September 23, 2004

ill communication

Today is my Dad's 65th birthday. In honor of his big day, I'm going to tell a story that in many ways really sums up the essence of this man: sweet, kind-hearted, very generous... and rather hapless. Just like his daughter, he means well but most of his endeavors usually have unintentionally funny results.

As you may or may not know, New Year's Day is quite the holiday among the Scottish folk. Every year my mother makes a spread that rivals most Christmas dinners. On a side note, she also does this because the aforementioned trashy cousin has hijacked Christmas and serves a very untraditional buffet-style dinner served on Chintz, no less. Yeah, nothing screams Christmas more than Thuman's cold cuts, Pechter's bread and plastic cutlery.

So every January 1, my mother busts out the Royal Doulton and the McDimple clan goes to town on steak-and-kidney pie, ham, turkey, etc. Last year, my cousin from Scotland and his wife were in attendance. The cousin had just finished a tour of duty in Iraq (he's in the Royal Air Force) and wanted to spend the New Year in New York City. They stayed at an expensive hotel near Radio City Music Hall and actually ventured into Times Square on New Year's Eve. Um, I think I'd rather be in Iraq instead of Times Square on that night but that's just me...

But as I was saying... the cousin and his wife were invited to New Year's dinner with our family. My father didn't want them -- or me -- taking public transportation on this special occasion so he drove into Manhattan to pick them up at their hotel and then over to Brooklyn to get me. My father and I went over the logistics on the phone the night before. The plan was that he would bring my sister's cell phone and call me when he was nearing Brooklyn (to minimize wait time and/or the risk of him getting a ticket or having to circle the block).

The next morning, my mother called to say that the father had just left for the hotel. She knows I suck at waking up so she wanted to give me ample notice. I had a nice window of opportunity so I leisurely showered, ate breakfast and went about my business. The phone rang again shortly after, sending me into a panic thinking it was my father nearing my apartment building. But it was actually my sister, the owner of the cell phone my father was supposed to use. When I answered, the sister didn't even bother to say hello. Instead, she sounded all agitated. It went a little something like this:
Yours Truly: Hello?

The Sister: [in a really pissy tone] Uh yeah, Dad took my phone.

YT: Oh. He didn't tell you he was borrowing it? I thought he did. Sorry.

TS: He had permission to take my cell phone but instead, he took my other one!

YT: Wait, your cordless?


YT: You mean he took that big handset thinking it was your cell phone?


YT: [maniacal laughing and a series of asthmatic wheezes]

TS: So, just be ready because he can't call you now when he's getting close.

YT: [still laughing]

TS: So look out for him. Okay?

YT: O-HA-HA-HA-kay. HA! HA! H--click.
When my father arrived, I got caught up with my cousin and met his new wife for the first time. In the interest of being social and not embarrassing my Dad in front of his adoring nephew, I didn't mention the phone incident. We continued chatting as we made our way onto the BQE, across the Verrazano and along the Staten Island Expressway. While we were waiting to pay the New Jersey Turnpike toll, somehow the topic of cell phones came up. Again, I was going to spare my Dad but he left himself WIDE open:
The Father: Speaking of cell phones, something's wrong with [my sister's] phone. I was trying to call you and that bleedin' thing kept beeping at me. It said something about not being connected to the base. What does that mean?

Yours Truly: It means that you brought the wrong phone, Dad! You took the cordless! You got that message because you're like 20 miles from the base!

Dad: Oh. So that's why! [pause] You know, I thought it was rather big when I stuck it in my pocket and walked off this morning!
Now my father will never just say, "Oops, my bad." There's always some technical explanation or "logic" to explain his mistakes. Naturally, we skewered him for the rest of the day but he didn't relent. According to him, he overheard me and my younger sister once say that the cell phone in question was "antiquated" (his word, not ours). Granted, while it's rather big and clunky for a mobile phone, it could still NEVER be confused with a cordless one.

His other defense was that my sister gave him vague instructions where the cell phone was located (in her room being charged). To him, "the charger" meant an enormous cradle plugged into the phone jack, complete with blinking lights, various buttons and attached to an answering machine. He felt his confusion was valid. Nevermind that he completely overlooked the smaller phone next to it with a simple plug in it...

As I write this, I realize that this is the second phone-related blog entry involving my Dad. Little does he know that he and Verizon are fast becoming a killer comedy team.