Ever since it lost its ability to charge for long periods (though that occasionally changes for no discernable reason), I have found myself nearly side swiping tractor trailers as I attempt to steer with my knees and talk to my kids while trying to keep the phone charger plugged in despite the missing metallic connector that keeps the phone hooked on. This means that at any given moment I'll have a conversation that goes like this:
Daughter: "Mom! Okay, don't freak. I don't think they're going to call the state cops or anything. I mean, the detective who interviewed me said he probably wouldn't have to ..."
Me (juggling phone charger, trying to not pick off school children who've just crossed in front of my car): "What? What happened?
Daughter: I swear, it wasn't my ---- beep, beep, beep LOW BATTERY CALL WAS LOST!
See, this is the thing about cell phones. We come to rely on them only to find they're completely unreliable. Like bungee cords bought on discount with a bit of fraying at the edges. The day you break down in a rainstorm on a remote rural road is the day you find out that, being a remote rural road, there's no cell phone reception. Or your battery is shot and you desperately need to call someone but there's no way to get a charge. I have a somewhat funny story about this, but before I share, let me direct you to a not-funny-at-all story. A story about a college girl and her cell phone on a Burlington, Vermont, street earlier this month.
I have no doubt the parents of Michelle Gardner-Quinn bought her a cell phone for the same reason my mother bought me my first in oughty ought - for safety. And yet, when she really needed it the phone failed her. Walking back to her dorm down Main Street at 2 a.m. on a busy Saturday night during parents weekend, having left her friends at a bar, Michelle, 21, tried to make a call and found her battery was too low.
Up walks Brian l. Rooney, 36, a peach of a guy, who does have a working cell phone. He also has pending sex assault charges in two other counties. He offers to let Michelle use his phone. She does. (Smart going, Brian) They walk past a jewelry store surveillance camera and that is the last anyone saw Michelle alive. Her body was found wedged between some rocks, murdered by strangulation and blunt trauma to the head. She'd also been raped. You can read more here. Brian says he was too drunk to remember anything.
I was luckier years ago when I was driving to Barnard, Vermont, the week after Town Meeting to interview a colorful farmer who'd raised a lot of hell about taxes. A simple feature story, except I forgot that to get to the heart Barnard, Vermont, you have to drive down five miles of dirt road. That's fine forty-nine or so weeks out of the year, but not the week after Town Meeting in March when the dirt turns to mud and the mud, literally, swallows your car.
I'd done my best to ride the ruts, but I was in tears by the time my low-riding Honda Civic hit a sinkhole. How low in the mud was I? I was so low I couldn't even open my door and ended up crawling through my window. There was no one around, aside from a few houses and they looked pretty empty. Lots of cows, though.
BUT...I had my CELL PHONE! The "brick" it was named since that's what it looked like. Except, of course, the battery was dead and this was in the days before car chargers. Always equipped with my outlet charger, I squelched through the mud to a pretty yellow house. No one was home in the middle of the day, so what would be the harm in plugging my phone into an outdoor outlet? I did. The phone lit up and the back door opened.
"That won't work there," a woman informed me. "You're in a valley."
It took me a second to recognize her. And when I did, I wanted to go back and sink in the mud myself. Here I'd been attempting to steal electricity from none other than Vermont's most famous contemporary print artist, Sabra Field, who designed, among other things, Vermont Public Television's distinctive logo. This is what happens when you're in Barnard, Vermont. Nothing but mud, cows and famous artists to deal with. By the way, the son of the guy I was supposed to interview was also some town official. He came by in his truck and his boys, when they were done with lunch, towed me out.
Still, you've got my point about the cell phones, right?
Okay, let's hear your cell phone horror stories and, before I sign off, may I just wish our friend Mary Alice Gorman the very best of luck tomorrow. May your prognosis be excellent, your treatment a piece of cake and your recovery fast. Here's to many, many more years of you being a pain...no, wait,... a BLESSING to us all. We're praying for you, kiddo.
Pssst! Just want to point out that BUBBLES ALL THE WAY comes out NOVEMBER 7th, although apparently people have already started picking it up at various bookstores.......