The remainder of my entries on my experiences out west won’t have as many photos as my post about Denver. This is because I haven’t had a working camera for the past two weeks. Like most modern travelers, my cell phone serves as my camera. When its battery failed two days into my time in California, I was left without a way to take pictures. Or make phone calls. Or receive text messages. Or look up directions on the fly.
In other words, I’ve reverted to an older method of traveling. I have to contact my friends and hosts in advance to confirm our plans, write down directions on paper, and trust that my friends will be at a certain place at a certain time. There’s a thrill to traveling like this. I feel more present, more aware, and more in control.
I may be a modern traveler, but I’m now feeling justified in always carrying a physical address/phone book full of contact information for my friends. Whether it’s looking up my grandfather’s phone number to get his Safeway discount or sending postcards to friends (more on that in a second), I’m glad I have all my important information stored in something that doesn’t rely on satellites and shoddy workmanship.
Still, it would be nice to talk to my family on the phone. So, on February 12, I bought a cell phone battery online and had it shipped via USPS to my temporary Portland address. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of tracking my package as it’s bounced back and forth between Sacramento and Portland — three times so far.
It’s now 6pm on Monday, February 24th, and I’m on an Amtrak train three hours north of Los Angeles. If the battery ever arrives at its Portland destination, my friend will have to forward it to wherever I might be.
I’ve complained earlier about my postcard stamp problems with the USPS. Those issues have continued out west. I was charged 35 cents for a postcard stamp at the Denver Airport, 34 cents for a stamp at a post office inside a San Francisco Macy’s, and 49 cents by a Portland postal worker who measured my postcard on a chart and somehow deemed it first class mail.
To put a cherry on all of this, a postal carrier friend of mine told me that he wasn’t even aware that postcards had a unique postage rate. I love you, US Postal Service, but there ain’t much more than ideology sustaining that love at the moment.
*Update: The post office in Los Angeles charged me 34 cents for postcard stamps today. However, they had to use their old 33-cent stamps with another 1-cent stamp added on. Crazy.