The Despicable iPhone and Me 

Margaret Valenta

© Copyright 2017 by Margaret Valenta

Honorable Mention--2017 General Nonfiction


Photo of the St. Charles streetcar in New Orleans.

Once upon a time, long ago, when I was a teen-ager, I’d come home from school eager to telephone my friend Diane.

I’d pick up the phone and a pleasant woman - present on the line and not a recording- would say, “Number please.” I’d give her Diane’s number and she’d ring the residence. When Diane answered, we’d spend a long time talking. The phone was free and the service not expensive. Very simple.

In today’s world, that telephone is called ‘a land-line.’

Now most people have a telephone that has a battery, and somewhere a satellite tower provides a connection. You hold the phone in your hand. It’s the size of a paperback book and when turned on, there are little squares over the face and pictures in the squares. The thing is called an iPhone, but not many people talk into it. They hold it in their hand and tap on numbers that are also letters. When they call someone, most people just tap away. STRANGE! It also costs hundreds of dollars and you pay a large monthly fee. Not simple.

I thought this wasn’t something I wanted to spend a lot of money on and take weeks trying to figure out. I had my land-line. Friends and family said I should get a cell-phone, which was the earlier version of the iPhone, in case there was an emergency while traveling.

I decided to go to Wal-Mart to see about cell-phones. I ended up buying a Tracfone for fifteen dollars and a card with phone minutes. It came with a battery charger. Not only was it cheap, there was no monthly fee. It was small, the size of a child’s hand, and after tapping in the telephone number, the phone would ring and you actually talked to someone. I thought this was all I needed for emergency while traveling. I kept my land-line at home.

One day, driving, I had a tire blowout. I took my Tracfone out of my purse to call AAA to come and change my tire. The battery was dead, so I had no service.

Well, this is a worthless piece of crap,” I said to myself.

Fortunately, a man and his teen-age son saw the blowout. They stopped and changed my tire. They refused to take any money, and after thanking them, I went on my way. I thought, ‘why do I need a Tracfone when there are nice helpful people in the world.’

I still had my pet and home-sitting business, so I decided to keep the Tracfone for emergencies in the homes that didn‘t have a land-line. I could take the battery charger with me.

I was scheduled to take care of Molly, a thirteen year old Dachshund, in a development called StoneRidge. Since the home was nestled in the hills, I had no signal for my Tracfone. Freda, the customer, had no land line. That left me with no telephone service. I told her I had to have a phone to call out in an emergency. Both Freda and her husband had an iPhone, so they decided to leave his iPhone with me.

Looking at it, I said, “ I need instructions on how to use this. I heard it was complicated, and they even have a book called, iPhone For Dummies.”

Obviously not simple.

See how I turn it on,” Freda said, “and just leave it on. Press this little circle on the bottom and it will bring up the place to start. Do you see those tiny, little white bars at the top right corner?”


They will tell you the battery is charged and it’s ready to send and receive calls. When the bars are down to one or two, you have to plug it into the charger. We will leave the charger on the kitchen counter and you plug the cord into here,” she said, as she pointed to it. “Do not leave the charger on overnight because the battery will not last long and they are expensive. The iPhone will charge in about an hour, and then you unplug it. See the picture of a telephone in the little square on the left bottom corner?”


Press that and you will get a number key pad. Tap in the number you want to call and it will connect you.”

After they said goodbye to Molly, the Dachshund, and giving me the telephone numbers of people to call if needed, they left.

That afternoon, I wanted to call my grandson. I pressed the circle and all the pictures in the squares appeared. I tapped the picture of the phone and nothing happened. I thought, maybe I had to press down longer instead of tapping it. So I did. All of the pictures started to wiggle and no key pad appeared.

What the heck!” I said to myself, as I tapped and tapped at the phone-picture. Finally the key pad came up. I tapped in the number, put it to my ear and it rang.

I got his answer machine. Suddenly realizing I didn’t have the number for him to call me back, I said, “I’m pet sitting and they only have an iPhone. I don’t know what this number is, so I’ll call you later tonight.”

Then I remembered I was suppose to call my daughter and give her the number where I’m pet sitting. I’d have to tell her I didn’t have one. I picked it up again and tapped the phone picture. Up came a list of contacts.

Why did that happen? Where is the key pad? How do I get the contacts off? What do I do now?” I said out loud.

Molly, the Dachshund, sitting next to me, looked at me with her big brown eyes as if to say, ‘I think we’re in trouble.’ She sighed, closed her eyes and decided to take a nap. Baffled at what to do with the iPhone, I laid it back on the table.

Shortly, the phone rang. I picked it up and put it to my ear and said, “Hello - hello.” No-one was there but the phone kept ringing. I took it away from my ear and looked at it. It said swipe. Swipe? I stared at it for a minute then took my finger and slid it over the word. It stopped ringing. Thinking I must have disconnected it, I laid it back down on the table. After a minute or two, the phone rang again. Again swipe. I slid my finger over the face, and the phone stopped ringing. I was about to lay it back down when I faintly heard, “Margaret, Margaret, put the phone to your ear.”

Putting it to my ear, I said, “Hello.”

It was Judy, one of the contacts who also had an iPhone.

Judy, why on earth would anyone have an iPhone? It’s the most complicated, frustrating thing. I hate it.”

You have to get use to it,” she said. “I just wondered how you were doing and if you needed anything.”

I need a land-line phone. This is driving me crazy. It had to be designed by a man, they never make anything simple.”

Before we finished talking I asked her how to disconnect. She said, “It will disconnect when I hang up. The phone just takes getting use to.”

I decided to again try calling my daughter. I pressed the circle, tapped the picture of the phone and was relieved to see the key board.

When she answered, I said, “You told me to call you with this phone number but I don’t know what it is.”

I’ll give it to you. It shows the number you are calling from on my iPhone,” she said.

Early that evening, while watching television, the phone gave a beep. I picked it up and written across the face of the phone, it said, “Time to relax and recharge.”

I thought, ‘all the bars at the top are full but it said, recharge, so I guess I’d better do it. The program I’m watching is an hour long, so that will be perfect timing to unplug it when the program is over.’

I forgot all about the iPhone and went to bed. At midnight I woke-up with a start and thought, ‘Oh no, I forgot about that stupid iPhone. I’ve ruined it already.’ I stumbled out to the kitchen, followed by Molly, hoping for a treat, and I pulled out the cord. The pictures lit-up, and I went back to bed with a disappointed Molly.

The next day, a neighbor, Dee, came over. The iPhone was on the table between us. All of a sudden, loud country music came on. We both looked at the phone in surprise. She picked it up and tapped different pictures trying to shut the music off. Nothing happened, it just kept on playing.

I don’t have one of these,” she said, “I have a land-line. Karen, a few houses down, has a cell phone, maybe she knows what to do.” Taking the phone, she went out the door.

About a half hour later, she came back with Karen. She had a small cell phone in her hand plus the iPhone which was silent. Karen said, “The cell phone is different from the iPhone and somehow I must have turned it off. I don’t know how to turn it back on.”

I have to have a phone,” I said. “What if I had an emergency? Plus there’s a forest fire burning close by. Why don‘t you call Freda with your cell phone and ask her how to turn the iPhone on.”

While she was talking to Freda, I remembered how Freda turned it on from the side. However there were tiny slots on both sides. Picking up the phone I pushed one in and the phone came on.

Tell Freda I got it on but it asks for a password,” I said.

Freda told her to ignore that message and just touch the circle at the bottom of the iPhone and the pictures will come up. Which they did. Later I learned the music was probably an alarm clock.

The next day, I got a call from Judy. She said, “The forest fire is only six miles from us and we’re on red alert. You’ll have to take Molly to your house if we have to evacuate. I’ll call you if I get a message that we have to go.”

Well, I hope this contraption keeps working and not doing stupid things. Otherwise I‘ll never know,” I said.

If you don’t answer the phone, I’ll come and tell you.”

Although I worried that the phone wouldn’t work when I needed it, we didn’t have to evacuate.

Several days later, while reading a book, my elbow moved the iPhone. I noticed a bright light shining through the glass of the table that the phone was sitting on. Picking the phone up, turning it over, I was hit by a light. Not knowing what to do, I called Judy. She said, “Drag your finger from the top of the phone to the bottom.”

I did that, but nothing happened.

It didn’t work and those bars on the top corner are down to one,” I said. “The light must be connected to a camera because I heard a click and I think I just took a picture of my knee.”

Put it on the charger and I’ll be right over.”

When she came, she fiddled with the phone for a while and the light finally went out.

See the picture of the camera up at the top? If you tap it the light will go out but I think it took a picture of the kitchen counter first.”

Do you know what I’d like to do Judy? I’d like to go outside, put the phone in front of my car and run over this despicable iPhone.”

I'm 84 years old and this is my first attempt at writing.  It's also my first experience with an iPhone.


Margaret recently published her first book, five years in the making.  You can sample it and buy it on Amazon.  Click here.

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