Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Dual Sim, Dual Life

March 20th, 2021
Any Verizon Shop

I’d been standing for a good hour waiting for Damien, my very own Verizon customer service provider, to activate my brand new dual sim Mac 12 Iphone, one physical phone with two phone numbers, in my case, a US number and a UK number. This was day two of my technical nightmare. Day one, I spent walking from one Verizon store to the next in search of the phone I needed and a Verizon expert who could help me set up a product THEY sold.

First there was Salim at the Verizon on 86th Street who knew about dual sims, but didn’t have any Mac12’s in stock.

There’s one left in the city on 75th Street. Want me to put a hold?” “

Yes please,” I exclaimed as I rushed out the door, racing to 75thStreet.

There, they had the phone but were less helpful with installing the dual sim technology. I thought Manhattan was an international center of the world? Didn’t anyone in this city live between two countries and need this same product and service?

We don’t get much demand for these,” said the salesman on 75th and Second. “Try corporate on 57th.”

I hustled over to midtown and “tried corporate” where my salesman Damien finally  was able to install my dual  sim technology. There was only one glitch,  I couldn’t dial out. Damien said he couldn’t help me, “Because of Covid, you’ll have to try on-line support.”

I returned home and ‘let my fingers do the walking’. On-line support wasn’t answering.

So, I trudged back to Salim on 86th. He’d been the most helpful, maybe he could assist. Stretch accompanied me this time, recognising that I was at a fragile point, about to break, having been to three Verizon shops around the city, spending a lot of time and money to not have a working phone. It was 7pm. We had friends coming for dinner at 7:30pm. I wanted, no, I needed my phone to work.

Oh right, your phone is fine,” said Salim. “It’s just that Verizon locks all phones for two months to prevent fraud and theft.”

Wait, so, I can’t make calls for two months on this new phone??”

Well, you can after 60 days,” Salim offered as if 60 days sounded more palatable than two months.

Return the phone Elena, cut your losses and return the phone,” said Stretch, annoyance creeping into his voice, and he’d only experienced a fraction of my day. “

You bought a locked phone,” said Salim. “You can only get an unlocked phone from Apple. You should have gone to Apple first thing.”

This is the kind of precious information, like you can’t drive your car without a key, that I could have used hours ago. I returned my new locked phone.

Day 2 went better- I had gone to cheery Apple at 9am, the opposite of nocando Verizon. The 59th street shop was buzzing with blue T-shirted techies eager to help. Stevie Wonder was singing Isn’t She Lovely in the background. I was directed to an attractive young woman with a flashing smile,  warm dark skin, cream coloured flared corduroy trousers and cute ankle boots.

I wondered where she got those pants, but I didn’t think I could ask her just yet.

Hi, I’m Wanda. How can I help?”

Do you deal with dual sims much?” I asked doubtfully.

All the time,” she nodded.  I almost cried and hugged her.

Wanda didn’t bat an eyelid when I told her that I live between New York and London and want to carry just one phone.

It’s such a pain carrying two.”

I can imagine,” she said as she started tapping something into her Ipad. Your new phone will be here in a second. Shall we look at covers in the meantime?”

The choice was endless. I am easily overwhelmed. Sensing my confusion, Wanda said

The forest green and burgundy are our best sellers.”

I want happy, I thought to myself, regaining my footing.

I’ll take the tangerine cover, please. Nice and spring-y.”

Wanda agreed.

Fifteen minutes later, Wanda told me everything was all set with my new unlocked dual sim iPhone. I just needed to go to Verizon so they could activate my local number.

It should only take them a minute.”

I looked at her anxiously. She had no idea.

And there I was at Verizon, yet again, standing, waiting for my old friend Damien. He tried to suggest I call tech support, but I wasn’t budging.

Activating a dual sim phone wasn’t as easy-peasy as Wanda promised, like life itself when we are blessed with choices and decisions we must make.

You want to sit down?” Damien asked, pointing to a windowsill.

Verizon has no chairs. As I stared out the window from my chilly perch, waiting, I listened to Damien call tech-support. He spoke with a faint Jamaican accent, which made me think of the beach and some citrus cocktail, the sun warming my sandy toes.

No, Elena,” I thought to myself, “you are not on a beach. You are sitting on a hard windowsill in a Verizon store on a bleak New York day, trying to get your dual sim to work. What made you think it would be easy? Had it been easy living this dual life ever since you met Stretch? Flying back and forth across the ocean as if you’re commuting on Metro North. Your three kids are in London or heading there. Your closest friends are in London. All those women who were your life support over the last several years are now an ocean away. You try and stay in touch – texting, calling, flying.  Face it, none of this has been easy. And, you are about to get even more committed.”

I could cut the cord, not marry Stretch, move back to my one country life. I read in Michelle Obama’s excellent memoir Becoming that every spring her mother would consider leaving her father, and after mulling it over, the pros and cons, Obama’s mother would decide to stay. Spring cleaning in every sense. I liked that thought of looking at your life straight on, contemplating all the possibilities, choosing your life rather than it choosing you.

When I met Stretch six years ago, I was living in London and my three kids were either living in or heading to the US for college. Fast forward six years, and I am the only member of my family living in the US. Like Ten Little Indians, then there was none. My kids have or are moving back to their roots-London, where their father still lives. He can see them at the drop of a hat, for a dog walk, a pizza, a cup of coffee.

My kids aren’t big phoners. They’re busy. They prefer texting. My ex gets a shared meal, I get a smiley face. Stretch’s son doesn’t see how I can consider myself at all British, not with my full Yankee accent. “

You’re American,” he says to me.

I know I may not sound it,” I tell him, “but when you’ve lived in a country for over half your life, it seeps into your bones, like syrup into pancakes.”

I could walk blindfolded to the glassware department of Peter Jones on Sloane Square-true, it’s on the ground floor near the entrance- but the school uniforms department on the 3rd floor wouldn’t be hard  to find either. When I go to my local coffee shop down the road from my London flat, the barista smiles at me, knowing my order before I’ve uttered it.  Hyde Park- I know every circuitous path, every meadow, every tree, every bench. Jogging, pushing strollers, chasing my kids on scooters, walking, grieving alone after my father’s death and then again during my divorce, walking, chatting with my now adult kids about life in general – we have our best talks on these walks.  Hyde Park has been there for me through thick and thin. It’s my happy place.

Your phone is working” Damien wakes me from my reverie. “Sorry, it took so long, but we got there.”

I leave the shop. The sun is peeking through the clouds. I get a text from Stretch.

How’s it going? Any luck? Love you 😘 😘 😘”

I smile as I look down at my cool new phone with its two phone numbers and happy case. It wasn’t easy to get, but it was worth it. I know what I’m going to choose.


March, 2021