cellphoneI go for anything that’s cheap. For example, why would I spend P700 for that brand new shirt with the crocodile logo when there’s an ukay-ukay shirt at P100 and with a print that says “Sex is Overrated”? It’s hip, it’s practical, it’s cool. And more than just simply a statement, it’s pro-micro economy. It’s the ginabot-crazy people like us who sustain the livelihood of pungko-pungko vendors.

Of course, what we save in cash we more than pay for in non-monetary ways, like by allowing ourselves various forms of inconvenience otherwise not experienced by mall goers. The P600 that I saved from buying an ukay-ukay shirt is what I get in exchange for almost dying of suffocation inside the ukay-ukay store. For my P600 savings, I have to live with the thought that the shirt’s previous owner could have smelt like dumpsite in the armpit region.

And forget about food hygiene in a pungko-pungko corner. Surviving the experience is easy: if a thing is lying still, it’s lumpia; if it moves, it’s a cockroach.

But these are inconveniences that we are willing to endure in the name of bargain sale. Take for example cellular phones. Have you noticed how we go for cheap deals at the expense of clear communication?

Before I switched to my present phone subscription, I enjoyed quality service from my old provider: unlimited texts, clear signal, wide coverage that included Pinamungajan and other remote jungles around the globe, a slick phone that screamed hell if a phone snatcher was within a kilometer radius. But these were services that came at P2,000 a month.

So when another phone company came waving a similar package at P300 a month, I was ecstatic. Unlimited texts, unlimited calls and a free phone at P300 a month? This isn’t happening, I told myself. I had no choice but to let my ukay-ukay mentality take over. I dumped my old subscription, grabbed this new promo and convinced my friends to do the same.

I had been told that this phone company’s services bog down when it’s cloudy and the sun is out. But I always thought it to be a joke until I started to miscommunicate with my friends, courtesy of my new subscription.

I was at the mall one day to meet my girlfriend for a date when the network started to mess things up. At first, I couldn’t get my calls through. My girlfriend was always “out of coverage area.” This was a mall, not any uninhabited island, for Christ’s sake. How could an ultra-urban center be out of coverage area?

I tried texting. “Honey pie, sweet corn lollipop, wer r u? am hir na.” But it was always “message not sent.” Then after a few minutes, I received a message: “bunny scrub, Im at *** some text missing***”. I replied: “Tootsie roll, som problem with signal. Try coling.” Again, it was “message not sent.”

This went on for like an hour, me tootsie rolling my girlfriend, she sending unintelligible messages. Until World War III started when she texted: “R u rily at d mall??? U fukn idio *** some text missing *** dn’t make … signal as excuse not to *** some text missing***”

I tried calling her again. This time, I finally got through. I told her: “Hey, flower bomb, sorry. It’s really bad signal. Where are you pearly shell, petal bell?” Then from the other line I heard my girlfriend’s voice droning: “dorrrn’t frower bwam purrrly shelll meee u idiort….doorrnmm growrrrwon… doozrnoms maaa time wasterd.” The bad signal was making my girlfriend sound like a constipated robot.

To make a long story short, the date didn’t materialize. When I got home later, I received ten successive messages from my girlfriend, all saying the same thing. “Hi french fries, brute burger, bunny scrub, Im at the mall na.” Then followed by ten more that said: “R u rily at d mall??? U fukn idiot. I’v bin hir for almst an hour. Dnt make d bad signal as an excuse not to see me!!!”

I went back to sleep. Tomorrow when the sun is up, everything will be back to normal, I told myself.