A touch of spice

Toddler's telephone use sets trend for teen years

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What is it about telephones that make them so addictive to kids, a habit that lasts well past childhood and into adolescence?

Katie knows how to use the phone better than I do. She's figured out the combination of keys on the answering machine that saves a deleted message and plays it back (I read the instruction booklet front to back before I figured that out). She also knows how to turn it on and off. She loves both functions because they both produce a computerized voice.

It could be worse. My sister has to dig her phone out of the trash can when she wants to use it. One phone has never been found.

Katie also knows which button on the cordless telephone pages the handset. Lots of time is spent with one parent, or brother, holding the phone and turning it off after two beeps over and over and over and over ... It's great fun for her.

Both her brothers, in their younger years, used the phone to call 911. There's just something about the placement of the numbers on the keypad that makes them easy for uncoordinated fingers to unwittingly reach. Katie has it easier than her brothers did. I programmed 911 into speed dial. I know it's not any faster, especially since I can't remember now which key it is. Katie knows though.

I didn't know that my daughter was taking advantage of the shortcut until I answered the door and stood face-to-face with a sheriff's deputy. As I stammered in my embarrassment, he collected information for his report there's now a file on my daughter, and early signs indicate it will probably grow thicker. He didn't really seem surprised when I told him she made the call. Unlike the cable company, he believed me when I said my 19-month-old daughter did it.

I told him to cuff her. Haul her off. I was home alone with two babies and needed a shower.

About three days later, she did it again. I've removed 911 from speed dial, the sheriff's department has better things to do.

They don't haul her off anyway.

At least 911 is a local call. Judging by the combination of numbers she's keyed in, she usually tries to reach Tokyo.

My dad's number is still on speed dial. He calls out of the blue and says, "what do you want?"

Apparently, his phone rang about four different times, and by the time he got to it four different times the caller had hung up. After seeing my number on his caller I.D. (dratted tattletale of an invention), he started to wonder hence the call.

Katie did it. Dad was a little more amused than the sheriff's deputies, but he wouldn't haul her off either.

I'm not taking his number off speed dial under any circumstances. In fact, I may coat the button with chocolate, or something equally appealing to a toddler.

My 5-year-old nephew has a similar affliction. His best friend is Robert Johnson (not just Robert, J.T. always refers to his friend as Robertjohnson, slurred together to make one quick word). Anyway, he is now in possession of Robertjohnson's telephone number and uses it any time he can get away with it. He steals the phone, peels the number from under its magnet on the refrigerator and sneaks under the bed to make a call.

His mother has threatened to ground him if she caught him with the phone without permission again. So he crept out to her car, got her cellular phone, and called Robertjohnson anyway. He did the same thing with his father's cellular phone. He got caught, and was grounded from the phone.

He walked into the living room, sat dejectedly on to the couch and said, "Look what I done, I got myself grounded!" (He's southern born and raised. I have quoted his grammar accurately. Add a thick accent and you'll get the picture.)

He sounded aggrieved, but the punishment really had no effect on him.

His mother should have called the sheriff I'll bet in Oklahoma they might be willing to haul off a 5-year-old. She needs a break, too.

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