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Sorry, I can't come to the phone

April 21, 2012
By SUMMER WALLACE-MINGER , Weirton Daily Times

I've had a cellphone for somewhere between eight and 10 years, and I'm only on my third one. This is not because I don't want something sleek, fast and shiny, but because the Long Suffering Husband is notoriously frugal (i.e. cheap).

The first one was tiny, and - although I most assuredly do not have man hands - it was almost impossible to dial, had only the most rudimentary texting abilities and I think it was probably a dial-up, although I wasn't allowed to use any of those features. (Cheap.)

I had it for approximately four or five years, until the battery would barely hold a charge. The LSH's solution for this was to buy a car charger, because it makes much more sense to force me to plug the phone into the car every time I wanted to use it, instead of buying a new phone. (It defeated the purpose of having a mobile phone, if you ask me.)

My co-workers never believed me when I told them I missed calls because my phone was dead; they thought I was dodging them. I understand having 20 or more missed calls is ridiculous, but, at times, I couldn't have answered it if I wanted to (not that I really did, but still). The LSH also was annoyed at my inability to answer the phone and also blamed me, although it was his fault.

I lost that thing while on assignment, and the LSH was incredulous. How could I possibly have lost it, he asked. Because it was the size of a business card and just about as worthless. My only consolation was the battery died so quickly that, even should someone find it, it wouldn't work for them either.

I was fairly happy with the next phone, which was much more text-capable, but I accidentally hit the Internet browser button one too many times, and the LSH had all Internet access to my phone turned off.

Without consulting me.

"I turned the Internet off on your phone," he said casually one evening after dinner.

"Huh? I wasn't using it." I was reserving the ability to use it in the case of an emergency, likely one in which I was lost in the wilds of western Pennsylvania. Of course, who was I kidding? I probably wouldn't even get a signal.

"You kept hitting the button on accident. It cost us $6.70 last month."

"You didn't ask me."

"You don't have a data package on that phone. They want $20 a month for that."

I didn't hit him in the head with a frying pan, but I'm telling you, it was a close thing.

About three weeks ago, maybe more, it mysteriously stopped working. It wouldn't take a charge at all. Not even the car charger worked. I wandered phone-free for several weeks. I couldn't make calls, but neither could I get them, and that was a beautiful thing.

"Did you get my phone call about that huge favor I need immediately that would incredibly inconvenience you but you'll feel obligated to do anyway? Is it done?"

"Sorry, my phone died."

He finally bought me a new smart phone, so I've finally entered this century, a decade after everyone else. It actually has a camera on it that doesn't make my kids look like blurry aliens. Since I picked it out myself - the LSH was trapped at work - I was able to pick out a new plan, too. (After he added me to the account - after a decade, I wasn't even allowed to make changes to the plan. That did not go over well.)

When the saleswoman showed me the GPS system that allowed you to zero on your exact location and would give you directions, my eyes just about popped right out of my skull.

"How much for the GPS?"

"It's included with the data package, you get the Internet, App Store - "

"But you get the GPS with that other stuff?"


"Sign me up."

They also wanted to know if I wanted that creepy Siri, in which a program pretends the phone can communicate with you like a real person. Only another $10 a month. Why would I want that? I already have two kids who talk back, and they're free.

(Wallace-Minger is The Weirton Daily Times community editor and can be contacted at

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