THAT William Cowper hymn, “God Moves In a Mysterious Way, His wonders to perform” often plays in my mind at the end of my most random gallivanting sessions.
Saturday brought it to mind quite strangely, having left home on two precise missions that both departed from my usual schedule to the dismay of my real superiors.
Four minutes after driving out, my phone began to blink – rebooting itself every twenty seconds.
This was a problem. For both appointments I had the location was uncertain and arrangements had been made for me to confirm the final details by phone after getting to specific points in the city. So I had charged the phone to a comfortable 68% before setting off well in time for the first appointment, with a buffer for getting lost a little bit in between phonecalls.
The need to place a phonecall is for me, as you might know, a practice abhorrent and to be avoided. So I drove on with a resolute mind to make it to both appointments, phone be damned.
I bounced at the place where I thought the first one would be, and spent twenty minutes trying to make use of the twenty seconds up-time the phone permitted in between reboots.
The continuous failure made me realise I was also losing battery life very fast (39%), so I sped down to a gadget shop at the Lugogo Mall, for help.
“Hi,” I said brightly to the young lady who walked up to fill the empty space behind the counter, where the fellow that I know over there was conspicuously absent. Using that bright tone of voice is a good trick – it makes shop attendants pay better attention to you, and if they planned to be rude or sullen they sometimes change their attitude.
“I need help opening this phone to check why it keeps switching itself on and off,” I said, avoiding technical terms, since it was obvious she was non-technical – having observed her walking over from a totally unrelated counter and, as I mentioned, since I know the chaps there.
“Do you have a manual for this type of phone so I can check?” I concluded.
“You need a technician,” she replied.
I already suspected this, but had opted not to ask for a technician since it was Saturday afternoon, the shop was sparsely populated with just two other people at counters that made it clear that they were not technicians, and I really just wanted to first open the back cover to take the battery out for a little while – or to read the manual.
She reached out and took the phone out of my hand.
“Eh. Nga it’s very hot?” she said, being consistent to the trait of stating the unnecessarily obvious.
I took the phone back (32%) and asked again, “Do you sell this type of phone here so we can open a box and check the manual?”
“Ha. I don’t think…” she began, but luckily one of the fellows who should have been behind the counter returned, confirmed they didn’t have the manual, double-confirmed that the phone was hot, and even pointed out that the battery was running out pretty fast (27%).
“You need a technician,” he said.
I gave him that look and smile that conveyed deeply how disappointed I was that we had spent these precious minutes together only to arrive at a point we had more or less started at. My look most probably made it clear that if I hadn’t needed a technician I would have asked to buy a brand new mobile phone within seconds of arriving at that counter.
Contrite, he directed me to the very next shop to find ‘a technician’.
The chap was seated in the corner of a small, stuffy room. I could tell he was the one because of the ten or so people in the room, he was the only one who didn’t look frazzled, sweaty, anxious or worried.
Plus, he was the only one with a computer and twenty phones on the desk in front of him.
And, he was the only one who looked up and nodded a, “What do you want?” at me.
I couldn’t resist saying, as I held up my phone (20%): “I need a technician.”
It was an inside joke only I enjoyed, but I did not dare laugh in case I got thrown out of the shop. The second appointment was very important to me, and I did not have the phone number of the person in my head – it was on that phone (17%).
He took the phone and added it to the queue in front of him as I explained my problem quickly. Nobody complained those things of, “But we were here first!” as he flipped my phone over and over like a Ssenga inspecting a newborn child whose mother has never been fully accepted into the family.
When he spoke, he did not raise my need for a technician but pointed out that the phone was hot. I concurred, suspecting that I had about 10% battery life to go.
He then interviewed one of the other people in the room, and handed them back their phone as he made a phone call to another technician and explained my problem. They talked a bit, after which he hung up and addressed one of the other people in the room, and sent them on their way as well.
All this with the solemnity of a highly celebrated medical surgeon, or a judge of the higher courts somewhere in the mid-sixties.
Then he turned to me and gave his verdict.
“You might need to buy a new battery, since this one is heating so much. Or you need a software upgrade, but it will take some time. Maybe up to Monday. You have to leave the phone here…”
I could not.
First of all, I suspected that if I needed a software upgrade I could do one myself. Secondly, the conversation he had held with the other technician had dented my trust in him – I needed a technician who needed a technician?
No, thank you.
I maintained my bright tone of voice, took back my phone (10%) and left.
The second appointment was now a niggling problem in my mind so I tried a desperate move: as soon as the phone re-booted yet again, I re-dialled to get the number of my target, and when the network showed up I pressed the ‘Call’ button.
It went through!
In five seconds I said where I was and that my phone would cut off.
It re-booted again (7%), and I went through the same motions to say where I was, again, and that my target should find me there.
Miraculously, he confirmed having heard me and said he would be there in twenty minutes.
The phone didn’t cut off.
So I told him what I was wearing so he could recognise me (6%). He confirmed having heard that as well.
The phone didn’t cut off.
So I told him precisely where I would take a seat, on the verandah of Good African Coffee (5%). Yet again, he confirmed having heard that.
The phone didn’t cut off.
I began to suspect that we would develop trust issues if I continued talking yet I had said the phone was acting up and was bound to cut us off – so I signed off, and hung up. (5%).
But I couldn’t sit down at the coffee shop twiddling my thumbs. Strangely, I hadn’t carried a notebook and pen and didn’t have my laptop or tablet on me either.
I reserved my table and made my way to Game, hoping against hope that one of those second hand book sales was under way.
Five minutes later, William Cowper’s hymn started playing in my mind, because I fell upon this magnificent book at only Ushs4,500 yet I could easily have paid ten times that for the pleasure that it is giving me:
And so I sat and consumed page after page, till my meeting happened, and went on after the meeting had ended, page after page. I was at peace, with the phone being off, until I realised that I had stopped paying attention to its screen flashing to indicate a re-boot.
The battery must have died, I thought to myself, turning a page before reaching out to check its temperature and finding it to be normal.
But in the process I touched the power button and caused the screen to light up again, which was surprising since it had been on 5% thirty minutes ago and should by rights have blacked out by now.
It was at 2%.
I hadn’t needed a technician after all. Two days down the road and I am still operating as normal – but giving the phone far less attention than this fantastic book.
“God Moves In a Mysterious Way, His wonders to perform”