Frequent traveller: Bring back the telex

28 Sep 2011 by BusinessTraveller

For months, I have been cursing my iPhone 4. I am the laughing stock of the office. If my colleagues receive a call but then there is silence, it is assumed to be me. If I am out of the office and they want to get hold of me, first they try my phone and then, when I don’t answer (because I can’t, because it doesn’t ring), they just call whoever I’m with.

The iPhone is a lovely gadget – it has an app for most situations and, at a push, I’m sure it would help to identify my last known whereabouts. But as a phone, it just doesn’t cut the mustard. It drops more calls than I make, doesn’t ring when it’s supposed to, then rings me back with all my voicemails at the end of the day.

It is Saturday night and I am on my way to Heathrow, bound for Asia. From the taxi, I try to call my wife and my mother without success. The calls go through, the screen lights up to indicate I am connected, but I can hear nothing. Either I have succumbed to hysterical deafness or the speaker/earpiece has stopped functioning.

I restart several times but that doesn’t fix it. The only solution is to rush to Dixons to buy a set of headphones. The kind sales lady tries to flog me a trendy white set at £50, but I buy a functional pair for £14. It works, although I now have a nasty hand wound from the plastic packaging and, because the earphones are cheap, my wife finds it hard to hear me so I have to shout, which is never the best way to say goodbye.

Some 14 hours later in my hotel room, I have urgent business – to sort out my phone. Over the past year I have become the master of the iPhone restore, so I set about another one in the hope that the earpiece problem is a software issue. It is not, so I Skype my service provider in the UK to sort out my upgrade. My grand plan devised the previous week is doomed, however. I had intended to sell my phone back to them, but I cannot, because it is broken.

At this point, I am amazed at the service I receive. The helpful agent suggests that as I have a week left on my warranty, I should arrange for a new iPhone to be delivered and then upgrade to a different phone. I suggest that rather than sending me two phones, why not send me just the one? She agrees that would be sensible but that the system says no.

She does, however, arrange for a new iPhone to be delivered on my first day back in the UK. I then ask if I can do the upgrade and she transfers me to another helpful lady who switches me to a new tariff and arranges for a Samsung to be delivered at the same time. I feel truly blessed, as I won’t even have to open the box of the iPhone.

The next day, I am working on a spreadsheet on my laptop when figures start disappearing. At first I ignore it, but it keeps happening. I accept it is happening, and try to think why. I am tired, and things have been difficult recently, so the reason seems clear. The laptop is possessed. I quit Excel, go into Outlook, and watch as the items in my inbox evaporate. I turn off the machine and wait, resting my head in my hands and thinking of other things I might have done with my life. Nothing comes to mind, so I turn it on again.

More disappearances. The delete key must be stuck. I restart several times. I give it a shake. I switch it off and hand it to the office manager. Half an hour later I’m told the keyboard is shorting and I need a new one. It will take at least 48 hours – too long, since I will be heading home before then. In despair, I bash it hard on the desk. It starts and by some miracle works. I return to my hotel that night pleased that I can at least get some work done.

The next morning, I go to the office to find the internet down. The only access to my emails now is via my iPhone. As I go to use it, a text comes in telling me that my tariff transfer has been completed. I take this as a good sign that my new phone must be on its way. I try to get my emails but “the connection to the server failed”. I realise that my tariff switch means my iPhone data package has been switched off. For the remaining 24 hours of my trip, I rely on landline, fax and telex, but resist growing my hair, making sexist comments to the staff or smoking incessantly. Too much of the seventies would be a bad thing.

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