Ingenuity and Telephones
It could have exploded. Ben woke up and automatically reached for his phone. The auto reach; it is a generational thing. The phone was so hot it burned his hand. He jerked the plug from the phone and from the power strip. The power cord connection to the phone had melted into the phone. The cord itself was fried. He said, “I’ve never heard of this kind of problem.”
Oh, man; Oh, crickets; Have to buy a new phone. Ben, of course, has one of those phones with which he does everything. It is his lifeline to the world. And they don’t come free in Cracker Jacks.
Nevertheless, Ben cleaned the plastic mess as best he could and, with Leo, went in search of a new phone cord, on the million and one chance, not really believing it would work.
Luis, the man at the counter reached back on the wall and pulled down the correct power cord. Ben tried the plug. No satisfaction. It is a puzzle. Luis said, “Never heard of such a problem.”
Luis grabbed Ben’s phone, a strong light, a magnifying glass of, an assortment of small tools and a razor and dismantled the device. Carefully, he carved away the melted plastic, fiddled with this, soldered that, adjusted another thing, burnished here, jiggled there, reassembled the phone and plugged the phone into the new power cord. It worked. All functions are ‘go’.
Anywhere else, any phone or electronics store in the US, and Ben would automatically be signing up for a new phone, a new contract; we all know the drill. Ingenuity.
But this is Mexico. Here, we fix it. Somebody will fix it. The hard part is finding the perfect ‘fix-it’ person.
Between Ben and me, we have three phones in the house. His state-of-the-art model. My cheap-cheap cell and a bottom-of-the-barrel landline.
Last week my landline went dead. What was truly puzzling is that it had also died a month previously. Leo replaced the batteries for me. Ben took my Panasonic phone apart, found the batteries corroded, dumped them, cleaned the gunk and read the fine print. Leo had installed he wrong type battery. We needed a specific type of rechargeable battery.
Leo is my usual ‘go-to’ person to find the ‘fix-it’ person I need. When asked where to get rechargeable batteries, Leo’s face went blank, that typical deer-in-headlights look, I-don’t-know look.
In my praise for Mexican ingenuity, I must add a caution. Two things of which to beware. If asked, all Mexican men will say, “I can fix it.” even if that person has no idea what you just asked to be fixed. If that same person does not know where to find what you need, he likely will say, “No hay.
You cannot get it here. Maybe in Guadalajara.” Which takes him off the hook. Ingenuity—in a different form.
In our small town there is an electronics tienda on every other block. So, bypassing Leo, Ben asked Jim to cart him around store to store in search of rechargeable batteries. How hard could this be?
In most small towns in Mexico, stores roll down the door fronts from the hours of 2:00 to 4:00. They drove by a tienda on Mina which had a picture of my same phone in the advertising blurbs alongside the door. The closed door. After trying two or three other shops and not being able to make themselves understood, Jim and Ben again drove to the small shop on Mina, the door now rolled up, shop open for business.
Ben held up the phone to show the woman the empty battery slots. “No hay,” she said. Ben looked up at the thousand items hanging on the wall behind her. There in plain sight, if only one knew what one was searching for, was a packet of the very rechargeable batteries my phone required.
Ben pointed. She took the battery pack off the wall. He paid. I now have a working landline again.
Ingenuity goes both ways. In case you ever need the word, rechargeable in Espanol is ‘recargable’ pronounced something like ray-car-ga-blay, minimal accent on ‘ga’. That is how my ears hear it at any rate.
I try hard to leave superstition in my childhood. I love black cats, walk beneath ladders. How often have we heard, ‘disasters happen in threes’? What could possibly go wrong with my super-simple, no frills cell phone? To say, ‘do not look for disaster’ is to say ‘do not think of an orange’.
HDN: Looking out my back door
January 23, 2020__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________