Thursday, March 22, 2018

"Here's Looking at You Grow Up, Kids"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
If I have learned anything since becoming a grandfather, aside from the fact that diaper bags can be a great way to pull jokes on unsuspecting strangers, it is that time flies when you’re having grandkids.

As proof of just how fast life whizzes past, my grandson, Xavier, will celebrate his first birthday tomorrow. Next week, my granddaughter Chloe will turn 5. And her little sister, Lilly, isn’t so little anymore because she’s almost a year and a half old.

This stuff happens every time you turn around. So here is a valuable grandparenting tip: Don’t turn around. Not only will you hold time at bay, but you won’t become disoriented and walk into a wall, which will, I know from experience, amuse your grandchildren.

I did this recently when my wife, Sue, and I visited Xavier, whom we have seen only a handful of times because he lives almost 300 miles away. Chloe and Lilly, on the other hand, live about 25 miles away and, on frequent visits to our house or when we go to theirs, never fail to be amused when I turn around and walk into a wall.

Still, the question is: Where does time go?

I believe it goes into the Federal Witness Protection Program. I also think time has frequent flier miles, so it probably goes to the Caribbean. And it doesn’t even have the decency to send us postcards.

Speaking of flying, that’s what Sue and I did when we visited Xavier, who is, I can proudly say, the smartest and most mature person in Washington, D.C.

We were picked up at the airport by our older daughter, Katie, who is Xavier’s mommy. She and Xavier’s daddy, Dave, were going out of town on business later that day, which meant Sue and I would be babysitting Xavier overnight. We often FaceTime, but we hadn’t seen him in person since the holidays.

“I hope he remembers us,” Sue said.

“I hope he remembers my Three Stooges routines,” I added, referring to our previous visit, when Xavier giggled uncontrollably at my Shemp imitations.

We had nothing to worry about. Xavier loved being with us. He still giggled when I did Shemp, chortled when I gobbled like a turkey while changing his diaper and laughed even harder when I turned around and walked into a wall.

“He’s gotten so big,” Sue remarked.

“This is what happens to kids when you feed them,” I said as I fed Xavier in his highchair (he was in it, not me, though I should have been since I acted more like a baby during our five-day visit than he did).

That was amply evident when, after Katie returned, she, Xavier, Sue and I went to the Smithsonian.

Katie put Xavier in an Ergo, a baby carrier she wore with him facing forward so he could see what was going on. Sue carried the purses. I had the diaper bag.

When we got to the entrance, a museum guard welcomed Katie and said hello to Xavier, who smiled. Then she greeted Sue and inspected the purses. As I stepped up, I opened what I was carrying and said, “It’s a diaper bag. At my age, it comes in handy.”

The woman blanched. Then she broke into a broad grin and said, “I can see who the real child is here.”

We had a great day at the museum, which Xavier loved. He even won friends and influenced people in the gift shop.

The next day, Dave got home, which made the rest of our visit even better.

As we were leaving, Sue and I kissed Xavier and wished him a happy first birthday.

“You’re growing up fast,” Sue told him.

I gobbled like a turkey, which made him laugh again. Then I flapped my arms and repeated the phrase that grandparents know so well: “Time flies.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, March 8, 2018

"The Call of the Riled"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
If you were to call me on my old iPhone to ask when telephone technology reached its peak, I would have told you it was the day Alexander Graham Bell invented it and that the entire industry has been going downhill ever since, except you wouldn’t hear me because the reception would be so bad that it would seem like the nearest cellphone tower was on Pluto, which would give Disney an excuse to charge me for phone service.

Now that I have a new iPhone, I would be happy to discuss telephone technology with you, unless I didn’t recognize your number, thought you were a scam artist and refused to pick up.

Still, I owe my technological upgrade to Josh Frankel, a retail sales consultant who knows more about phones than Bell himself, which admittedly isn’t difficult considering the inventor died almost a hundred years ago and isn’t on my list of contacts.

Speaking of which, the contacts mysteriously disappeared from my old phone, ascending into the iCloud on a day when it wasn’t even iCloudy. It was the final insult from a device that had no doubt been the inspiration for an advertising campaign that asked the eternal telephonic question: “Can you hear me now?”

“Yes, I can,” Josh said when my wife, Sue, and I went to a nearby AT&T store to exchange our old phones for newer models that, in my case, wouldn’t do much good anyway since nobody wants to talk with me.

My enthusiasm over the fact that Josh could actually hear me was tempered somewhat by the additional fact that I wasn’t on the phone at the time.

“You’re sitting right next to me,” Josh pointed out. “If I couldn’t hear you, a phone wouldn’t do me much good, either.”

I heard Josh when he politely told me that I had the stegosaurus of phones, the iPhone 4, which I bought in 2012 and hadn’t really learned how to use aside from: (a) forgetting where I put it, (b) butt dialing complete strangers and (c) punctuating almost every conversation with indelicate language when, because I was invariably in a dead zone, it seemed like I was talking to a mime.

“You have to move up,” Josh said.

“You mean I’d get better reception on the roof?” I asked.

“No,” Josh replied. “I mean you need a better phone.”

Then he said that most people don’t use the phone part of phones anymore.

“Wouldn’t that be like not using the driving part of cars anymore?” I wondered.

“I guess so,” Josh said. “But if someone calls me, I know it’s not important. If it’s important, they’ll text me.”

Josh, who’s 27 and has been working in the wireless industry for eight years, knows whereof he speaks, even if it’s not into a phone. That’s why he was so helpful to me and Sue, who had problems of her own because her phone, an iPhone 5S, lost all of her emails.

“Fortunately,” Sue told Josh, “I have an iPad.”

“Do you have an iPad?” Josh asked me.

“No,” I responded. “But I do have iTeeth.”

Nonetheless, we both needed new phones. Josh suggested the iPhone 8, which has a larger screen and more advanced features.

Josh transferred everything from our old phones to our new ones, though he couldn’t recover my contacts, which numbered about 100 and probably included people I had never heard of.

“You’ll have to start all over,” Josh said.

“That’s OK,” I told him. “One of the first people I am going to put on there is you. What’s your number?”

Josh gave it to me, then showed me how to set up my contact list.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’d ask my 4-year-old granddaughter, who knows how to break into her mother’s phone by circumventing the password, but she isn’t here.”

“Put her on your contact list, too,” Josh suggested. “I’m sure she’d love to talk with you. And now that you have a new phone, you’ll come through loud and clear.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima