Diary of a phone-less girl:
1st of July.
Phone switching on and off randomly and losing battery super quickly. I shrug and get on with the million and one exciting things that are happening.
5th of July
Realise I’m going to be away all summer and need to wise up. Take phone to the Apple Store.
I wait and watch the Apple workers, who are all ridiculously friendly and whiz about, clad in purple, tapping on screens. Bearded man tells me to go home and update the IOS and all will be well.
6th of July
Haha, I update the IOs, nothing changes, but I’m going to London tomorrow so there’s not much I can do.
7th of July
10am: Arrive at Victoria Station to meet a friend. Phone not switching on. Victoria is enormous. Finding each other proves difficult when one of you is phone-less.
10.45am My friend probably feels like he’s playing a game of Where’s Wally. I am the phoneless Wally who’s proving hard to find. Phone turns on for five minutes, showing multiple missed calls, WhatsApp’s and texts, and stays on long enough to locate each other. I murmur an excuse about the battery being terrible.
11am. Steal friends phone to take pictures of just about everything. Friend endures with great patience.
2pm: I charge phone at lunch and it won’t even switch on.
6pm: Realise phone has given up the ghost altogether. I hide this from friend. He has a dinner to get to, so we say goodbye and I sit on the grass and panic. Then cry. I’m meant to be meeting friends from home soon but realise I don’t know where and have no way of contacting them.
7.30 pm Kind stranger who you can read about in this blogpost here, offers to let me use his phone. I do and reach my friends. Incidentally I get a notification that he’s logged back in to my messenger in November for a wee nosy. Dead on mate, hope you enjoyed the riveting exchange of memes “that are so us” with my Mum.
9pm: Meet my friends at Kings Cross.
11pm: They draw very neat and detailed directions on a napkin to get to Canary Wharf where I’m staying that night.
11.45pm: I get off at the wrong place. Canary Wharf is not friendly at midnight. I use the napkin to wipe away tears and blow my nose and realise I must have ink on my face.
00.30am I wander into a security building. Read more here. Because I’m Irish and one of their granny’s was Irish; they let me use a phone and I find my friend, to great relief.
8th of July
1pm: Instead of more touristing, I end up at the Apple Store in Covent Garden. Cue more purple t shirts whizzing around and long waiting times, I remember to bring a book this time.
4pm: I see a lovely man with a fantastic beard and excellent rom com references — he restores my phone. I get a wee thrill when it turns on. Christmas in July. I have 12 texts. “I’m so loved and missed” I smile smugly at the screen.
9 are from Mum.
10th of July:
9.30am: On the train to the airport, the phone returns to its old antics, turning on and off at random. It feels like an ex playing hot and cold.
11am: Miracle of miracles, it stays on long enough for me to scan my boarding pass.
11.30am: On the plane, I’m in a row with screaming kids in front and behind me. For three hours. With no music. I’ll let you guess how that was.
10th-21st of July
RIP phone, you are well and truly dead. I steal Mum’s phone to take pictures. Other than that, I don’t miss it too much, too busy having the craic with the fam. I also journal every day and read seven books.***
***Don’t be too impressed, I reread the seven Harry Potters because my little brother insisted on bringing them all on holiday.
Paris, 21st of July:
12pm: I’m beginning to think I can cut it without a phone, but when I arrive in beautiful Paris, I get myself to the Apple Store at the Louvre at my mothers behest. All the stores are unnervingly similar in every country.
1.30pm: Sebastian, a fellow Desperate Housewives fan, examines my phone for 5 minutes, declares it to be defunct and gets me another one. I want to lean across the counter and kiss him, but hold back. I want the phone, not a place on a register.
21st-25th of July:
Paris is a haze of picture taking, binging on luxuriously long phone calls with my two best friends and my nightly exchange with Mum. I stare down fondly at the screen and realise how much I missed her sending twelve pink hearts and 14 monkey faces in a row.
Italy, 25th of July:
PHONE STILL WORKING.
I enjoy not having to pretend to myself that it’s “cool to know what it must have been like in the 90s” I’m able to meet and find my friend easily, compared to the manhunt in London. It’s oh so exciting to see her and because I haven’t had a phone, we have even more to catch up on than usual.
26th-28th of July:
I am disgustingly millennial and revel in taking pictures of all the pasta and pizza and gelato we are eating and of course the azure skies and golden beaches. Life is good and apart from taking pictures, I don’t need or want my phone. A dependance is loosening.
29th of July:
8am: Friend and I say a sleepy goodbye. My phone has stopped working. This time I just laugh, then stop when I realise my train tickets and boarding pass are on my phone. I decide to explain to the conductor when he comes by and buy another ticket.
11am: The train conductor comes into our carriage. I watch as everyone pulls out their tickets in paper or electronic form.
“Hi,” I smile nervously, inwardly wishing I had some Italian apart from ciao, grazi and the names of the meals the Italian restaurant I work in serves.
“Do you have your ticket?”
“I was actually wondering if I could buy another one? My phone has stopped working and my tickets were on it.”
He looks displeased.
“You have two choices here. You can pay €250 right now for travelling without a ticket, or you can get off at the next stop. If you refuse to do either, the police will be waiting for you in Bologna.”
I gulp. My rent is coming out of my account in two days. I can’t afford a fine.
“I, I don’t have €250 but I need to get to Bologna because I’m flying from there to Germany this afternoon.”
He shrugs: “You should have thought about that before travelling illegally”
“But, I didn’t know, in Ireland, where I’m from, you can buy a ticket on the train, I didn’t know there was a penalty in Italy”
He narrows his eyes:
“I’ve given you your choice.”
He walks away as the train comes to a stop in the middle of the Italian countryside, still an hour from Bologna. The conductor watches to see if I’ll get off. I stay in my seat, trying to not to cry.
He comes back over to me and asks to see my passport:
“Irish hmmm? You didn’t know. Ok; I’ll let you buy another ticket – to Bologna? That’ll be 18 Euro. In future if you have problems, always come and find the conductor.”
I have no idea what inspired the change of heart but I do notice how his face softens when he sees the look of relief on mine.
1pm: I get to the airport without a police escort and eat my last plate of pasta, the first that I can’t take a picture of.
3pm: Arrive in Berlin and realise — all the contact details and directions for how to get to the English school…. are on my phone. I find out Berlin airport got rid of customer computers as they’d proven obsolete.
3.30pm: Look around the airport terminal trying to gauge who looks least dangerous.
I settle on a blonde haired guy about my age whose wearing a Simon and Garfunkel t shirt and looks looks bored.
I explain the situation. He’s a student in Berlin and bored while waiting to pick up his cousin. He very kindly lets me access my email. We exchange numbers so I can let him know I’ve arrived safely if my phone does decide to work. I thank him with fervour. Once again, I’m on my way!
30th of July: Phone ironically starts working properly again once I arrive at the English school and don’t need it.
1st of August: Can’t sleep because it’s so hot. Thankful to have my phone – German Netflix is far superior to UK Netflix.
2nd of August:
Whatsapp from airport boy:
“Did you arrive safely? If so, drinks, Friday?”
4th of August:
First day off properly to explore Berlin. Phone stops working. At this point, I’m not even phased, I get off the metro at Alexanderplatz where about a million people are milling about and miraculously bump into one of the students!!
What are the odds? She gives me a whistle stop tour of some of the main sites of Berlin.
As I’m dandering dreamily along the East Side Gallery, it switches on, I manage to get a few pictures. When it does switch off after five minutes, it no longer frustrates or even distracts me. I just keep walking, knowing I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Belfast, 7th of August: Missing my tunes so I recharge my black ipod and am transported back to 2012.
A month and a day after the first visit, I return to the Apple Store, feels like I never left.
They send that phone off to be fixed and give me a replacement in the meantime..
Which stops working by the next morning when I go to Scotland…and then Ireland for a friends wedding.
Belfast, Apple Store, 20th of August:
The previous phone was unfixable. So they give me a new one, my fourth phone of the summer.
The Apple technician listens to my phone woes in amazement and is apologetic when he hands me the new one:
“You really do have the worst luck, it sounded like really bad timing to not have a phone.”
I just burst out laughing.
But in hindsight, I wish I’d said this: