Thursday, December 4, 2008

Let's Forget About This Call

"What in God's name happened to this?" the saleswoman asked. "It looks like it got attacked by a animal."

"Funny story," I said, looking at the mangled cell phone she was holding. "It did."


"Yeah. My puppy got it. I made the mistake of leaving my middle kid home alone with her and this is the result."

She burst out laughing. "At least she didn't chew through the battery. That could have been bad."

"A tragedy," I said.

My oldest son, who'd accompanied me to the phone store, glared at me. He's already made clear that our puppy Lucy hates me at least as much as our old dog Katie did.

It's been a long week. The leg on one of our kitchen chairs has been reduced to splinters. Bad, but not as bad as the kitchen table leg that shared the same fate. Fortunately, our house is decorated in Hellhole Moderne and it's not like people are going to notice a gnawed up chair when they have to wade through shoes and puppy toys and sporting goods and mud just to get to the kitchen in the first place.

The real problem with the phone is my middle kid's now on his sixth in the last year. More than $1,000 worth of phones. Do I love my children that much? Don't be silly.

Two were lost; they were insured. One was stolen; it was a loaner forgiven by the phone company. One was in his pocket when he fell in a pool; he got his mother's old phone when she upgraded her own. Now the dog has eaten one. Fortunately, his older brother was due for a free upgrade and was therefore willing to relinquish his old one.

"You don't have insurance on this, do you?" asked the saleswoman, holding the phone carcass away from her as though it was a dead mouse.

"I did. I used it already."

"You get two replacements with that policy."

"I know. I used them both."

She started laughing again.

"It's horrible, isn't it?" I asked nobody in particular, putting my head down on the counter.

My oldest started to get nervous, concerned I was working myself into a public frenzy. I took a breath and wandered off to the literature rack while the saleswoman transferred phone numbers and SIM cards and what have you. As I studied the coverage area ATT offers, much of which excludes the godforsaken places I travel every spring for work, my own phone rang. It was home, which meant it was my middle child, with whom I was currently in no mood to have a conversation. I ignored the ringing.

Moments later, his brother's phone rang. He answered it, listened for a moment, then hung up.

"Dad, that was my brother. He's going to call you again. You better answer. He said it was really important."

Before he finished speaking, my own phone rang again. I answered.

"What?" I demanded.

"I broke my tooth, I was eating a cookie, I heard a crack, I looked, there was a piece of tooth in my hand, I broke a tooth, oh my God. . . ." he gibbered before trailing off into unintelligible wails.

"Calm down, buddy. You broke a tooth?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh my God."

"Was it a baby tooth or a permanent tooth?"

"I don't know!"

"Does it hurt?"

"No, but oh my God, I broke a tooth!"

"If it doesn't hurt, it's probably not a permanent tooth." Having cracked a few teeth in my life, I'm on expert on dental pain.

"What if it is?" he howled.

"We're almost done here," I told him. "I'll come home and we'll call our friend A. and see if she can take a look."

"What's she going to do?" he shrieked.

"She's a dentist," I reminded him. "She'll know what to do."

That seemed to calm him. "Okay. Hurry."

I hung up.

"He cracked a tooth?" asked my oldest.

"Sounds like it."

"He was probably chewing on a phone again," he said. The saleswoman snickered despite herself.

Soon enough she got us on our way, no doubt to her great relief. When we arrived at home, the oldest immediately dashed to his room to charge the new phone and read the owner's manual from front to back. Meanwhile I checked the boy's tooth and took him over to A.'s house, where she confirmed my suspicion it was a baby tooth and said the rest of it would soon fall out. I offered her twenty bucks to pull it on the spot and was delighted at the look of panic that elicited from my son.

Arriving back home, I gave him his brother's old phone, along with a stern lecture about the need to preserve our capital assets. He pretended to listen and I pretended to be satisfied.

When my youngest returned from basketball practice he demanded a recap of the evening's events, which he seemed to thoroughly enjoy. He especially liked the part about the cracked tooth, which made him squirm with delicious empathetic agony.

"That's just sick," he said.

"Everything about my life is just sick," I replied.

"Good night, Dad," he said, giving me a hug.

"Good night, buddy," I said. "Brush your teeth."

"I will, I promise," he said, shuddering again at his brother's narrow escape from the horrors of the dentist's chair.

"All is not lost, then," I said.


Anonymous said...

$1000 worth of phones? Clearly you are man of substance and could benefit from my moneymaking scheme to make dentistry obsolete. Ever heard of "Gorilla Glue"? Wonderful product that most people are completely ignorant of.
Look, I probably shouldn't say anymore until you are fully committed, but I think you have enough information to understand the moneymaking potential!!!

Ted Williams

Anonymous said...

your kids have cellular phones?

when I was a kid, i used cups and a piece of string!!

bet that would save you 900 bucks(assuming you spend 100 bucks on high quality string)... 900 bucks buys you a LOT of bourbon..or a little bit of moose. you now have a choice!

Jennifer said...

My eldest lamblet is so afraid of losing her phone that she never takes it anywhere thus negating the entire reason we got her the phone... so we could be in touch with her when we weren't together.

fish said...

He pretended to listen and I pretended to be satisfied.

If this isn't the perfect description of my parenting experience, I don't know what is.

Brando said...

Don't feel too bad, Snag. My brother Tickle did the same thing, but with cars. I think he wrecked four, and he had to get rid of a fifth one because the mechanic told him it could catch fire at any moment if he kept driving it.