Guardian angels

They're watching!

I don't think of myself as technology-challenged. For years I've been the go-to guy for many of my colleagues and friends when their computer won't behave. I'm what they call an "early adopter," ready to try new things. I'm the one that Wanda next door calls when she's pushed a wrong button and her TV only gets three channels. I drive a Prius, for crying out loud!

But cell phones, that's another story. I have a long history of failure with cell phones. Cell phones are to me what VCRs used to be to most people. They're great in theory, but I've never been able to master them in practice. Take the one I have now, for example. Most of the time it lets me place and receive calls, which, after all, is its primary function. In fact, it works better than any previous phone I've had.

But it is also the bane of my existence. It thinks it knows more than I do (which it probably does) and automatically does things it thinks I would want it to do. For example, if I get in the car it cancels the forwarding of calls to my landline and automatically sends them to the Prius. This is wonderful! But for something so smart, it can also be incredibly stupid. For example, when I get back home again, it's smart enough to go back to the "Home" settings, but not smart enough to re-activate forwarding of calls to my landline. And if I forget to do it manually.... Normally it's not a problem, but yesterday it caused two friends great anxiety.

Here's what happened: On Sunday night, I arranged to have dinner with Réal on Monday night; he said he'd call me when he was ready to go. On Monday afternoon I went shopping at Costco. When I got home, I carried the 36-pack of Charmin into the bathroom and absent-mindedly laid my phone on the bathroom counter while I put the Charmin away.

Later that evening, I began to wonder why Réal hadn't called to go to dinner. Perhaps something unexpected came up. He should have called but....

While I sat here wondering what happened to Réal, Réal was at home wondering why I wasn't returning his phone calls. Then he remembered that he had not seen me online in the morning (we're both early risers and often chat online before he goes to work). Maybe something happened....


Suddenly the doorbell rang. It was Bob, looking like he'd seen a ghost. "Thank God you're all right," said Bob. "Réal called me saying you hadn't showed up for dinner and weren't answering your phone and wanted to know if I had heard from you. I told him I'd meet him here."

"Well, I've been wondering why I haven't heard from Réal — he hasn't called."

"He said he called you and left messages."

I go to my phone to see if there are messages. Hello! Where is my phone?!?! I can't find my phone. Perhaps I left it in the car. I open the garage and check the car. No phone. Réal pulls in, happy to see I am alive, but also very unhappy, and justifiably so: "You s     ! Where were you? Why didn't you return my calls?!"

I search high and low, looking for the phone. Unable to find it, I resign myself to the fact that I must have lost it and go to my bedroom to put on a shirt to go to dinner. There on the bathroom counter is my phone! Now I'm really confused. The icon on the phone's screen looks like the icon for "call forwarding activated" so why didn't I hear Réal's calls on the landline phone? And why aren't his messages on the landline? Wait a minute, there are messages on the cellphone! (Of course, the icon that looked like the one for "call forwarding activated" was really its twin icon for "missed calls.")

Now, I'm both confused and really embarassed. I apparently forgot to forward the cell phone to the landline, forgot where I left the cell phone, and didn't hear the cell phone ringing. All signs that I'm "losing it."

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On the other hand, the good news in this tawdry tale is that I have dear friends who watch over me. For that I am deeply grateful. Part of the reality of growing older and living alone is the very real possibility that something could happen to you and no one would ever know. In a very real sense, we have to be each other's keepers.

I have very good keepers.