Phone Your Friend (or, “Phone; Your Friend?”)

Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?” -James Thurber



In the battlefield of my mind, all army helmets look like turtle shells

There have been many phones over the course of my life.  I can count them all on one hand but the adventures we went through together are endless.  I was dragged kicking and screaming into the cellular age, and I am still wondering when one of the sides is going to win the conflict.

The first salvo was thrown in the form of a Samsung flip-phone.  This phone was forced upon me.  I have never seen myself as important enough to need a portable communication device.  However, as part of an upheaval at work, I was overruled.  As it was explained to me, it was desired that I be readily available “just in case”.

To ease the transition, the cost of the phone was covered by my boss and I was allowed to charge two-thirds of the monthly bill back to the company.  All that, and I was granted the request that I could keep my phone turned off on Sundays.  Honestly, it was a rather beneficial arrangement; even if it was hoisted upon me.

The phone itself was rather unassuming.  This was back in the days when small was the biggest selling point.  It did not matter that my coworker could not type in numbers on his phone without using the very tip of his fingernail.  He was proud that the battery was bigger than the phone itself, and that when the devil was all put together, it resembled a matchbox car.  Ah, the simpler times of early cellular phones.

My durable little Samsung was about the size of miniature computer mouse.  It fit neatly in a small pocket, and it survived a swim in Lake Washington.  For a first phone, it was benign.  That little guy was an excellent covert operative in the campaign to lull me into dropping my guard.

Then the RAZR marched in a set up camp in my life.  Now, I was not of the elite club.  I did not get my RAZR at the start when everyone else was getting theirs.  I believe I was invaded by the RAZR3.  When RAZR’s were starting to turn pink and everyone was starting to be drawn-in to the iPhone hype?  That was the time when I went “high-tech”.

Yes, this phone could take pictures!  Video too!  And the buttons were raised with glowing lines in-between so the whole keypad looked like an alien insect’s thorax.  Yes, with my RAZR (and the not-so impressive looking plastic case that hung loosely to it), I was ready to go.  800px-Motorola_RAZR_V3i_03I could now play Scrabble on my phone.  I could sneakily take pictures of my friends when they were drunk.  Later I would look at the low-resolution, poorly-lit images and shake my head.  I tried to remember which of my friends now resembled a dark smudge with the beer glass nearby.  The digital age had caught up with me and I was curious at what would come next.

Along came another Samsung product, the Glide.  (After the RAZR, it was nice having a phone that was named after an actual word.)  The Glide encompassed a higher-resolution camera, but it was an epic struggle to conquer it.

This phone was my introduction to commercial touch-screen technology.  I had used touch screen computers and registers, but never one so demanding.  Unlike the last two phones, this screen was uncovered.  Scratches and cracks were now an everyday threat.   No more could I defiantly slam the phone shut with a hinge.  No, I had to use up what could have been dramatic seconds to push my thumb to a button or a screen sector.  The only protective measure I could buy was a bulky rubber case.


brought to you courtesy of Wiki Commons. Specifically, these folks.

To my dismay, when I tried to take a photo my thumb had to go right in the corner, against the high ridges of the case, and try to tap that one little corner “just-so” where the button was located.  To say that the widescreen display and I had a hate-hate relationship is putting it mildly.  However the videos I played on my phone looked better, sounded better, and this phone had a slide-out keyboard!  Texting, by then a must-adopt form of technology, had never been easier.  The phone had a decent weight to it, like a grenade in my hand, waiting to explode.

After growing constantly weary of the bulk of the Glide (sliding keyboards take up valuable pocket space), I waited once again for my plan to expire.  Thus I met my latest attacker of my sanity, a smaller brand that goes by the name of… um… something.

The actual model is as forgettable as the company that sent it into battle.  I chose it because out of the three pages of phones my provider offered, it was the only one that was free and did not require an upgrade.  Despite all the glowing accolades my friends toss my way, I do not yearn for a smart phone.  The quickly-sapped battery, the fully-exposed screen, the double or tripling of one’s bill; it is not for me.

I would not say that this phone has been kind to me.  The receiver volume is far too low and I hunch over to hear what the other person is saying.  (I refuse to believe that this is old age setting in.  It cannot be.  The phone must be to blame.  It must!)  The camera is fine, the mini-keyboard is okay; it is, to sum it up, adequate.  I have a phone that I have no strong loyalty towards, and it clearly is plotting against me.

Why bring all this up?  Why relive a decade of phone usage and the quirks and trials we have quarreled over together?  Well, my biggest complaint about the most recent phones is actually something my provider has done.  At some point, “They” decided that my voice mail should be number one on my speed dial.  That was the cannon-shot that still resonates across the battlefield.

On my first two phones, my best friend was my number one speed dial setting.  I held down “1”, and soon I was directed to her inbox.  (Best friends understand when the other is too busy to answer.  Which for her, is always.)  She has always been number one. CELFGHT Ever since high school, long before “cellular” got shortened down to a four-letter word (in many, many ways), she was my comrade in arms.  She is the one I go to, the one who all “romantic possibilities” are judged against, and the one who knows all the dirt on me.

When a company turned combatant disregards that bond, they have committed a dishonorable affront.  “They” should be number two, not her!  Her birthday is tomorrow.  Can I really face her knowing that some group of satellite dishes and towers thinks she should be demoted the rank of number two?  (She might actually appreciate it.  If anyone likes a good “number two”, joke it’s her.  Potty humor; I tell ya.)

Still, I get my revenge.  The first call that I make when any phone is activated, the number that I have had memorized all this time?  It is her.  I call the best friend first, everybody else come later.  That is how it has been for almost twenty years, and that is how I like it.

Of course, in a cruel way of showing me I can only control so much in the cellular versus human conflict, the call inevitably goes to voice mail.

A Childish Lesson

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

A Childish Lesson

Sam was hardly the greatest uncle his family had ever produced.  A single, rather introverted fellow, Sam remained content with the busy schedule that he kept.  While his siblings were up late nursing small children, Sam was out late acting childish with other single adults.  He wasn’t a bad person, he wasn’t even a terrible uncle; it simply wasn’t the first activity that he marked on his calendar.  He had made it a habit to visit his nieces.  He had even attended their dance recital.  However there were plenty of times he could have visited Stephanie and Susan that he had opted out of.

The girls were both quite cute and the eldest was well aware of just how cute she was.  The youngest had yet to learn this lesson; she mostly just did what Stephanie told her too.  They looked enough like sisters that people guessed as much without being told.  They had round faces, blue eyes, and blonde hair.  Stephanie’s hair had lost the springy curls that Susan still had, however that meant that she had less tangles to worry about.  

Sam had spent enough time with the ankle-biters to know that Susan was his favorite.  He refused to give a reason as to why, but he insisted that it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Susan looked just like him when he was born.  That was a complete coincidence.  None of the family really believed that, not even Sam.

Along came the birthday party.  Like any other family, Sam’s brother and his sister-in-law had thrown birthday gatherings before.  This year, Sam’s parents were in town to see their grandchildren so he felt that reuniting the family was probably a good idea.  Stephanie and Susan were considerate enough to have their birthdays within a week or two of each other (give or take three years), so it was really just one more visit added to his schedule. 

Sam was wary of small children having birthday parties.  He was at a point in his life where he was trying to get rid of stuff.  He was trying to stop accumulating and start simplifying.  The notion of a gathering where two youngsters acquire even more toys did not entirely appeal to him.  Without meaning to, Sam showed up at his brother’s house without any gifts.  Only upon entering the front door did he realized the faux pas that he had committed.  His relatives shrugged it off and soon the girls were ready for their gifts.

Stephanie, as always, went first.  She was the oldest and the bossies.  No one really seemed to mind.  Soon, and with much ripping of paper, she beheld a doll just a tiny bit smaller than her.  It was intricately decorated and designed, with clothes carefully crafted and a face that looked lifelike enough to endear itself in to any girl’s heart.  “It’s just what I wanted”, Stephanie replied with a smile.

Sam sat, unmoved physically or emotionally.  He was there to support the family.  He felt no need to get emotionally involved.  It was a nice gift, his seven year-old relative was pleased; everything was fine. 

Next it was Susan’s turn.  She was handed a similar sized box and her eyes went wide.  She approached cautiously.  She looked at the box that her mom was offering her.  She looked at her mom.  She looked at her grandmother.  Then she looked back at her mom with a declaration of surprise and awe in her eyes.  “For me?”  The words came out of her tiny mouth with excitement and disbelief.  She struggled with the box that was the same size as her.  She tried hugging it, which proved to yield no results.  Stephanie tried to help.  She held the box to the ground while Susan pulled at the paper and lifted the lid with a mighty heaving action.  Soon, a similar doll to Stephanie’s lay in the box in front of her.  “Thanks!”

Sam found himself taken aback.  This was a moment he had not expected to have with the four year-old.  She was not a child who assumed that things would be given to her.  She hadn’t expected anything.  Susan probably would have been happy to see Stephanie get a gift so long as she got to play with it once in a while.  The entire moment could have been described in one word; joy.  She was thrilled because someone had thought to give her something and she was ecstatic that it was something she had wanted.  There was no attitude of being owed anything.  She couldn’t have been upset that she didn’t get what she wanted because she had never expected to get anything.

Sam found his manly exterior cracking.  He was relieved that everyone was thoroughly enamored with the two girls playing and accessorizing their new dolls.  Their distraction gave him a minute to swallow the lump in his throat and contain himself.  Yep, Sam thought to himself, definitely my favorite niece.  He then sat up and considered scratching his chest or burping.  After all, he had his reputation to think of.


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