COLUMN: Quest for a new phone rings hollow

A strange sense of pride, and a twinge of guilt, follows the purchase of the latest techno toy.

The store had moved and we couldn’t find it.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was at the mall, trying frantically to find the store of my cellphone provider. It had been weeks – months probably – since I’d last been there, and the store had moved to a new location, down a new aisle, and we didn’t know where it was.

And we were in a hurry.

We were rushed because I needed a new cellphone – it had been years since I’d had an upgrade and mine was on its last legs – and after chatting earlier with a customer-service rep over the phone, I was told that there was only one store left in town with the model I wanted, and it only had one left in stock.

Cue the panic.

I’m speaking partly in jest, of course. There was no real panic, but I must admit, there was a part of me that suddenly wanted that phone even more than before.

I’ve never been a very materialistic person; I don’t drive a brand-new car, I’m not up on the hottest trends, and I rarely buy much for myself at all – my cellphone, as mentioned, was old and outdated.

So I’m not sure why I suddenly had an uncontrollable urge to own this phone that, apparently, was among the most popular out there.

Maybe it was my competitive spirit – did I mention it was the last one? – or maybe I was just really taken with its shiny, gold exterior, I don’t know. But make no mistake – I wanted it. Wanted it bad.

Eventually, we bobbed and weaved our way through the phalanx of Christmas shoppers and holiday displays – if you need proof that Christmas seems to come earlier each year, the mall is the place to find it – and found the store. Then, my blood-pressure having returned to normal, I purchased the phone I’d come for.

And not 30 seconds after I had it in my hands, ready to pay for it, I heard behind me another salesperson tell a customer that, unfortunately, they’d just sold the last of the phone he wanted.

My phone.

Phewww, that was close.

On the drive home, however – with my shiny, new prize glittering in the cupholder of my truck, blinking incessantly – I began to feel a tinge of guilt.

Here I was, feeling a strange sense of pride over out-hustling some other random schmuck to the mall, while just a few hours earlier, Remembrance Day ceremonies had been held across the country, honouring veterans who fought and died so that, a few generations later, I could have the privilege of buying some overpriced electronic device that’s probably going to be obsolete in a few months.

And I didn’t do it on purpose, nor did I do it to justify my purchase or alleviate any guilt, but by chance, one of the first people I talked to on my new phone was my cousin, who is in the U.S. Navy.

I’d sent him a Facebook message from my fancy new phone to catch up and see how he was spending his Veteran’s Day in the northeastern U.S.

(He told me he’d been on an aircraft carrier earlier in the week, making my cellphone quest seem less-significant still).

After sending a few messages back and forth, I then spent a good portion of the next hour fiddling with my new purchase – importing all my contacts, adjusting all the settings, making sure my ringtones were set perfectly.

Then my new phone rang for the first time.

Damned if it didn’t sound exactly like the old one.

Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.