My daughter’s daily demands have shifted as of late but, sadly for her, our parental stance hasn’t. For years, Poppy had been begging us for a dog. She wasn’t particular as to the breed and pedigree, or whether the little creature was as furry as Robin Williams or as hairless as a salami; Poppy wanted to own a canine. We even found out that the number of legs wasn’t a strict requirement after she spotted a pooch that could scoot around on three paws. “We’ll call it Tripod,” she said, holding a thoughtful finger in the air.
Now that Poppy is in middle school, we hear less about Chihuahua mixes and goldendoodles, a name more fitting for a first-grade art project than an F1 backcross. Instead, her lament is for a pet that can do far more tricks: a cell phone.
According to Poppy’s census, she is one of three technorphans in her seventh-grade class without a mobile burning a hole in her backpack. This statistic came up while we were waiting in line to switch my own cellular provider (if you can call it that).
“Dad, why can’t I have a cell?” She cocked her head like an irritated parrot.
“Padded or regular?”
“Answer the question, please.”
“Because you don’t need one,” I said, which is true. Since I teach at the school Poppy attends and we’re not planning on dropping her off alone at the Plaza to test her navigation skills, there’s no reason for us to spend $100 a month so my daughter can ask her friends, “Where you at?” on her Crackberry.
“Who actually NEEDS a cell phone, Dad?” she asked, squinting in what she thought was a mature manner. “Do YOU really NEED one?”
“Don’t try that reverse psychology crap with me, kid,” I said, secretly happy my teaching homies are pushing her to question sissy authorities like me.
“Humph,” she said, frustrated, and marched over to the display area to bang on some keys the size of pushpins. It was good she didn’t have access to cellular technology or I would have gotten the nastiest text message this side of David Mamet.
While I was waiting for my uniformed salesman to connect my new service, a father came in trailed by a son approximately the same age as Poppy. “I told him,” he said proudly, jerking his thumb back toward to the boy, “that he could get a phone if he made the honor roll.” I could see the kid start to drool under a shadow of a mustache. “All As and Bs. Can you beat that?”
“That’s like celebrating your sobriety with a line of coke and a bourbon chaser,” I joked to my guy whom I could tell was paid not to laugh at jokes like these. “You can kiss those As and Bs goodbye.”
Poppy is a nosy thing and immediately something in the air told her to look at the former honor roll student being handed a model called a Dare, a risky name for experimenting teens, if you ask me. Of course it was the exact phone Poppy wanted, only in Marilyn Manson black instead of sparkly bubble gum.
“Dad, that kid’s getting a Dare and he’s younger than me!”
“Did you check his ID?”
“Funny.” Then she started naming all the kids under 12 she knows who have cell phones.
“Easy, whiskey. A lot of those kids have divorced parents or don’t have a mean father with a mean office with a mean landline at the mean school where they drag their backpacks.” I turned to face her. “Seriously, Pop. Would you rather have a cell phone or parents who are still married?”
“That’s a tough one.” She scratched her chin. “Let me get back to you on that.”
Rob Wilder’s latest book is Tales from the Teacher’s Lounge. His column, “Daddy Needs a Drink,” appears the first Wednesday of each month in the Reporter.