Monday, March 28, 2005

The cell phone

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, while driving on the Bay Bridge toward San Francisco, I noticed a burning smell. I looked at the temperature guage, and saw to my horror that the car was overheated, with the guage pointed at the extreme. With about a mile to go to Treasure Island, and smoke or steam coming out of the engine, I just made it to the turnoff. Fortunately I had a cell phone and Triple A (although I did not realize I had the basic service, meaning I had to pay $10/mile over five miles of towing). It was raining and the tow truck driver had some problems finding me, but finally he arrived and I had the car towed to a Berkeley repair shop. Now I wait today to find out what the damage is, in the meantime relying on foot or the bus for transportation.

This morning there was a news segment about how widespread the use of the cell phone has become. Some people might consider it a nuisance, but the car is one place where it is essential. Because I don't need to use a cell phone frequently, I have a Virgin Mobile phone, which allows me to just buy a card at various values ($20, $30, etc.), as opposed to having a monthly plan. The only precaution is that you have to keep the phone account at a certain level, otherwise you risk it running out of money. That almost happened to me yesterday, as I had only about $1.50 left in the account at the conclusion of several long phone calls. The charge is 25 cents per minute, 10 cents per minute after using the phone for 10 minutes in a day.

The other message from this experience is: do not stop on the Bay Bridge or other bridges and similar highway structures if you can avoid it; drive to the nearest turnoff instead. Better to risk the car's health than your own life.


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