My brother and his wife Jasmah are moving to her birth country of Malaysia, where — if you recall — my family spent 10 days amidst the sweltering heat, fish mongers and Jasmah’s 200+ wonderful cousins. They have spent about 100 hours selling all of their furniture, parsing their clothes, packing what they’re keeping, and pawning off Tigger the cat to Jasmah’s daughter. They — and Mom — have spent about 300 hours fiddling with, talking in circles about, testing, and calling Verizon about how many pennies it will cost, and how to use, Facetime, Skype calls, Skype IM, phone texting, calling, and Apple’s iMessage. That sentence has 10 commas in it, which tells you something about the extravaganza factor of this endeavor.


Mom will drop $120 on her sixth turtleneck burgundy cashmere sweater, but is fretting and sweating over potential 20-cent texts. I think she caught this condition from Dad, who hemorrhages thousands over his boat but uses paper towel fragments as napkins unless highfalutin guests are coming for dinner. My Dad and I were watching the final Seahawks football game (#1 in the country, thanks very much), and every time he muted the TV for commercials, sentence bits would float from the den… “How do I get the microphone to work?”… “If you iMessage and I phone text” … “The blue text bubbles or the green ones” … “wireless or cell data charges.” Mind you, this was a 3.5 hour ballgame.

Dad — who is now retired and has taken to vacuuming every damn morning because there are 25 litter pellets scattered throughout their condo and this will just not do — has circumvented this issue. He writes snail mail letters to everyone from my doctors (registered mail) to the addresses in small print at the bottom of food products of which he disapproves. Actually, they probably reach their destination before they would if he actually tried to email them, which is often a 15-minute-per-word triathlon. Only these three triathlon events consist of trying to put a Google Group in the “To” field, trying to get the email back on the screen after accidentally clicking into another program, and cussing out the computer until Mom or I run in to stop the bleeding.

But I digress. I believe the solution we have decided upon is to keep a ledger akin to the 20-field spreadsheets that accountants keep — you know, the stiffs who align their pencils with magnetic North and know pi to the 11th decimal place (3.14159265359). At the end of January, we will figure, refigure, configure, and reconfigure our list of calls, texts, iMessages, and Skypes to see what was free, what cost the equivalent of a paper towel fragment, and what cost the equivalent of a turtleneck burgundy cashmere sweater. I will post our findings in a cross-checked spreadsheet that will be readable in Google Docs, Apple’s Numbers, Microsoft’s Excel, and on mobile devices worldwide.

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