We humans really like our ‘firsts’. The first experience will undoubtedly leave a deeper impression, both physiologically, sending electrical currents through mysterious and unexplored neurological pathways, and psychologically, sometimes even creating new patterns of thought.
We all remember our first kiss; that one time we sat behind the wheel of a car for the first time; our first bike ride; the first time coffee touched our taste buds. This is a story about controversial and flexible morality, karma and a very special trade-in deal. This is my story.
The year is 2001 and our protagonist has graduated from high school and is on his way to delve into the secrets of the universe. He made the mistake of enrolling in nuclear physics at one of the toughest universities in the country. This man was young and poor (and stupid, of course), and in his mind delusions of grandeur and inferiority complexes often played chess games, both scoring points, with the final result forever undecided. At the time, mobile phones were just beginning to appear in his small country, and owning one was a big thing. Not only were these devices hard to find, but they also cost a small fortune, with unreliable courier services and SMS prices approaching a dollar apiece.
A hero with questionable morals
One day, this young nuclear physicist-to-be was buying a pizza in a small cafe near campus when he saw a mobile phone lying on one of the tables. There was no one around; the overworked cute girl behind the counter was long gone. So he sat down in front of that phone and started eating his pizza, thinking about the possibilities.
You probably guessed what happened next. The moral battle was lost and the young (now not so idealistic) boy went home with a Nokia 3210 in his pocket. In his defense, if he had returned the phone to the desk to place it in the “lost and found” department, it would have ended up in the cute girl’s “lost and found” bag. Those were the times.
The phone was sleek and stylish, with a cool reddish color. To this day, the now not so young boy thinks it was one of the best cell phones. But the story doesn’t end here. You might be tempted to think that the “trade-in deal” was something akin to what Robert Johnson did at the crossroads, trading his morals and his soul for fortune and fame, or, in this case, a piece of the future .
There may be some symbolism in the above; there’s no denying that, but the actual, physical trade-in happened months later. Just before that, Karma hit hard! The young boy was in a local cafe, where hard rock was playing and the mood was good. Then some shady guys arrived, wandered around and left. Hours later, the boy put on his leather jacket only to discover that the Nokia 3210 was missing from the inside pocket. In the 2000s, who leaves a coat hanging on a hanger with a phone in it? Stupid as it was, that’s how it all happened. The SIM card inside was a prepaid card so no real harm was done and the boy felt really good. While the phone probably never returned to its original owner, it was out of my hands.
The physical trade-in
Our main character went home relieved, only to receive a phone call the next day with a rather strange offer. He was part of a book club at the time, and his love of science fiction had resulted in a rare and complete collection of science fiction books.
A young family and sci-fi aficionado from the same book club bought a pair of cell phones as engagement gifts and traded in a used Motorola T180. For a pile of books. The boy’s entire sci-fi collection was gone, but he now owned an honest phone. And aside from his ideals and morals (as he later realized), this collection of books was his most prized possession at the time.
Reflections and aftertaste
We all do things that we regret later in life, and that’s the most important thing. The “sorry”. It means we have a conscience, and the bad feeling inside is our regulating mechanism. If that young boy was in the same situation now, he would leave a note on the counter and keep anything that wasn’t his until its rightful owner showed up.
Another takeaway is that wisdom can make you happy (or, more specifically, a good book collection can buy you the gadget you think would make you happy). Years later, when I had accumulated enough funds to actually buy a new phone (the Sony Ericsson K750i), I gifted the Motorola to a friend whose phone had been stolen. I don’t know if that’s enough to atone for my Nokia 3210 sins, but I hope it counts.