Joe Careno had just settled into a chair at the kitchen table with a steaming cup of coffee when the crankiness he carries round in his pocket exploded. Joe packs a portion of corndodgery with him wherever he goes in case someone irritates him.
I was about to ask what had flipped his toggle when the explanation burst from his mouth.
“I hate cellphones,” he sputtered.
He happened to be holding a cellphone two inches from his face.
“What is it about a cellphone that gets your nanny goat?” I asked.
I could smell the sulfur smoldering in his pants pocket.
“Because people are rude,” he said.
“I hate these _)*&^% texts,” he said.
I told him that the text setup made it possible to write a letter the size of a postage stamp on a keyboard that would be a match for matchbook.
“You’re lucky you don’t have small hands,” I said.
I have a friend with fingers as big as half dollars. He once considered going into medicine. Imagine with 50-cent piece fingers becoming a proctologist.
Worse things have happened in the wonderful world of modern medicine, I said. :LOL! AOL, etc.
Joe had another complaint, this one more bitter than the first.
“How are these kids going to learn to spell?” He wants to know.
“Why do people text in the first place?” Joe asks. “They pull a perfectly good cellphone out of their purse or pocket, open it, turn it over and use that ridiculously small keyboard. Why not just lift it to their mouth and say something: “Hello, hello, lol.”
“They get confused,” I said. “When they get the microphone up to their mouth, the speaker is jammed under their cheekbone. The microphone is smothered by the cheek itself when the speaker is placed over the ear.
“Why don’t they just make the phone bigger?” Joe snapped.
I shrugged. Dunno.
It occurred to me that a bigger phone would be easier for a teacher to spot and confiscate.
I remembered teachers who locked only one desk drawer. That drawer was reserved for contraband. That contraband consisted of all sorts of Bakelite and steel weapons of mass destruction. I contributed generously to these caches.
These weapons included:
Squirt guns so small they would fit in the palm of your hand. From the back row a water marksman could squirt an arc that would seem to fall straight from the ceiling on front row “A” students.
Knives: The cutlery was all small and constituted a boy’s mobile workshop. Knives were used to dig holes for a five-hole marble court, construct willow whistles, to play “stretch” and to clean a guy’s fingernails. It was usually during this act of personal hygiene that knives were discovered and confiscated.
Joe was still waiting for an answer to his question when I closed my eyes and searched the inside of my head for an image of a locked desk drawer half full of cell phones.
I spotted the captured phones and wondered what a teacher would do with her prizes when school ended. She would not give the phones back to their owners. The phones – like the squirt guns and knives in my day – would never be returned. She did not use them, bury them in her garden or give them to her nephews. The nephews’ parents would protest that last solution.
Dropping the whole batch into a trash can seemed easier. But why collect them instead of pitching them out as she collected them?
There were several reasonable options but the teachers picked none of them. Low tech, high tech, they packed the munitions home and somehow disappeared them.