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The Column

Can You Hear Me Now?
3/13/05

I sat in my mother's car, staring out the window at all the headstones. I thought of what mine would say in that little line too short to truly encapsulate a human.

"I hope mine says, 'he made people laugh,'" I suggested.

"What about, 'thank god that's over'?" my sister countered.

*     *     *

Friday night, I flew to New Jersey for a college convention, and while waiting for my bags, I plugged my phone in to recharge it. Nothing.

I didn't freak out right away. I tried removing and replacing the battery. I tried restarting it. I tried removing and replacing the battery while restarting it. Nothing. Then, I freaked out.

I am attached to my cell phone. I never shut it off except when I'm on stage or asleep. I rue the times I am out of service. So much that I use the word "rue." Occasionally I'm in a situation where I can't answer it. But I am still comforted knowing someone is calling.

I have not reset my phone book in the five and a half years I have had a cell phone. I have also not backed up my phone book, which is probably a ridiculously stupid idea on my part. But so was flying Southwest Airlines, and that didn't stop me. (I rue them, too).

I was trying to figure out what was wrong with my phone. The light on my charger was on, so it was probably the battery or (gasp!) the phone itself. With 8 more months on my contract, I knew I wasn't getting a new phone anytime soon. This one needed to be fixed.

I took the battery out again and looked at it, as if I'd be able to identify the problem.

"Oh, there it is! There's a tiny man dancing on one of the connecter pins! Now that I've shooed him away, it's time to get this baby charged!"

I tried everything. I restarted it again, in case it didn't know it was being restarted the first few times. I even blew on it, Nintendo-style. If it worked for Contra, it'd work for Sprint. No luck. I was phoneless.

I made whatever calls I needed to, which were all punctuated by my cries of "I gotta go , my phone is dying!" Then I shut it off to preserve the final 10 minutes of talk time. I had a busy weekend and I knew it'd be days before I could hit a Sprint store. There were definitely people I called earlier in the day that wouldn't have heard from me if I knew how little battery I had left. (Now I rue them, too.)

I had a good convention otherwise, but spent most of it stressed about my phone. What if an agent was calling? What if a hot girl was calling? What if a hot girl agent was calling? Oh, the sheer possibilities of what I was missing drove me crazy. Even though I actually missed nothing.

Sunday morning, I boarded a train to New York. I was going home, albeit for a few hours. My grandmother passed away over the summer, and Jewish tradition dictates a gathering at the graveside to unveil the headstone and say a few last words. I was glad I could be there, but stressed I couldn't make any calls. Between the train station and my mother's apartment, I borrowed the cab driver's phone to call my mother and tell her I was going to be able to make it after all. And I checked my messages just in case I missed any agents or hot girls.

I arrived five minutes early, and stopped at Radio Shack to see if I could miraculously revive my phone. My now discontinued phone they weren't selling. As I began stressing more at this new piece of knowledge, the clerk offered to at least plug it in to see if it was the charger.

"It's not the charger," I said, before she showed me it was indeed the charger. I bought a new one and left for the apartment, much less stressed knowing that soon, I'd have phone service again.

With my phone charging, I sat in my mother's car, staring out the window at all the headstones. I thought of what mine would say in that little line too short to truly encapsulate a human.

After a brief exchange with my sister, my phone rang. Excited for who it could be, I picked up and got a telemarketer. Hanging up and looking back across the cemetery, I realized my headstone should say, "he missed the point." How ironic that I kept telling everyone that my phone was dying just before visiting the grave of my grandparents. I spent the weekend stressed about my messages when my mother did fine thinking about arrangements for her mother's headstone. I laughed aloud. Partly as a defense mechanism, and partly because I spend so much time writing about other people's stupidity, I often forget my own.

Perhaps "he made people laugh," would be appropriate for my headstone. As long as it was followed by "especially himself."

I unplugged my phone.

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