Thursday, June 8, 2023

The Galaxy Before Us

I turned back and took two photos of the cross streets where my truck was parked at the car wash. This local car wash was in a small town, outside the megalopolis of Guadalajara, about half an hour from our RV park. Rocco and I were on an adventure. 

I fumbled hard with my Spanish as the car wash owner explained it would take an hour and a half and to come back later. When the language veers from ordering items off the menu, I can quickly get over my head. I pulled out my phone to use a translation app, but the data service was too poor. We finally came to an understanding (me understanding him) and I left him the keys.

"Why are you taking photos of street signs when you have technology to get us back to the truck?" 

That was my son's irritated response as I snapped a couple shots.

"Well, what if the Ford app doesn't work?" I said.

He scoffed at me and we moved on.

We had lunch, went shopping for groceries, including getting directions from the tortilla shop to the store that sold them, all in Spanish. Basic stuff is getting easier. Then it was time to return to the truck.

I opened my phone to use the Ford app to show me the pin on the map where my truck was parked, and ... nothing. I opened Google Maps to get directions. Again, no data. No Internet at all. My janky 3G roaming from AT&T was giving me no service in this small town. It was working earlier, but not now. I pulled up the photos of street signs and we walked around for a while until we found one and made our way back to the truck. The final panel was getting a wipe down. I struggled some more to pay the owner and we were off.

We tried to get home, but we had no navigation. That was going to be a problem. I decided if we drive out of town, maybe we'll get some more Internet and we can use navigation. My truck navigation was useless as well. 

Where was our RV park again? We were around 30 miles southwest, right? I fumbled around through the narrow streets using the compass on the truck, which in a small town with one way streets was not getting us very far. 

A month ago I would have described getting the massive truck through narrow colonial era streets as a nightmare, but the scary part of the driving is mostly other people. There is an etiquette in Mexico to tight roads, and once you learn it, it's really not that hard. Trucks larger than mine drive down the same roads. Nobody gets in accidents and nobody hits my truck while I'm gone (so far). We kinda headed south and kinda headed west and Rocco eventually got Google Maps to load. It turns out our RV park was due west and we were headed towards a southern highway that would have been a big waste of time. Not good.

That was about enough of this AT&T nonsense. I can deal with slow 3G speeds, but lately the phone had become a brick with times of no service. I decided I was getting a second phone. 

Here's the technical reasons why I'm not just getting a local SIM card, which I've already tried to do: I'm still paying off the phone, so to add a Mexican SIM card, I would need to unlock the phone. Unlocking the phone requires I pay it off, about $750. Then I would need to go through the 100 or so apps on my iPhone and turn off cellular data, since they would just eat up the average SIM card.

In the US we live in a data rich ecosystem where all our apps are always trying to provide us more data, more service. They constantly connect and download unlimited data on our unlimited data plans. Without trying, I use about 40GB a month of cellular data. Your phone can tell you this. The average Mexican re-chargable SIM is going to have 4-8GB. So I could pay a fortune, nerf my phone by turning off apps and THEN I can get a magic card that gives me data, that would be eaten up in less than a week. A second phone that did just what I needed it to do, sounded more logical.

We were running errands so we went to Wal-Mart to buy a phone. I kinda knew what I wanted to spend and the basic functionality. I needed Apple Carplay or Android Auto, a phone that wouldn't be obsolete anytime too soon, and I wanted to spend about $150. That ruled out even their oldest available iPhone and left a bunch of Andoids. I don't know anything about Android phones, so I picked one out by price. I did a tiny bit of background research with my very slow 3G service to make sure it ran Android Auto and wasn't complete junk. I was going to be the proud new owner of a Samsung Galaxy A04. However, buying a phone at Wal-Mart in Mexico is a high security endeavor. 

We agreed upon the phone, received a sticker with the details, checked out at the register, and returned to the kiosk so several people could spent half an hour extracting it "from the back." Oh man, the back. That brings back memories of the ghost of retail past. We eventually got the phone after worrying about the MIA employee, verified it with the clerk, had a thorough security check at the exit, and this Android phone was mine.

I bought the phone about an hour away, so my buddy spent the time driving back trying to get it to work. No deal. Google Maps wouldn't work. It ended up taking several hours, as the installed software was incompatible with each other until every app was upgraded. I'm an iPhone guy, which basically means I don't spend a lot of time trying to get phones to work. They just do. Thankfully this phone really has one job. Run Google Maps. Eventually it found its purpose.

Oh my god

It can do email, Facebook, and a few other tasks to keep me connected to my business, but mostly this bad boys job is to get me directions when my fancy phone is a brick. And yes, I know I sound entitled and this phone is a marvel of technology that could serve anyone well here or back home. It is a fine phone that I'm fortunate to own, equivalent to a weeks pay for the average Mexican worker. All of this nonsense so I can avoid getting lost on our frivolous adventure. 

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