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Convenience toy

When a teen stays home sick from school, his mom scoffs at his need for so many hi-tech toys. Then
she comes to a realization of how necessary they really are.

All the essentials
With three remote-control clickers on his right and the cat on his left, my son settled back against the sofa cushions. Skylar had a wicked case of poison oak and looked like the sole survivor of an attack by killer wasps. As any 13-year-old might have said upon staring into the mirror that morning, he moaned, “I can’t let my friends see me like this.” Besides, with all that Benadryl on board, he could only stay awake for about 90 minutes at a time. So I let him stay home from school.

The cat snuggled against Skylar’s thigh, purring. She knows when one of us is sick and sticks like Velcro. I knew my son would have a companion for the day to share his misery, only of course the cat wasn’t miserable. She would thoroughly enjoy a stationary, warm body to lean against. But still, it’d be company.

So. The remotes. The cat. His slippers and an extra pillow for naps. A table with a bottle of orange juice, Benadryl, Calamine lotion and cotton balls, tortilla chips and salsa, and Game Boy for commercials. And his cordless phone.

Earth to planet parent
I saw the phone and asked whom he planned on talking to during a school day. He looked at me blankly and said, “Dad.”

“Dad?” I didn’t get it.

“Yeah. Dad.” He turned back to the television, ignoring me.

“Your father just went to rent some videos for you. Why would you be expecting a phone call from him?”

With the patience that teenagers reserve for clueless parents when it comes to digital things that go “beep,” he raised his voice and spoke with exaggerated slowness, staring at me as if I were from Planet Parent – which I am, actually.

“Mom. Dad. Is going. To call me. From the store. So he can tell me. What videos. Are available. Get it?” Then he turned his attention away from me with a gesture that translates, This conversation is over. Go away.

I got it. I didn’t believe it, but I got it.

One strange conversation
Sure enough, five minutes later his phone rang, and I overheard one end of a strange conversation.

“No, I’ve already seen Revenge of the Nerds…Yeah, that one’d be okay… And how ’bout Pulp Fiction?… Aw, Dad, it’s not too gory. Come on…Well, then, what about Debbie Does Dallas? …Whaddaya mean? I’m plenty old enough to see X-rated flicks… How old will I have to be before you’ll let me rent, like, Fetishes?… Eighteen? Give me a break!… Lethal Weapon IV? Cool, I didn’t even know that was out on video…Yeah, Terminator. It’s perfect. Mom would hate it.”

I rolled my eyes as I imagined my husband conducting a guided tour through the most garish section of Blockbuster Video with a cell phone clasped to his ear. Is this what we’re paying $60 a month for, so some little eighth grade potentate can tweak his father on the end of a cordless leash as he serves him from the video store? I felt it was a bit over the top, myself.

Remembering the cell phone in her purse
My husband actually sat down to watch some of Dumb and Dumber with his itchy, puffy son. They had a great time laughing at bathroom jokes, guffawing at frog-in-the-blender humor, endless scenes of vomiting and general slapstick knuckle-headedness.

I stayed away both physically and spiritually, far above their sophomoric guffaws and certainly light years removed from their reliance on cell phones and other convenience toys that communicate in some digital language that I don’t speak.

That afternoon I stopped by the grocery store on my way home. In the produce section, I paused, wondering if we needed Romaine lettuce. A vision of my husband in the video store popped into my head. I pulled the phone out of my purse, that little black digital (or analog – whatever!) toy that I had resisted for years. When the males in the family forced it on me, I’d sworn, “I’ll use it once a month, tops.”

I dialed my son’s phone line. Shouting to be heard above the noise of exploding bombs, I asked him to give me a guided tour of the refrigerator as I wheeled my cart through Safeway.

Refrigerator inventory
He didn’t see anything strange about my request. He walked into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and said, “Okay, we have plenty of green onions, no mushrooms, and only a little bit of that weird kind of lettuce that I don’t like. We’re almost out of Claussen pickles. There’s half a carton of milk left, but I’ll drink that before dinner, so you’d better get more. Oh, gross! I just stuck my thumb through a dead tomato. You definitely need tomatoes. And could you buy some Sprite, and how ’bout a frozen pepperoni pizza?”

I kept him on the line for 10 minutes as I powered up and down the aisles. Then I released him to Mel Gibson’s next death-defying escapade and made my way to the checkout lines. I tucked the phone back into the interior pocket of my purse, the pocket that was made just for cell phones. I had laughed at that notion when I bought the shoulder bag.

I wasn’t laughing any more.

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