My beautiful and mysteriously talented daughter

What is it with my kid and her cell phone?

Miss T causes some kind of magnetic rift in the Force that governs cell phones. Or else, she’s a total dingbat. Personally, I like the idea that she messes with the ebb and flow of invisible forces in the way solar flares do. That theory matches my frustration level better. It’s more validating.

She also managed to ruin her iPod, just to make sure she had the concept figured out and was properly able to apply her disruptive technique. After a long, joyful swim in the ship’s pool in January of 2010, when we were floating down the Nile, she went back to the room to change into dry clothes. As she stripped off her wet shorts, her eyes got big and her mouth formed a nice round “o.”

“My iPod!” she gasped.

“Yes?” I asked, pretty much figuring out what she had just discovered.

“It got wet! Do you think it’s ruined?” she asked as she frantically poked buttons and tapped on it and shook it… to no avail.

Yes. The iPod was ruined. We did get lots of great suggestions for how to cure it though. My fave was: place it in a paper bag of dry rice for three days. The rice will wick out all the moisture and Viola! Good as new! But no, swimming in a pool for an hour with an electronic device will kill your device. Don’t try it; just take my word for it.

At the time of her swim in the pool, she was on her second cell phone, an electronic device slowly gasping its way to inevitable death (the Force, already at work?). The first had been one of four her dad purchased for the family, as well as a family plan. A flip phone with no keyboard and no camera. It was stolen from her locker at school in no time. Soon after, her step-mom gave T the identical phone that she had been using, and took that opportunity to upgrade.

At the time we were in Egypt, phone number two had been periodically turning itself off when it was in the mood to do so. This began occurring about once a month, then weekly, and progressed to 4 or 5 times a day. It just turned itself off, whether the batteries were charged or not, and usually right when I was trying to contact her. It is the most maddening thing to be a parent at work, trying to contact the kid to check on her, or tell her I’d be late, or just reassure myself that the house wasn’t burning down, only to be dumped into voicemail the instant my phone connected with hers.

Equally frustrating for her, as she explained, “I had to remember to keep checking it so I could turn it back on in case 911 called and said my mom died.”

Admittedly, I was eager for her to have a new phone. The gasping one was finally put out of its misery and replace with a new blue phone. That one was accidentally dropped at the mall. It had been open when dropped, so the inside screen cracked in a “Y” pattern. As T explains, “The right side of the Y was gone, inside the Y was fuzzy, and the left side clear. I couldn’t read any texts, see pictures, or identify who was on the caller ID.” This phone had a tiny screen on the outside, that she could use to click Enter, and answer incoming calls. She couldn’t send a long text or she would get a message to “Please open phone.” She also couldn’t read a long text, for the same reason. Nothing would appear except “Please open phone.”

Over the summer, Dad got her a really nice sliding phone with a great camera. There were no problems, she said. It had nice texting capabilities, and a nice sized keyboard. It also had a small screen on the front she could use, as well as the inside slider screen. She left it at the beach during surf camp.

She had left the phone inside her lunch bag on top of a rock. She contacted me on facebook, freaking out about what her dad was going to say when he found out. When he got home from work later in the evening, they raced back to the beach and the rock, and there it was!  Hallelujah! Scoldings were apparently not very effective, because two days later, she left it on the beach during surf camp again. She had again left the phone in the lunch bag, but this time laid it right on the sand. When they returned to the beach after her dad got off work, the sand was wet where the phone had been. She went up and down the shore, hoping to find it lodged against a rock somewhere, but did not find it. “I only found seaweed. I guess the phone went out to sea,” she said wistfully.

Her current phone is ok. Not as cool as the last one. It’s got a poor camera and poor sound quality she complains. “We pretty much got the cheapest one we could find.”

I like this one because it has resurrected twice.  While camping at Fort Stevens on the Oregon coastline, T was at Coffenbury Lake and couldn’t resist herself. She took a run off the dock and plunged in – clothes and everything. Halfway back to camp on her bike, she remembered her phone was in her pocket. I received a call from her. I answered, heard her voice talking others nearby, but she couldn’t hear me. When the kids returned, she was in tears and freaking out again. “Dad is going to kill me!”

Well, I nearly took care of that for him. After we both calmed down, we took a look at the phone. She had pulled all its components apart and spread them out on the picnic table. At first she said, the screen was white, but things still happened when she pressed buttons. That’s when she called me. She couldn’t get it to turn off unless she pulled the battery out. She agonized for the whole camping trip about having to tell her dad when she got back home. We were going to postpone telling him as long as possible, in hopes that it would dry out and come back to life. Instead, the moment she got home and turned on her computer, dad called in on Skype. Poor little kid, she confessed in tears immediately, and then suffered his response.

But this one, without the help of rice, DID come back to life three days later. Almost as good as new, except that the space bar no longer works when she’s texting. Her first attempt to deal with the problem had been to capitalize the first letter of each word, but that had been too tedious. Now when she sends a text, which is frequently, each word is separated with a period. She joyously called her dad to share the news.

Only one week later, it was stolen from her locker at school. Now, she has learned about locking lockers by this time, but it was stolen from the gym locker, where her teacher assured the class that no one can get in except people in the class, so they do not let the kids lock the gym lockers. When she returned to the shower room after gym class, her phone and student ID were gone, but the backpack had been left alone.

I can’t tell you the agony of this poor child when she came home from school that day and told me what happened. She was crumpled. She said she would turn over all her savings to buy the next phone. It was awful to witness. She couldn’t bring herself to tell her dad yet. She had looked all over to see if someone would have turned it in somewhere, the library, the gym (even looked in the locker again, just in case she was crazy), asked the gym teacher. Nothing. The next day, she tried at the office again, and they had the phone and the ID. Miraculously, someone had turned them in. The people in the office told her, “Don’t ever lose these again because you are very lucky this time. People never turn things in.”

As I wrote this blog, I had been asking her to help me remember the history of all her phones. In jest, I asked her at the end, “Did you lose any other electronic devices?” And she dropped her head onto a pillow in front of her. “The iPod Touch!” she wailed, reminding me of her dad’s birthday gift to her. Her muffled voice came from inside the pillow, “$300 and 36 gigabytes! I can’t find it. I’ve looked and looked. Dad is going to be so mad! He’s gonna kill me. Don’t tell him.”

Check out this video from Hawai’i last month. In the last few seconds of playing in the surf, you can actually witness her remembering phones in her pockets. This time, no damage.

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