Monday, January 26, 2009

Calling my daughter...Where R U?

I have compiled a mental list of what I consider to be “life changing” moments. So far I have three. I would have had four had the Cubs won the World Series in 2008. But since they choked, as only the Cubs know how, the list stands at three:

1) I got married

2) My first child was born

3) Aforementioned child got her first cell phone

If, for a moment, you care to debate whether number three truly changed my life, I invite you to spend a day at my house and watch my 11-year-old daughter Natalie in action. You will no doubt leave my home only after giving me a supportive pat on the back and perhaps a bottle of vodka to help me get through the rest of my life.

I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. Natalie is a sixth-grader, which means we are lengthening her leash and allowing her extra freedom. Her friends’ parents are doing the same, which explains why cell phones had become so prevalent among her peers in the past year. The car pool backseats have grown much quieter because most of her friends spend the entire ride to volleyball practice and sleepovers tapping out text messages, often to each other. Such is the case when your cell phone plan comes with UNLIMITED TEXT!!!

One by one, the girls all got phones until Natalie was convinced the only people in the world without this communication necessity was herself and a remote tribe in the Congo. She was left to peer over her friends’ shoulders or worse, use my phone to send text messages. One day I looked at my address book and names like “Lauren,” “Cheyenne,” “Ali” and “Haley” had been added.

At the beginning of the school year, we struck a deal after a lengthy discussion: keep your grades up and wait until Christmas and you will have a phone. Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, Natalie, already an excellent student, began requesting trips to every Best Buy and Sprint store within a 50-mile radius of our home. Once inside, she pored over the phone selection the same way a gourmet chef looks at onions. Numerous phones were discarded for various reasons including “no slide out keyboard,” “not enough buttons” and “it only comes in red.” The phones all looked the same to me but I’m not eleven and therefore, have no idea what I’m talking about.

Eventually she settled on something called a “Rant” from Sprint. Oh, and she also informed us that it had to be purple. I’m not sure if purple phones get better reception but I could only imagine Alexander Graham Bell doing flip flops in his grave as he realized his history making invention was being judged based on color.

At this point, it was time for lengthy discussion number two: paying for it. We were determined to discuss this subject in detail as we have already heard horror stories from neighbors who didn’t properly explain what is and what is not included on a cell phone plan. As a result, they were greeted with thousand dollar bills for services such as “Hannah Montana’s ringtone of the day.”

We struck another deal: We buy the phone, add it to our family plan and she contributes 15 bucks a month. If she doesn’t have the money, we keep the phone for the entire month and decide whether we want to return text messages such as “WHAT R U DOIN?” HALEY. With just a slight eye roll, she agreed and then retreated to her room to ponder a future career as a baby sitter.

The Fall whizzed by. Her grades kicked butt. She made the Honor Roll. Knowing the phone would soon be hers, she went into cell phone training. By that I meant she began talking about cell phones with her friends the way an engineer talks about widgets. She boldly asked to see her friends’ phones and compare them with the Rant that she still did not have. She even sent my wife text messages from other phones, just to prove she had mastered the technology that will eventually replace verbal communication.

Finally the blessed day arrived. December 25, the birthday of our Lord and the day my daughter became cool again. Sue had decided to prolong the moment by wrapping the fully functioning Rant in eight boxes and calling the number as Natalie began unwrapping them. However, due to our cluelessness, we failed to maximize the volume level on the phone so nobody heard the ringing phone as Natalie tore through box after box. Eventually the phone made its debut, with the same amount of enthusiasm as a newborn passing through a birth canal. Within minutes Natalie was texting her friends and I was growing aware that face-to-face conversation with my daughter would no longer be a given, but a treat.

Unless her battery dies or she can’t scrape up 15 bucks.

About Greg Schwem

Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and humorous speaker. He is president of Comedy With a Byte. View clips of Greg by visiting or visiting his YouTube playlist by clicking here

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