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JISHOU, HUNAN — My cherished Palm Treo had a stroke on Sunday. It started acting flaky on Friday, recovered somewhat on Saturday, but ended up partly paralyzed by noon Sunday.

It could send, but it couldn’t receive, reliably, anything. No texts. No phone calls. Except when it wanted to. It was like dealing with a patient from a House M.D. episode.

One friend thought I was mad at her, because I wasn’t responding to her calls or messages. Another thought I was seriously ill. The first called a mutual friend, who assured her I was not angry at anyone. The other eventually caught up with me on QQ.

The flakiness started Friday. People were complaining they were texting me, but not getting my usual prompt response. After pulling out the SIM card, buffing the contacts and blowing some air into the Treo, I got it to receive for about 10 minutes, reliably, and longer, sporadically. Some people could reach me, while others couldn’t. Frustrating.

I’ve had the thing for about three years, and it’s about five years old, ancient by cell phone standards. It was beginning to exhibit some other annoying behaviors, like refusing to charge unless I connected it just so, and arranged it on the desk just right. If I bumped it too hard, it would shut off the radio. Occasionally, the touch screen would not respond, but after I pressed on the entire surface, it would work again.

So, I was considering buying a new phone, because I knew eventually the Treo would just die. I was just hoping I could postpone spending the money a little longer. No such luck. A cell phone is not all that useful if no one can reach you, especially for someone who kinda needs his clients to call him to confirm appointments.

On Tuesday I went downtown with a student who was friends with a manager of a China Mobile phone store. I knew I wanted a Nokia, specifically the e63, but the price (1980 yuan, about $289) gave me pause. They showed me a Chinese smartphone that looked like a cheap copy of a Nokia smartphone (and at 200 yuan, very, very cheap), but it felt like a cheap POS that might last three months before the keys started falling off. I considered buying a regular phone, the kind without a QWERTY keypad, but in the end I realized it was false economy. We bargained with the manager, and I got the Nokia e63 for 1800 yuan (about $260).

Of course, an hour later, another friend told me her boyfriend had bought the same phone for 1400 yuan at a different shop. You just can’t win.

My shop is catty-corner to Jishou’s only KFC, on one of the city’s busiest intersections. Doubtlessly, I have walked past this shop dozens of times, and, as distinctive as I am here, the manager and the staff had seen me pass by.

Having me as a customer — a paying-a-bunch-of-money one, at that — was apparently the highlight of their week. So, I had to pose for photos with everyone, the manager, the salesmen, the saleswomen, even the student I came with! More images of me for people’s QQzones.

Anyway, I like the new phone, though I am still learning how to use it. And tomorrow, I will go back to the shop to buy the USB data cable that Nokia so kindly fails to provide. Hopefully I can avoid another round of photos.

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