I might have made my peace with the outcome, bought another phone. Moved on.

But I am in denial. I still hold on to this sick device that is just about 7 months old, too young to be abandoned, even in these times of rapid upgrades. I cannot accept the immutable fact. Because the phone is an iPhone!

Sometime ago, during my “Apple-less” days, I read this article an Indian newspaper, The Hindu titled “Think different?” by Nissim Mannathukkaren, an Associate Professor, International Development Studies, Dalhousie University.

No point for guessing what the subject of the article was. I was so impressed by the author’s logic and writing style that I took the trouble to send him an email. He graciously replied. Then I made the grievous error of sending the link to a friend who at that time owned an iPad, iPhone and a Macbook. She assumed I had joined the rotten apple bridge for bashing the company that not just made her favorite gadgets but bestowed upon her, the status of “cool”. I had never owned an Apple product, neanderthal that I was. Uninitiated into the joys of owning a user-friendly gadget that would make my life easier and more meaningful. While I wasn’t an Apple fan, I wasn’t against the company or those who owned their devices, swearing eternal loyalty to the brand. I was an amused bystander who thought Apple product owners were no different from followers of cults who sought to convert the “others”. While other manufacturers made and sold similar products they were unable to clone the rabid following that Apple had. Not having a business degree, I just found the whole business “silly”.

About a year ago, I needed a new laptop that was light on my shoulder and easy on my eyes. While it wasn’t easy on my wallet, I have been happy with MacBook Air that I bought. And then I succumbed to the pressure to buy an iPad to mark my daughter’s 16th birthday. And before I could say Blackberry, I was gifted an iPhone by my husband. So we had a houseful of Apple gadgets,a fact that never ceased to thrill my friend who finally saw me as the ultimate turncoat. And it gave her great joy to remind me of the Hindu article and its aftermath in my life.

Perhaps I did switch over to the masses that believe Apple products are by far the only gadgets worth owning. Perhaps I did get used to the easy user interface. Perhaps the sensible side of me agreed that it was worth the premium pricing it commands, for its reliability. And a part of me felt a wee bit sheepish. Not for handing my life and loyalty to Apple but for being a late adopter, if not a total skeptic. Until last week.

I was totally shocked at the poor performance of my phone – a unit that I have used sparingly for about 6 months, it hasn’t fallen, cracked or been dunked in water. It hasn’t been exhausted by constant use of high speed data. In fact, the one thing my phone hardly does since I moved to Singapore, is ring. And for such gentle use, I get rewarded with a basic hardware problem which the service center is unable to fix. I have been asked to pay $350 dollars to get a new instrument. This seems a particularly harsh ending to the budding love story of me and my Apple gadgets. Do I feel disappointed? Yes. I am saddened by the lack of ruggedness of my phone but even more by my reaction. Expecting a mere device to last long, even though newer models have already made an appearance, expecting my phone to be my guide, my savior, my connection to life itself. Like Elizabeth Gilbert says about marriage in her book “Committed”, I piled on all my expectations onto a puny device. And I blamed it for my unhappiness, for my disconnect from the wired world.

I haven’t been on the phone lately, I fear the burn mark on my ear if I hold the fiery instrument to my head. I do things the old fashioned way. I wait for a bus until it arrives – without relying on the bus App for accurate timings. I look out the window as I enjoy the bus ride, instead of plugging in the earphones. I used a pay phone to make a call. I knocked on a neighbors door to communicate a message. How retro!

While I would like Apple to send me an apology (or a free replacement) for the poor performance of one of its millions of phones that it makes, I owe Apple a thank you. For releasing me from a dependence on devices, for opening my eyes to the world around me, for challenging my brain to live my life. For bringing me back to a saner life. For giving me a lemon, not an Apple.