I can’t hear you now: reflections from being without a cell phone

This is another post I’ve been meaning to get up since getting back from France. Aside from a few cultural and linguistic barriers, one of the main experiences I had was living without a cell phone. Ever since high school I’ve almost always had a cell phone on me and with the new LG Voyager I got earlier this year I regularly use it for texts, pictures, mobile web, and yes voice calls. It’s like an extra appendage. Thanks to Verizon though, it was absolutely useless in France and although I briefly toyed with the idea of buying a French sim card I just didn’t think it was worth it. Being phoneless for a month though made me realize some things.

The first thing you notice (other than lighter pockets) is that you actually have to make plans. You can’t just call up or text someone on demand to meet somewhere or do something. Instead, you have to talk to people ahead of time and plan out when and where you want to meet. That brings me to my second observation: landmarks become so much more important. Maybe it’s because Paris has so many of them, but it makes finding people a heck of a lot easier if you’re meeting by Notre Dame or the Louvre. Also, that nice watch you wear on your wrist becomes a little bit more than just a fashion accessory since you can’t rely on your phone for the time. It also means you need to find an alternate way to wake up in the morning (including using an actual alarm clock). I think the key take takeaway here is how powerful and important these little devices have become. A cell phone isn’t just a phone anymore, it’s an all in one survival kit.

As inconvenient as it was sometimes, living cell free for a while wasn’t all bad. It definitely helps slow down the pace of life a little bit. You don’t feel constantly tethered to the outside world and it lets you focus on things around you. For the most part, I also felt safe enough in Paris to go most places without feeling like I needed a cell phone for safety (although it could’ve been helpful when lost in the Louvre). I couldn’t imagine myself going through everyday life at BC or at work (or London) without a cell phone, but for a few weeks with a small group of people on a pseudo-vacation? Yeah I think I can do without.

Can you hear me now? Nope.

The OCC of BC Dining

BC Dining has peeved me for a while. First of all, there’s their ridiculous carry-over policy in which the meal plan only carries over from one semester to the next, not year to year. I understand it helps BC’s cash conversion cycle to have the money up front and to not have to worry about it, but it just feels like a rip-off when you don’t give people a say over how much they want to eat.

This summer though I have an even bigger problem with BC Dining. I have around $400 in Residential Dining Bucks that I have accumulated over the last two years. This is the money you use in the Chocolate Bar, vending machines, and football games. It carries over year to year and you get it all back when you graduate, but for some reason BC Dining won’t let me use it during the summer. Instead, I have had to load an extra $300 onto my Eagle Bucks to buy food (hopefully I can get by these next two weeks without adding more on).

Meanwhile, my $400 sits in BC Dining’s account somewhere and it will remain there until September next year since I’ll be abroad all year. Even if I do get it back when I graduate, that money will have depreciated from inflation. There’s more though. Because I won’t need my money until September 2010, I could have invested it in the stock market (can buy 100 shares of Citigroup), treasuries, or at the very least a savings account. However, since I earn no interest by keeping my money with BC Dining, I can’t even cover my opportunity cost of capital. I agree that it’s a fairly small amount and my returns from the market would not have been significant, but the principle still bothers me. Essentially I am losing money thanks to BC Dining.

In a separate financial matter, I want to thank Reslife for clearing out virtually my entire checking account. They finally decided to charge me for my summer housing fees (all at once). And I am going to be living in one of the most expensive cities in the world [London] next semester. Great!

And speaking of London, LSE’s tuition is about 1/2 of BC’s, yet BC makes you pay full BC tuition. Their reasoning? Faculty, administrators, and whatever else your tuition dollars go toward are fixed costs and they need to be covered regardless. I’m sorry but I have a hard time believing that. You’re telling me there’s absolutely no variable portion to BC tuition? Each student’s tuition has a 100% contribution margin? As a non-profit institution, there should be at least a few dollars in variable costs that you can shave off for abroad students.

I love BC, but sometimes you have to wonder about their financial policies.