My mother standing in front of me, this was the condition I put forward. Though the blinds were pulled down, the oppressive Spanish July heat still seeped in through the windows of the dorm room. I had curled up in the corner of one of the bunk beds, which was supposed to be my home for the next fourteen days. Wanting only the best for us, my mother had signed my sister and me up for a two-week Spanish language summer camp.
The year before, we had attended a similar program, also in the outskirts of Madrid. Traumatized by the fact that I had gotten a stomach infection and been sick for the entire two weeks, I dreaded the moment of having to say goodbye to my dearly-loved parents again. To me, the deal was clear: Without a cell phone, I’m not staying.
Looking back on that summer of 1997, I realize now that I acted like a spoiled brat. But having not even turned ten years old, it seemed that my entire life hinged on that one single gadget.
Of course, as a small kid, little had I thought of the fact that cell phones were a rare commodity back then. Yes, sure, I saw that my parents and their friends had them, but I truly underestimated how complicated it would be to get one. Yet as it always is with kids, it had to be right here, and right now.
Seeing that I wasn’t going to budge a centimeter from the corner of my bunk bed, my mother frantically called her brother. At first, his reaction must have been “your child is crazy,” but eventually, he said he would see what he could do.
Two hours later I was still sitting in that stifling heat when he turned up, carrying what appeared more like one of those walkie-talkies that policemen used to communicate back then. The thing was huge, clumpy and heavy.
When I saw that it turned on and moreover, dialed numbers, even to Germany, where my parents would be, a smile lit up my face. “Ok,” I agreed and my mother let out a sigh of relief.
My parents left, and the rest of the summer camp went without a single problem. I carried the cell phone everywhere, clutching it since I was aware that pickpockets roamed even in the small towns of Spain. Often times, I wouldn’t even go in the pool with the other kids, just because I wanted to make sure that my cell phone was safe. All the other children stared, and even the summer camp leaders surely thought I was extremely spoiled, if not completely stupid.
In the end, I didn’t even use the cell phone once to make a call (because back then, cell phones did nothing else). It was the comfort that its heaviness provided that allowed me to survive the summer camp.
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