Leta recently received an old cell phone in the mail from two of my readers, Shelli and Narda. They sent it wrapped in an old white athletic sock stuck inside an envelope, truly a wrapping job after my own heart. I never throw away wrapping paper and on more than one occasion I’ve given wedding gifts packaged in old Target plastic bags or paper imprinted with repetitions of “Get Well Soon.” I once had a friend marry a man I could only describe as a troll whose most charming feature was a severe case of nose hair, so that wrapping job wasn’t too inappropriate as I always thought she had to have had a fever when she said yes to that proposal.
Shelli said the phone wouldn’t make any calls but that if we plugged it in the screen would light up and Leta would be able to scroll through digital menus. This gift couldn’t have come at a better time since Leta has almost rendered Jon’s cell phone inoperable, what with the flinging it and using it as a hammer to punish her own head and mashing the buttons so hard that they never popped back up. The babysitter hasn’t yet figured out how to lock her own cell phone and on more than one occasion Leta has called an ex-boyfriend or two. When her current Peruvian boyfriend noticed the dialed numbers and freaked out, all the babysitter had to say was, “Leta got hold of the phone, dude, be glad she didn’t call immigration.”
I immediately plugged in Shelli’s phone because I was so excited at the prospect of going to the bathroom by myself, and she was right! The screen lit up like the sky on the Fourth of July! I myself got a little too excited as I don’t have a cell phone of my own and it’s always neat to see what other’s cell phones can do. I know, I know, I’m a mother now and I need a cell phone if only because I might get stuck in an emergency without a way to call for help. It’s just, I HATE the thought that someone could just call me whenever they wanted to and I would be expected to answer otherwise that whole conversation about WHY ARE YOU SCREENING MY CALLS has to be had when I’m not screening calls I’m just taking a shit for the first time in a week AND DO YOU REALLY WANT TO TALK TO ME WHEN ALL I CAN GIVE BACK IS A GRUNT?
Leta immediately grabbed the phone and started pressing buttons, and yes, the joke can be made here that when she grows up she will be a professional button pusher, she’s well on her way already. Somehow, though, she scrolled through the menu and made the cell phone record a voice memo without either of us knowing what was going on. I have no idea how she did it because afterward I spent a half hour searching unsuccessfully for VOICE MEMO and the closest I got was REDIAL.
Suddenly the phone started playing back what it had recorded, Leta mumbling something about particle converters and electron accelerators and me saying in a high-pitched baby voice, “This is your new cell phone!” Except, the volume on that thing was turned to INCINERATE SURROUNDING WALLS and the sound of my Southern baby talk melted the wax in both our ears. That cell phone came flying out of her hands faster than Jon can jump medians on a four-lane freeway. We both sat there, stunned, staring at the phone now sitting three feet away. I looked at the phone and then I looked at her, and then she looked at the phone and then looked at me, and if she had been able to convert her thoughts into language they would have said, “YOU DIDN’T TELL ME IT WAS GOING TO DO THAT.”
I wanted to say back, “WELL YOU’RE FATHER DIDN’T TELL ME THAT HE WAS GOING TO PASS ON THE GENE FOR FREAKY TECHNOLOGICAL CURIOSITY. TAKE IT UP WITH HIM.”