Smart Phones and Less Smart Users

I’m not very good at taking selfies and can’t blame it all on WordPress’ cropping. We are in front of the Roman Theater, or what remains of it. Alcazaba de Málaga, which will be almost entirely cropped out, is on the hill behind us.

We were slow to join the smart phone craze and even slower to get into i-phones. We are less enthralled with our service provider. We have been using Verizon for at least 20 years because 20 years ago they had the best coverage between Minneapolis and Chicago and on bike paths. That is less true and less important now and it is charging us a lot of money for very little service while we are out of the country.

This is not an ad for T-Mobile, Google, or i-phones, but we have found a few apps very useful in our travels.

Anyone who travels or has kids who travel knows about WhatsApp. I’ll move on.

It would be difficult to image life on the road without Google Maps and Google Translator. When we use Maps to download directions to anywhere when we have WiFi, it will show us the map, the destination, and our location without WiFi as we rode buses around the Yucatán or wander the “streets” of El Céntro, Málaga. It makes wandering around this maze nearly stress-free.

Translator is very good at translating words and phrases, not so good at complete sentences.  We did manage to have an extended conversation last night with a Spanish speaking couple in La Casa Invisible, which may have the cheapest beer in town.  By “extended”, I mean three rounds. They were sometimes puzzled by what Google said I said when I gave it a complete sentence to translate. I had less trouble with their translated Spanish, but both of those may have to do with the convoluted way I sometimes speak English.

It is very handy when talking to pharmacists and vendors in the Mercado Central de Atarazanas, which is where we buy our groceries. It is a traditional, sprawling European market where every stall specializes in a very narrow range and for the most not bilingual: fruits and vegetables in the left aisle; bread, nuts, and cheese in the center; meat on the right.

Mercado Central de Atarazanas

Translator was no help at all when we sat next to five young men from the North of England, who are on holiday celebrating a 40th birthday. It wasn’t until I heard Brexit and Trump that I realized that they were speaking “English.”

Maybe the best trick Translator does is with the camera. When you scan a street sign or menu or bin of something that might be food, it will translate word by word in place on the screen. It’s a little bit spooky and doesn’t try to make sentences. I wouldn’t use it to translate Cervantes but it may help not get anchovies (boquerones) when you expected a baguette (junquillo). While menus are occasionally a challenge, we haven’t encountered a server who didn’t speak passable, usually fluent English.

Bodega Bar El Pimpi y Jardines de Alcazabilla had menus en  Englise

For something completely different, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has an app, “MobilePass,” that lets you complete all forms, including a selfie, to get you through US Customs without standing in all the lines. When you are running after some one pushing Doré in a chair, lines are not an issue.

A cuter app, whose time hasn’t quite come, is called “What3Words.” It began with the two premises that addresses and postal codes are local conventions that aren’t available everywhere and people can’t remember them anyway. At best, all we can be expected to remember are three words. What three words you may ask?

The creators have divided the planet into 3-meter by 3-meter squares (~10 feet) and assigned a three-word label to every one. I think that’s about 5,000,000 squares but you should check that. To locate any spot on the face of the globe, just enter the right three words. It’s available in several languages. As I think about creating and coding the grid, how big is their list of words not to use? It is certainly a lot longer than George Carlin’s Seven Words You Can’t Use on Television.

To its credit, what3words hasn’t remapped the world but sits on top of Google Maps.

So far for us, we haven’t done anything with What3Words we can’t do with Google Maps except look up the codes for places we might never go. For example, if you want to direct someone to the middle of the pond on my brother Paul’s farm, just tell them Because the grid is so fine, there are several other codes that would also get you into the water. Loops.simply.quarrel is at the front entrance to our condo and the entrance to the garage is poppy.mess.curry.

The entrance to our apartment building in Málaga is list.decisive.steeped if you’re in the area. Our official address is Calle Puerta de Antequera, No.4, but I never remember it and certainly never pronounce it right.

On another travel technology front, the absolutely best way to get the local currency is from an ATM. You pay the real exchange rate and my credit union reimburses whatever fees the ATM imposes. (It thinks that’s easier than having its own network.) In the interest of keeping my money secure, I changed the PIN I had used for years just before we came. I tested it in Minneapolis and took out a couple hundred euros in Ireland on the way over. So far, so good.

Over the weekend, I stopped for some more euros. After three tries at the PIN, I was thinking I’m sure that is what I have always used. With a sudden flash, no wait, I changed it and the machine said, translating freely, “Too many tries; I’m eating your card.”  That was Saturday; Monday morning I was able to retrieve the card unchewed, which is nice but of course it had been deactivated.

We always carry some emergency dollars, which the bank was willing to exchange for a 3% fee, so if you get a panicky email from us saying, “Stuck in Spain; please wire money.” don’t do it!

4 thoughts on “Smart Phones and Less Smart Users

    1. We are experiencing life in many aspects. As I have noted before, “Experience is knowledge you don’t have until just after you need it.” and “Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.”


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