Saturday, July 16, 2011


Have you ever awakened to a day that you knew from the outset would not go well?

That was pretty much my day yesterday. I got up, made a cup of tea, and promptly spilled it on the nightstand as I got back into bed. It was like a sign from the universe that my day would go awry.

Our main objective yesterday was to get telephone service. We were directed to a shop in the St. John's Wood High Street, but when we got there, the manager said he couldn't help us until we had our iPhones unlocked. (They were set to work only with AT&T.) That, unfortunately, was not a service the store provided. So he sent us to Edgware Road, where among the Middle Eastern restaurants and newsagents he said we could find plenty of people willing to unlock phones.

Dave had a meeting at school, so I set off for Edgware Road myself. I found several business promising phone unlocking, but when I asked, none of their phone technicians were at work yet. (This was around 10 a.m. I guess iPhone unlocking is a late-hour business.) I finally wandered nearly all the way to Marble Arch before finding a guy who could do it, and he said it would cost £25 (about $37) per phone, which I found appalling. But compared to a new phone, it was a drop in the bucket, so I conceded and left the phones with him for an hour.

I killed time by going to Selfridge's, which seems to be the local Bloomingdales. I found two terrific Ted Baker shirts on sale at a very reasonable price, including one spattered with tiny gray and blue lobsters. What's not to love?

When I went back to the phone man, hoping that he wasn't using my phone to make illicit calls to Pakistan, he told me he'd been able to unlock Dave's. Mine, however, used an older operating system (probably a result of my general refusal to run updates) and he would have to reinstall it, which would erase the contents of my phone. I weighed the value of my photos and apps, and agreed to go the nuclear route. I left the phones for another hour.

I went walking in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, which was a refreshing break, and had lunch at a cafe near The Serpentine, a large lake in the middle of the park. (More about this later.) Then I went back to the phone man and picked up the phones. Mine was depressingly generic.

Dave and I took them back to the phone store -- rather humorously called the Carphone Garage, or something like that -- and bought some pay-as-you-go access service from a provider known as 3. Then we went to lunch and I found I couldn't call or text Dave. We went back to the store. Turns out Dave mistakenly read -- and gave to me -- the wrong phone number from his receipt. Oops.

By now it was mid-afternoon, but at least our phones worked. We went back to the hotel and found that our wireless Internet access had spontaneously crashed. Of course we hadn't been able to check e-mail or do anything else all day, with our phones dead and/or being erased, so I was exasperated. After many calls and about ten minutes on the phone with a mysterious "help desk" contracted by the hotel, I eventually found that I could sit in the hallway and get service. (Apparently my bed is an Internet black hole, and it's true that as I lie here and type this, I have no Web access. I'll have to go out in the hall to post.)

Even accessing the "help desk" was dramatic. Dave was able to call on our hotel land line, but when I called a few minutes later, I got only a bizarre tone. What the hell? Finally we figured out it must be the British version of a busy signal. (At least, we think so.)

I sat in the hall and worked online for an hour or so, and wrestled with getting a photo of Ruby -- my wallpaper on my pre-nuked phone -- from Dave's phone to mine, since apparently our 3 service does not allow us to text photos. Through a complex phone-computer-phone transaction I finally figured it out, and my phone once again at least looks like it did.

All in all, a day of technology nightmares! But at least we now have functioning phones, so I can call Dave and not leave him wondering where the heck I am, as he did yesterday while I was wandering around Hyde Park waiting for my phone to be nuked.

(Photos: Top, a wall down the street from the hotel; bottom, an old gate on Edgware Road.)


  1. Getting settled in a new place always brings unwanted surprises. Hopefully yours were all on one day. I hope things improve.

    Note to self: run the updates I keep declining...

    Have you heard how the dogs are doing back here?

  2. Yes, we've talked to our dog-sitter a couple of times and even Skyped with the dogs before we left Tampa. They seem fine!