Mom's Cell Phone

Note – no mom’s feelings were hurt in the writing of this essay . . .

Employees at a Scotland zoo began receiving prank calls one July afternoon. It wasn’t a child asking if they had Prince Albert in a can or if their refrigerator was running. It wasn’t a telemarketer or one of those recorded septic tank sales pitches. It was Chippy, a chimp who had quietly stolen a zookeeper’s cell phone and figured out how to dial the phone’s stored numbers. Chippy eventually gave himself away by shrieking into the phone, probably overcome by a fit of laughter when he realized that he could run the zoo from his cage with a cell phone. And he did this without a human sized brain.

My dogs can use a phone, too. I left them alone while I ran errands. They wanted to call out – maybe for pizza – but they couldn't reach the pre-programmed wall phone so they took the cordless phone off the coffee table. When they had trouble remembering the new 10 digit dialing procedure, they gave up and just dialed 911. Lacking a human sized brain, and hands, they used their teeth. Not bad for a bunch of furballs.

Even my little brother can use a phone. The size of his brain is debatable, and I don’t know whether he prefers to use his hands or his teeth but he manages.

My mother is a different story. For two years, she’s been complaining that her cell phone won’t work unless it’s plugged into the cigarette lighter socket. Since the phone is old, I assumed she’d fried the battery. I advised her to get another battery and left it at that. I should have known better. She is always complaining about modern devices. Her answering machine committed suicide. Her cordless phone ran away from home. Her computer began chewing its own leg off to get free of her house. I should have been suspicious about the cell phone story but she’s my Mom so I accepted her explanation. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, in the car, I listened as my mother and grandmother discussed purchasing cordless phones. My mother turned to me, “Do you have to plug a cordless phone base into a phone jack?” I wanted to answer, “Does a bear eat in the woods?” or, even more appropriate, “Is the telephone code for Antarctica 6-7-2?” but I was too stunned to form the words.

I looked at her cell phone, cradled in its dash mounted holster, stand-by light flashing slowly, secure with its umbilical cord plugged into the cigarette lighter. I looked at my mother, cradled in her seatbelt, steadily driving 5 mph below the speed limit, securely fastened to the car with both hands on the wheel. I looked back at the cell phone. Then at my mother. The cell phone. My mother. The cell phone. I whirled around expecting to see Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock in the back seat. My mother and her cell phone were living parallel lives.

I grabbed the phone and unplugged it. The phone gave a last gasp as its light went out. Its link to the reassuring world of electricity had been severed. My mother also gasped. Her link to the reassuring world of emergency road service had been severed. She and the phone were barely a mile from home but they were suspended in limbo. I held the phone’s cord in my hand, ready to plug it in if my mother showed signs of respiratory distress. She nervously glanced sideways as she drove. When she finally inhaled, I dropped the cord. I flipped open the phone and began phone CPR. Taking a wild chance, I pressed the power button. With a whir and a beep, the phone came to life. I called its number from my cell phone and it rang, its spirit running across a green pasture screaming, “I’m free! I’m free!” I looked at my mother. Then at the cell phone. Then back at my mother. I explained the importance of the power button. Then I told her about Chippy and offered to hire him as a tutor.

My Mom loves me. She didn’t make me walk the rest of the way home.

Jill Wragg is a retired police officer in Massachusetts.
She can be reached at


1 comment:

Carin said...

That sounds like my mom. Oh lordy.