Sunday, May 17, 2009

Always Interact

Over and over on this trip, the lesson is getting hammered into me: always interact with people. Connections are far more valuable than money, and pretty much anything else.

A few days ago, I was hungry, and was trying to spend the smallest possible amount of money per calorie; without thinking, I bought a box of oreos. This was stupid; by the end of it, I never wanted to eat oreos again, and there are actually far cheaper calories you can buy, not to mention there's something to be said for nutrition. But that's beside the point.

I went to Washington Park with my oreos. I sat down on a bench and took out my phone. My phone is by far the most important thing I carry. It contains all my notes, all my contacts, all my maps, all my lists (shopping, tasks, etc.), and it also is my only access to the internet a lot of the time—which means my only access to weather reports, yellow pages, E-mail, and other things I need. I have it out quite a bit. And I had it out then.

I sat on the bench, typing on my phone and eating my oreos. It was a beautiful day. A few people walked by; I didn't even look up. Some guy sat down on the bench across from me. I only noticed him out of the corner of my eye. I was getting sick of the oreos.

Some other guy walked right up to me.

"Hey, man! You sharing them oreos?"

"Sure! Grab one!"

He looked into the box thoughtfully. "I'm gonna take three."

WELL, then, I though. But what came out of my mouth was "Go for it!"

...and back to my phone.

Eventually, the guy sitting across from me got up, turned on a boom box (probably to max volume), and slowly walked away with it.

I met up with Juliana and she helped me eat the rest of my oreos.


This morning, I stopped by Melanie's apartment while she wasn't home to drop off my laundry and charge my phone a little. While it sat and charged, Melanie's cat Oscar, with no warning whatsoever, bolted onto the little nightstand and snapped the phone off the charger. A piece of the charger broke off and remained inside the phone.

I fished it out and tried to put the charger back together. No go. The wires inside had gotten torn, and there wasn't going to be any way for me to fix it without waiting a few days to get the right tools. And I needed the phone.

I started looking up stores. On the phone. The act stressed me out now because I felt like I was using up battery power that could not be replenished. I was also preparing myself to pay about $50 for a new charger; Albany had given me no work, and was sapping me of hundreds of dollars. I hadn't had time to do the full tally, but I was pretty sure I was already in the red.

I tried calling the stores. Some had fast busy signals. Others had the fax pick up. Others had "Sorry, this mailbox is full" messages. What NONE had was (a) a person answering the phone, or (b) a normal answering machine or voice mail. What was with this city?

I walked to the nearest store. It was closed. Everything else seemed closed too. Sunday.

Feeling utterly defeated, I turned off my phone so as not to waste any more precious juice. I walked to the library.

Doing a quick search, I found that it was likely possible to buy this charger at Wal-Marts and Radio Shacks. I wrote down all their numbers and addresses with a pencil. Then I went out into the hallway, turned on my phone, and started calling Wal-Marts, one after the other.

They all theoretically carried these. None had them in stock.

I started calling Radio Shacks. They also theoretically had them. I went down the list, finding them out of stock at each, until I called one way out in Glenmont. They had one charger left. It would only cost $30. Nice, cheaper than I'd expected.

I managed to get a computer again and look up buses to Glenmont. It was far away. The next bus left in an hour. I went out to buy some groceries and drop them off at Melanie's before going to the bus station.


As I walked to the store, I walked by a man.


I ignored him.

"Hey, man!"

I was in a bad mood. I didn't turn around.


I slowed down and turned.

He smiled. "What's your name?" He was a ways behind me now.

"Greg," I said, without walking back towards him.

His smile got bigger and he walked toward me instead. "Craig?"

"Greg." My mood started getting better just from seeing that smile. "What's your name?"


"Nice to meet you, Ozzie."

"I saw you a few days ago at Washington Park and I wanted to say hi, but you were busy on your phone, I didn't want to interrupt. What's your story?"

I grinned and gave a brief account of the trip and the accident. "And now a cat destroyed my phone charger, so you have my undivided attention."

Ozzie threw his head back and laughed. "You're not serious! A cat?"

"I wouldn't have believed it either if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes."

"Dude, Rich has GOT to have one."


"A friend of mine. He works at a store right up the street. They carry chargers for cheap, but they don't advertise it. Come on, let's take a look, my bus isn't coming for a while anyway."


In we walked.

"Hey, Rich!"

"Hey, Ozzie!"

"You got, show him your phone."

I took out my phone. "Nice to meet you, Rich. You wouldn't happen to have a charger for this thing, would you?"

"Lemme look."

Rich dove into a back room and came out with a phone charger in a box. He'd pulled the end out and plugged it into my phone so I could see it fits.

"Nice! How much?"


"That's it?"


I've bought chargers cheaply before in places where I had connections—generally connections in the Asian community—but Albany was the last place where I had imagined I'd be connected.

Now I was free for the rest of the day, instead of riding a bus to Glenmont and back to pay fourfold what I could be paying for a phone charger. I can't even tell you how glad I am that I didn't ignore Ozzie.


  1. Argh I hate cats! Have you met any so far on this trip that didn't ruin your stuff?

  2. Don't count on this charger to last too long; on the other side you should have asked for a spare battery and maybe even a spare phone there.