Saturday, March 6, 2010

I Live In Fear of My Cell Phone

I woke up this morning after a pretty late night (by my standards, coming home at 5:30 is pretty late, but the Spaniards I was with just rolled their eyes, reminded me the metro wasn't open yet, and said that if I was really tired, they guessed it was sort of acceptable) to something I was not intellectually capable of handling without first having a cup of coffee - a voicemail.

It should be said that I had thought that I had been receiving voicemails since I got here. Every once in a while, I would get a text message that would say that some number had made a call to me at some time at that I could press talk to return the call. I guess I should have realized that was just a missed call alert, but I'm not really all that observant.

Anyway, the messages appeared to be from a cell number I didn't know, so I tried to call the voicemail number. I was immediately put on an automatic set-up menu. I don't know what it is, but I cannot understand Spanish over the phone, especially when there is a machine involved. Do you mean I should make a new pin number, or give my old SIM card pin number? Does that word you keep saying I should push mean the pound key? Did I not have voicemail for the first two months I owned the phone? Finally, I got it all set up, and got to my messages. There were two, from the same number, which called me twice. The only thing I could understand in either of them was the name "Christian", who was one of the Spaniards I was hanging out with, but it wasn't from his number. I tried to listen to the messages again, but no luck. I think I may have deleted them. You see, at the end of each message, I was given three options, all of which included the word "return". Not really knowing what to do, I picked the third option. This must have deleted them, because I'm now told I have no messages.

This is only the latest in a long string of cell phone related confusion. While I feel perfectly capable with most technology and I set up my phone to display most things in English, I cannot figure out what my phone is doing. For a while, for instance, I was resending texts over and over again, because even though they would go out perfectly well, the phone wouldn't move them from the draft folder to the sent folder. I also can't forget the drama of trying to set up the phone, which I wrote about in an earlier post.

The other confusing part is related to the cost. Ever since the terrorist attacks of March 11, 2004, it has been almost impossible for foreigners to get a contract cell plan. The only option is to buy credit, which is available in a variety of places, including tobacco stands and atms. Charges, however, are a mistery. Rumor has it I have free weekend calls to anyone in my network, but I can't find any evidence of it. Charges depend on who you're calling and the time of day. A mobile to land line call is prohibitively expensive and we were warned on the first day not to make calls unless we needed to due to the high cost. Even so, having figured out how to check my credit only yesterday, I realized that, though I've only put €25 on my phone, I still have €25 left. I know that I got some credit free with the phone and I inadvertently won some promotional deal, but between using the phone for a month and a half and making some calls to and in Italy, I would assume that I would have been over the free credit a long time ago. Unfortunately, I can't really track it, since you get charged for making too many inquiries. It's best to save them for when you need it, because if you run out of credit, your cell phone becomes incapable of receiving calls or texts, even though these are free. Actually, you wouldn't even know you ran out, since it doesn't tell you other than by cutting off your call if you go over.

This is also not the first unusual call I've received. Last week, I got a few calls one afternoon from a woman would would say hello and immediately hang up. The third time, she asked me why I was calling her. After asking who she was and getting no answer, I said I hadn't called anyone. She then accused me of being a Moroccan. Not remembering what the word "marroquĂ­" meant at the time, I was able only to say no and then ask her what she meant. Eventually, I just gave up and hung up on her.

Anyway, I sent a text back to the number that called me asking who it was and what they wanted. I guess next time I'll pick option 1 or 2 in my voicemail menu.

UPDATE: It turns out that they were from Christian, who was just calling to make sure I got home ok. It sounds like he doesn't trust the night bus. Anyway, the confusion stemmed from the fact that apparently many Spaniards have two cell phones. The reason was not explained to me, but I think it has something to do with being able to call in-network to all one's friends. He said something about how one was for every day and the other was for the weekends.

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