My mother-in-law, Ms. Larda, paid extra for a cell phone that don’t do nothing but make phone calls. She said she wanted a phone that knows it’s a phone, and she would take pictures with her camera, thank you very much.
For years Ms. Larda has been proud to say she don’t do Internet, since it ain’t nothing but a passing fad and an excuse for the young people to talk in gibberish. Everything is either initials and numbers, like G4 and GIF, or something silly like Tweedle and BookFace. And don’t talk to her about LOL and ROFLOL. Whatever that is, it’s probably dirty, she says to me. She will just pass.
But then she notices that whenever the grandkids are doing something kind of cute, like slurping up Plum Street snow balls, by the time she finds her camera they’ve moved on to something less cute, like spilling snow balls in her back seat.
And whenever she goes out with her lady friends, they all whip out their cell phones and show zillions of grandkid pictures – videos even – while she’s digging around in her purse for a couple snapshots of hers. Finally she just taped a picture of the kids to the front of her phone, and that helped some, but not enough.
And it turns out all her friends can spy on their teenage grandkids with FaceBook. Ms. Larda can’t, and it drives her nuts.
She begins to suspect she’s made a mistake. She made a few mistakes before – a couple of them husbands were humdingers – and she knows the best thing to do is learn from them and get on with life.
So she sneaks back to the store and tells the clerk she wants a smartphone with all the bells and whistles.
She brings it home and takes it out of the box and looks at it. Then she picks up her house phone and calls my digital know-it-all daughter, Gladiola.
Gladiola is thrilled to rush right over and teach her everything. Unfortunately, she’s creating a monster.
Turns out, Ms. Larda is one of them people who Tweets to the world what she had for breakfast and whether it went down good or made her constipated.
She assumes everything on the Internet is true, and she learns how to press “forward,” so I and all her friends get warned, several times a day, that: our lipstick has arsenic in it, that if we hear a baby crying outside our bedroom window at night, it’s really a deranged murderer with a tape recorder luring us out there, so we should call the police; and that we can asphyxiate ourselves to death from passing gas in a closed-up room.
She also reads that purse-snatchers have turned into phone snatchers and are snatching phones right out of your hand on the street. So she gets one of them purse-sized Kleenex packets and puts her smart phone in that, with a couple tissues on top. Then she puts her old phone, which don’t work no more, in her shirt pocket for distraction. It is a distraction all right. Whenever she comes to see me in the French Quarter and we’re walking down the street, she pulls out the old phone and waves it around and has imaginary conversations on it. If she wants to use her smartphone, she goes into the ladies’ room and locks herself in a stall.
But wouldn’t you know, her trick backfires. She is at the Chalmette Movies with her friend Weezy, and Weezy has a sneezing fit, and Ms. Larda absentmindedly hands her the packet of Kleenex. Weezy takes a couple, then no more tissues come out, and so she drops the packet under the seat.
It ain’t until she’s home again that, Ms. Larda realizes her smartphone is gone. She rushes right back to the theatre and goes to exactly where she sat – but the theatre has been all swept up.
So she goes out back and stares at the dumpster. It is way too big for her to climb in and look for a phone. So she borrows the theatre manager’s phone, and she calls her own number, and very faintly, she hears the “Lone Ranger” theme song, which is her own special ring. It brings tears to her eyes. Thanks be to God she hadn’t figured our how to turn off the ringer before the show started, like she was supposed to.
So she calls me, and she calls my brothers-in-law Lurch and Leech, and we all converge on this dumpster.
I know I ain’t going to climb in there and wade around looking for a Kleenex packet. But just to say we tried, I climb up on the back of Lurch’s pick-up, and he drives up close to the dumpster, and I scooch myself up onto the cab. Laying flat, I’m parallel with the top and I can just see inside. I can hear Ms. Larda praying to St. Anthony, patron of lost objects, negotiating how much she’ll donate to the church poor box if we get the phone back, or if it would be cheaper to just buy another phone. Anyway, they must work out a deal because all of a sudden, I spot a Kleenex packet. Then Lurch remembers he has a fish net with a handle in the truck. He hands it up, and I lean way over, and would you believe, I get the packet, along with a baby diaper and an empty box of Milk Duds.
So Ms. Larda has her smartphone back.
And the rest of world has me and St. Anthony to thank for knowing to open the windows before we pass gas – you’re welcome.