Our Facetime Friend

It started in October.  A guest joining us a night or two each week for 30 minutes or so.  Now, she’s here almost every Sunday – Thursday night, for hours on end.

I don’t know when she gets here although on many evenings, I’m the reason she leaves.

After dinner, Stephanie heads upstairs to her room to begin to slog through her homework.  She’s a smart kid in a school that is extremely challenging.  Kimmy is in most of her classes.  They “study” together most nights from 8 – 11 PM, sometimes later.

Kimmy’s head is perched on Stephanie’s phone screen lying in the middle of the bed night after night after night.  It’s an app called Facetime, I think.

Often, they don’t talk.  They’re doing their own thing.  When the occasional question arises, they are there to answer.

I pop into Steph’s bedroom perhaps in my boxers.

“Dad, Kimmy’s here.  Put your pants on!”

I run away in shame holding my hand over my groin in case.

I might bustle in with a piece of juicy information, “Sarah’s mom told Sarah’s dad that Mrs. Phiserdine’s daughter was drinking on Friday night.  Do you know anything?  I promised Phil I wouldn’t say anything so mums the word!”

Too late.  Kimmy was hiding under the quilt.  I hear them giggle as I walk back down the stairs.

The other day I came in to unload some laundry.  I walked over to the bed.  It was empty.  Well, almost.

Hello Mr. Tanner.

I looked up.  Gabrielle?  I’m here.  I’m ready to go.  No.  No.  It’s Kimmy.

“Hello Kimmy Gibbler.  So nice to see you tonight.”

Stephanie’s in the shower.

“Yes.  I know.  I live here.  How’s school?”

It’s good.

“I’m just gonna go back downstairs now…”


When I hit Stephanie’s room late to unpack the day and encourage sleep, we often get into our best conversations.  I often look down, and Kimmy is with us.

“Don’t worry dad.  I muted her.  She can’t hear anything.”

“She’s sitting here, and she can’t hear anything?”

Stephanie turns her off.

“Aren’t you going to say goodbye?”

“Nah.  Usually one of our phones dies.  That’s when we stop.”

There is no official goodbye.

I pick on them, but I sort of think it’s nice.  It’s company and friendship, the 21st Century kind.  Technology can be relational.

Resistant to Change


I have become resistant to change. I may find this scarier than change itself.

I remember my grandparents getting stuck in their ways. One granddad refused to wear pants with pleats. You could not find a nonpleated pair in town so he had his suits hand tailored.

I’m the opposite. I love my pleats! They’re roomy and comfortable. I can fit my phone, a kid’s phone, wallet, business cards, keys and my glasses in orifices around the circumference of my hips and still have room to spare. Nonpleats are in and yet, I hate ‘em.

My other granddad didn’t want to watch anything on TV but Andy Griffith and I Love Lucy reruns. My grandmother would enter the room and yell, “Spurgeon! Turn the channel. The kids don’t want to see that junk!”

“Oh Ivy, they love it!”

It wasn’t that bad, but I wouldn’t say we loved it. I too find a Seinfeld episode much more invigorating than Dog with a Blog, my youngest kid’s favorite.

But it wasn’t TV last week that let me know I was stuck. It was my recurring fear of technological updates.

I received an email from Bart, he takes care of all mobile phones at the Y. His message was upbeat: New iPhones have arrived! Come by my office to pick yours up!

As others jumped from their desks to rush his office, I reached for my trashcan. A wave of nausea came over me.

There are people who spend nights in tents for the glory of owning a new technological apparatus. For me, this announcement means weeks, perhaps even months, of strife: new tool bars, Candy Crush and Taylor Swift mysteriously missing, my Outlook calendar organized in list fashion versus boxed calendar day. It was almost more than I could take.

I don’t want a new phone. I just want my old one to hold a charge for more than three hours.

At 4 PM I meandered to Barts’s side of the building. I paced in front of the IT department’s door. A fellow employee popped out from the office kitchen.

“Danny, you need something?”


“It’s the phone isn’t it?”

My brow furrowed, I confessed: “I’m frightened. You know what happened the last time we had an upgrade.”

“You’ve got to let that go. We were able to recover most of the data on the server.”

He put his arm around my shoulder and guided me inside.

Bart was on his way out but slowly walked through the steps to back up my old information in the clouds. Apparently I was not utilizing this atmospheric support.

I took my old dandy back to my desk and plugged it into my computer. I clicked on iTunes and began the process of updating my 5S. I’d never done that before. At some point it asked me to enter a password. I punched in four numbers that were meaningful to me. I thought I was perhaps unlocking something that had been set up before.

When I was finished, I unplugged my 5 ready to access it for the last time. What I realized was that I had actually locked myself out.

I panicked. Oh Lord, please help me.

I was flustered. I went to YouTube and clicked on a video entitled Removing a Password from your iPhone 5.

I clicked play and began to follow the instructions of the hipster who was narrating the show.

“Plug your iPhone up to your computer.”

“Press the power button at the top of your phone while also pressing the control button at the bottom of your phone.”

I listened intently doing exactly as he instructed.

My phone was responding just as the one on the screen.

About half way through his demo, he said, “This will fully clear all contents from your phone, and you’ll be ready to start from scratch.”

Say what, say what? From scratch? I don’t want to start from scratch. I’m not even in the clouds yet!

And like that, all of my contents – my songs and my photos, my apps and my Outlook, the history of text messages, and all my saved messages were gone – for good. I felt like I’d been sucker punched.

Sometimes you get to an age that Andy Griffith is OK. I like pleats. Seinfeld is funny. And a working phone, with all of your stuff, is sometimes more appealing than a new one.


Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

I’ve got the Snapdog Blues

My two oldest kids now participate in Snapchat.  It is the new Twitter.  For weeks I called it Snapdog.  I don’t know why.  Just got it stuck in my head that Snapdog was the name.  My kids found that irritating so that’s still what I call it.

With Snapdog (chat), you send a photo of yourself to a friend, or an enemy I suppose, via your cell phone.  When they click to open it, they can only view the pic for three seconds and then it disappears.

Presumably, I could take a picture of my privates and “sext” them to some unsuspecting Snapdogger.  I figure it would take at least 3 seconds for them to figure out what a close up of that was – not something you see on a daily basis – and then swala – poof – the “proof” is gone.  My privates are private once more.

The problem is, for those who are technically savvy, the pics and/or videos, can be found from that vanishing Snapdog spot by simply plugging in the iPhone to a computer and pressing a couple of buttons.

I had 15 girls spend the night last week.  If you’re having one or two, why not bring them all?

When one of the 12-year-olds arrived, her mother standing at the door, three other 12-year-olds were standing in the front hall.  None looked up.  All were holding their phones Snapdogging those who were not in attendance.  Perhaps we should have invited them rather than the ones who were there since they didn’t seem to want to talk to each other.  Not one welcomed the newcomer – no screams or silly hugs.  Not one spoke to her mother.  I could have shoved a banana up my nose and danced the Rumba, and not one would have noticed.

Throughout the night, the photos were flying.  And every girl who was not invited, although to me it felt like every girl was invited, got to peek in on the fun – that they weren’t having.  As an adult with no spouse, I sometimes feel like I’m the only one not spending a weekend evening hanging out with my wife.   What a delight it would be to be able to see pictures of everyone else enjoying themselves with their spouses while I sat home alone sending selfies through Snapdog.

I think my girls are smart enough not to send inappropriate photos of themselves through social media.  But who knows?  Michelle made a bucket list last week – it looked like this:

Michelle’s Bucket List

1.  Skinny Dip

Yea – that was numero uno.

I’m gonna take her to a pool this summer and throw her in naked – wanna get that one checked off the list ASAP.

As much as technology has enhanced my life, sometimes I just get the Snapdog Blues.  What happened to Hide-n-go-seek?  Spin the Bottle?  Truth or Dare?  Ahh – now those were the days.

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