OF HIPPOS AND MEN. AND STEINBECK AND MINIVANS.

I was born into an analog world. Since that time, the rest of the world has quite clearly gone bonkers, that is to say digital. The first computer I ever saw was the size of a large living room and required enough cold air to keep it from overheating to create its own climate. My son pointed out to me that the first computer I saw had less “computing power” or some such than my cell phone has. I realize that they’re called “smart phones” now but, apostate that I am, I learned “cell phone” first so that’s what my brain tells my mouth to call it.

My cell phone and I have an uneasy, often adversarial relationship. Perhaps this was caused, and this is a true story, by when I went to the cell phone store to purchase it and asked the twelve year old “manager” for “The Stupidest Phone you have in the store.” Yes, I really said that. Maybe my phone heard it and now harbors ill will toward me. I had intended no insult to the phone, I was merely looking for something I could someday learn to operate, like an abacus perhaps. The problem is that I’m not terribly good at technical things. In point of fact, I tend to have enormous trouble operating anything more complicated than a hammer. In any event, the cell phone and I got off to a rocky start. I had believed, naively as it turned out, that I could use my phone to perform three useful (To me) functions: Making telephone calls, receiving telephone calls and telling me the time. The phone had other, more sinister ideas.

When I wanted to call home to say I’d be late, I would often find myself attempting to apologize to an irritated man in Iceland whom I’d awakened from a sound sleep. The problem here seems to be that the engineers who designed this piece of yak dung (Thought I was gonna say “Shit” didn’t ya?) made the keys used to operate this INSTRUMENT OF SATAN approximately one-fourth the size of my fingertips. I admit that I have large hands. I understand that this is a “Thing” with our future President. He needs to worry about more important “things” but I digress. I was cursed with fingers that closely resemble bratwursts so, since the operating keys are, as noted above, one quarter the size of my fingertips, it should not surprise anyone, not even a life form as little-evolved as cell phone engineers, that every single fucking time I try to dial this menace, I hit four times the correct number of keys. (Editor’s note: He’s raving. Ignore him. It’ll pass as soon as he figures out where I hid the whisky.) No wonder Lars Larsen in Iceland is getting testy. Would it have killed the engineers (Aha. An idea.) to make phone buttons the size of fingertips? Before I have to head for the Bromo and a handful of Valium, I suppose that in order to lower the tension around here, I should talk about something else.

That something else is- wait for it- Answering the fucking phone. All my life I have hated telephones with a blinding, shrieking passion. Now that most people who know me refrain from calling, my phone only “rings” (Actually, it plays a selection of intensely crappy music.) a few times a week. So, whenever I hear a shitty refrain emanating from my trousers and it doesn’t sound like an out-of-tune Sousaphone with an angry goose lodged in the bell, I pull out my phone and attempt to answer it. Seldom in the long history of our language has the word “attempt” been used with more precision. (Thank you, Bill Bryson.) There’s a green horizontal bar across the screen that I’m supposed to drag down to the bottom of the screen in order to answer my call. This maneuver is successful no more than one-third of the time, possibly because just above the green “Answer” bar, there is a red bar of equal size that kills the incoming call so I often find myself yelling into the phone “Hey Lars! Is that you?” to no one. My phone is also generously provided with several buttons around its rim. I don’t specifically know their functions, if any, but I do know that one of them terminates phone calls. So, if someone calls and actually gets connected, with my giant hands and sausage fingers, I almost always accidentally hit the “Terminate” button and the caller is hung up on.

And don’t get me started on texting. In any group of people these days, most of them will be heads down, staring at a small screen while giving both of their thumbs a vigorous workout, chimp-like, on the keyboard. This, I don’t mind. Whether they’re playing a game or texting, as long as they are not jabbering at me, I’m happy. What I do take issue with is when people are talking or texting on their phones while driving. This is clearly forbidden in the Gospels, Book of Edsel, Chapter three, verse four, Section A, Row 37, Seat 9. It sayeth: “Text thou not when thou art behind the wheel of a moving vehicle for it is an abomination unto me. Neither shalt thou use a cellphone, as it is also sinful unto me. I am an all-powerful and just and merciful God and I love you all as my children but it’s getting Goddamned difficult to keep up with ten million chowderheads at once. I don’t have eyes in the back of my head and the Guardian Angel Union is bugging me about overtime. Knock it the Hell off, before somebody gets hurt.”

It should go without saying, but it won’t, that my feeble attempts at texting are even less successful and considerably more time-consuming than dialing. I have what I believe is called a Voice-to-Text function in my phone and a friend showed me how to use it. You just push a button and then speak into the phone and, wonder of wonders, it turns my voice into a text in what appears to be Icelandic. I have given up on Voice to Text because I’m now getting Cease and Desist Orders from Lars Larsen’s attorneys and his wife is threatening to smack me upside the head with a herring.

My cell phone also boasts two, count ‘em, two cameras, both designed to thwart any chance of taking a decent or even tolerable photograph. The cameras have several idiosyncrasies. It is way too easy to activate one of them. It usually happens when I’m trying to dial the damn phone and instead of numbers I get a faint view of the ground in front of me. The reason the image is faint is that the screen reflects back into your eyes all of the fucking light on your half of the planet. This leads to awful photos. You’ll try to photograph a hippo at the zoo but because of the glare, you end up taking a picture of a minivan, thinking it’s the hippo. You take numerous shots, following it as it moves slowly past, so that maybe one photo will be clear, totally unaware that it is just an ordinary minivan. After a while you stop and realize that it was not a hippo but a minivan and you look back over your shoulder and see The Line. The line separating “kinda normal” from “Maybe I’d better Taser this fool.” The couple driving the minivan has stopped and are talking in loud voices to a police officer.

They’re kind of hard to understand but the officer says loudly and clearly- “What seems to be the trouble, Mr. and Mrs. Larsen?”

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