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11:49 PM Fri, Nov. 16th

Column | iPhone Xcess leads to getting Miss Kitty ready for a bath

For my eldest and most expensive daughter’s 15th birthday, she requested a new cellphone/adolescent life-support unit. Because my own cell phone was operating at roughly the capacity of an elderly rodent limping on a miniature treadmill, I decided that we’d both take the opportunity for an upgrade (cellphone code for “an almost exact replica of the phone you have now, except for a couple of unnecessary features that’ll be completely obsolete by the time you get from inside the cellphone store back to your car”).

When my daughter and I entered one of the 15 Verizon locations within view of our front yard, we were greeted by an affable young man named Alex, who proceeded to lead us directly to the iPhone X, ignoring an array of undoubtedly less costly phones on display. Apparently Alex could tell he was dealing with a customer who settles for nothing but the best – and who possesses the financial judgement of SpongeBob SquarePants. I knew going in that the iPhone X was priced about the same as a Lincoln Navigator. Luckily, most companies are willing to set up an installment plan that only extends to your fourth generation of descendants.

Sensing my concern about the cost, Alex began his sales pitch by detailing the highlights of the iPhone X. First, he told us about Face ID authentication, which uses The Force to scan the user’s face and unlock the phone. This worried me a bit at first, considering that when I get up in the morning, my face resembles Sylvester Stallone recuperating from an industrial accident, and later in the day, it recovers enough to pass for Tom Cruise in the latter stages of decomposition. Fortunately, though, Face ID doesn’t seem to discriminate among fading celebrities with various degrees of disfigurement.

The next feature Alex touted was the new and improved camera, with enough megapixels and a powerful enough telephoto lens to capture sharp images of your ear hairs from space. I don’t know about you, but most of the pictures taken with my phone include mildly funny things my cat is doing and multiple angles of the inside of my middle daughter’s nostrils when I leave my phone unattended for more than three seconds. I just wasn’t sure taking more vibrant, studio-quality shots of Miss Kitty crossing her eyes while licking her nether regions is an absolute necessity.

Once I finally agreed to purchase the phones (on condition that my daughter promise not to date until I reach my late 100s), Alex was kind enough to renew our family plan, which allows me to monitor my children’s data usage and approve their downloads from the iTunes store.So far, all I’ve been able to determine is that my two eldest daughters are able to expend our monthly allotment of data rapidly enough that they could hack undetected into the Kremlin and rearrange Vladimir Putin’s advanced interpretive smirking lessons and chest-waxing appointments. I’ve been relieved that their iTunes downloads indicate that they spend most of their screen time on educational activities, like games involving giant worms devouring one another and social media apps allowing them to communicate with other teenaged girls about giant worm games – and boys.

As Alex was uploading our backups to the new devices, I shared with him my memory of the day my dad brought home a Motorola bag with a phone the size of a Pomeranian inside, complete with a handset attached with a cord. When I finished reminiscing, Alex looked at me with the same expression as my daughters when they hear this story. Their eyes glaze over, and their mouths hang open as if they’re examining a museum exhibit of fossilized Velociraptor loogies, marveling at how something so ancient has survived the millennia – and then they wonder about the phone, too.

So far, I have to admit that I’ve been pleased with the performance of my new iPhone X, and more importantly, my daughter is thrilled about her birthday present. Even though it’s just a piece of technology, learning to use it is an experience we can share. She’s even assured me that if I work hard enough, I can get on the leader board for that giant worm game, but right now, I have to activate the camera.

Miss Kitty is getting ready for a tongue bath.