Seeing as it’s coming up to Christmas, I’ve decided to buy myself a new phone. I shop around at the Plaza de la Tecnología and think I’ve found myself a real bargain at about five hundred pesos less than in Sanborn’s. If only it were true. I go back to the shop to ask if they give invoices, only to discover that the bargain price I was offered was for another phone, and that it costs the same here as everywhere else. I tell the shopkeeper I’ll take it anyway.
‘Excellent,’ he says. ‘Follow me.’ He pops out from under the counter and leads me to the shop opposite. ‘They'll attend to you here.’ With that, he goes back to his shop and leaves me in the care of a gawky kid who’s probably his son. I have a bad feeling about this, but am now committed to buying the thing. Slowly, laboriously, the kid begins to write out a sales receipt. ‘You are going to give me an invoice, aren't you?’ I say. He looks up with panic on his face and mumbles something which could be a yes.
The slow, handwritten pace of the youth continues, and I try not to think about how much quicker this could have been at Sanborn’s. At one point, he asks me how much they’re charging me for the phone, but sees my incredulous stare and shouts across the aisle to ask his dad instead. I can’t even hear the answer, but the kid mumbles to himself and writes down something that sounds like the right price.
When it finally comes to signing the purchase slip, I start checking the details. The kid taps the dotted line with an impatient finger. ‘You sign here,’ he says, as if I’m some kind of moron. ‘Thanks,’ I say, as sarcastically as possible, but he’s already pulling the phone out of its box to instruct this idiot customer on how to switch it on.
As his uncoordinated thumbs unsuccessfully mash down on the buttons, I observe that maybe the phone hasn’t been charged up yet. He ignores the remark, muttering that different phones sometimes use different buttons. Suddenly, as if the idea has just fallen on him from a great height, he pulls the charger out and plugs the phone in. ‘It might not have been charged up yet,’ he explains.
He charges the phone for about ten seconds, dials a number to check the credit on the phone and hands it to me. I hear: ‘...will expire on February the fifth, two thousand...’ before the phone dies. ‘Perfect,’ I say. By now, I just want to leave. The kid pulls out the forms for the invoice and painstakingly starts to fill them in. If nothing else, I will have given this teenager a chance to practise his penmanship. I’m sure he hasn’t considered this.
At last, the phone is mine and I’ve only lost half an hour of my life. I thank the kid and he shrugs off into the corner of the shop; I expect he’s got blisters. Now I just have to wait until Christmas before I can use the thing.