I like to say that it is difficult, almost impossible, to embarrass me. This is no longer true. Last week, I was embarrassed. So badly, in fact, that I am yet to recover.
Meet the IDEOS phone.
When it came out in Kenya, it was the most affordable Android phone, going for between Kshs. 8,000 – 9,000 (US$100 – 120), depending on where you bought it. It was a dream come true for anyone who wanted to have their cake and eat it too (i.e. spend little cash and still get to enjoy a good operating system (OS)). Kenyans called it the IDEOT (pronounced idiot) because of how slow and basic it was.
At first, it worked like a charm. The screen was okay, the speed was good, not great, and the applications I needed to run worked fine. It was an okay phone – not great – just worth what I paid for it. I got this phone even after several warnings from friends and online acquaintances; I was not prepared to spend a killing on a phone. I regret this every day.
For about a year, it worked fine. Then May 2012 came, and it started to act funny. It would hang for unusually long periods of time, but after that, it would work well. Then the screen started losing sensitivity. You almost had to hit it with a rock to type, and this made texting a real pain.
Then, parts of the screen would become dead in turns. To type messages, you had to enable auto-rotate and keep rotating the phone, and while this was fine while in private, in public it just made me look stupid, like I could not decide how I wanted to use my phone. Every time I considered trashing the phone, the issue would miraculously disappear.
Later on, it became more and more frequent, and I thought it was an OS issue. I removed the Android 2.2 OS that came with the phone and installed a custom ROM I found online, which was said to fix most of the performance issues my phone was facing. The phone worked well, until the issue came back again.
It was like I had an abusive relationship with my phone: I knew it was mistreating me, but I didn’t want to leave because of all the things I had invested in the relationship: what about all my applications and data? I would have to back it all up: this would be a long and annoying process, logging in to all my accounts again; syncing my data…It would be like starting a relationship with someone new after investing so much in an old one. I decided to stick around and make it work, for the children.
My phone, however, would not stop abusing me. It continued to behave in this way regularly, and I put up with its behaviour for silly reasons: at least I was still able to make calls, check my email and social media accounts. Hey, that counts for something, right?
3 weeks ago, however, things got really bad. Three quarters of the screen lost sensitivity, so while I could navigate using the buttons, I had to dictate my texts and Whatsapp messages. Even I started to realize that this was becoming ridiculous, so I started planning my exit from this relationship. While I could dictate messages in private, it would definitely not work in public.
I think my phone noticed what I was planning to do, because immediately after, I could no longer sync anything. That means that my contacts could not be updated; neither could most of my apps. If I left, I would lose data. I tried asking people not to text but call me because my phone could not text, but they kept forgetting and continued anyway. They had no idea how silly I looked dictating things to my phone just to keep in touch and be polite.
My mother called last Wednesday, furious as hell that I was ignoring her calls. Only that I was not. She said she had been calling once each day since the Friday before, but on my side, the phone did not even ring. My boss also told me how he tried calling me severally and could not reach me. Not once did the phone ring. The result: I had an angry mother on my back, and I arrived 10 minutes late for an office movie night.
We were watching a Hindi movie, “Oh My God”, and since I was late, but the movie had not yet started, I thought that I could call them outside the theatre to give me my ticket and I’d still get to watch the movie. WRONG! My phone would not let me make any calls. I could scroll up and down my contacts, but when I tried to call, nothing would happen. The phone would reboot, rinse and repeat. It was like being in hell. I wrote down some numbers belonging to my colleagues, and tried calling them on a kind stranger’s phone, but each one of them hung up, understandably, because they were in a movie.
I went to McDonald’s to eat my troubles away, and thankfully, after 20 minutes, one of my colleagues called me to ask where I was. I explained everything, and was told to get a ticket and go up, there were still spaces. The guy at the ticket counter disagreed; he said all tickets were sold out. Another of my colleagues had to haggle with the manager to have me pay for one of the seats belonging to someone who had not shown up. Half of the movie had passed by.
My anger was building up, and by last Wednesday night, I was fed up. I threw my phone against the wall, and it felt so relieving. It was somehow similar to how the abused partner in a relationship suddenly has enough and pushes back, sometimes in a dangerous way. I did this once more when it acted up again, and realized I had to stop or else my phone would stop working, and I would lose all my data.
That Thursday, however, took the cake. My phone started vibrating randomly, like it was having a fit. I would open Facebook and it would visit random profiles, click on images I had not selected and the screen would have flashes of black and colour: my phone was clearly possessed. I opened Twitter, and it attempted to retweet almost all the tweets on my timeline. It also visited several profiles and I ended up following people I had no intention of following. It was a disaster. I just switched it off.
I switched it back on. I had several texts and Whatsapp messages, and this time, I could not even dictate responses because the phone was too cool for that. People were going to think I was ignoring them, thanks to Whatsapp and Facebook’s really messed up function that tells people if/when you see their messages.
I did the predictable: threw it against the wall. I did not care what would happen to this piece of junk at this point; I just wanted to take my anger out on it. When I reassembled it, the devil took over the phone, and what happened next was like something out of a Harry Potter book.
The phone was fine, but the LCD display had some cracks, understandably, because I had thrown the phone with so much force. The phone screen was black for about ten minutes, and then the phone started vibrating twice as much as it was vibrating before. I could not control anything. The screen lit up, and the phone was selecting random applications.
The highlight? This piece of junk forwarded random Whatsapp conversations I was having to random people on my Whatsapp contact list, one even went to a group I am in with 13 other people! I was so embarrassed; I covered my head in a pillow and just asked the ground to swallow me up. The conversations are, of course, private, and when read out of context…dear God! This is the stuff nightmares are made of!
Keep in mind that the screen was not working, but I was somehow able to dictate an apology and send it to the people I had just messaged random conversations at 1a.m. As I type this, I still have not gotten a response from any of them. I hope I do not, I prefer not to deal with it. I am still very embarrassed.
I am now doing that which I have been putting off for a long time: slowly backing up my data. The phone is still vibrating randomly at times. I think I should get back to using my iTorch, the ever faithful Nokia 1110. I will not have anyone’s contacts since none of my contacts are stored on my SIM card (f**k the cloud) and these two phones are about as compatible as an elephant and an ant. I also will not have internet access on the go (no Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp), but that’s okay. I will survive.
The IDEOT is on its deathbed, but I will not allow it the dignity of dying a natural death. No. It shall die at my hand, brutally. There is a construction happening next door to my apartment, and each day, there is either a truck full of building materials or a tractor outside. The IDEOT will be placed in the path of either of them and I will ask the driver to do his worst. I will have him run over it until the phone is in smithereens, and tip him for his service. This relationship is over.