And they float, too, like Ivory soap

It was amazing. There I was all dressed up in my new second-hand blazer and black slacks, visiting the restroom at the Sweet Waters Restaurant in Albany. I was on my way to spend some time with Fred at the nursing home before going on to Salem to teach my first class of the quarter at Chemeketa Community College. Ms. important, carrying her cell phone in her pocket lest she miss a call.

And then, all of a sudden, I heard something drop. Into the water. Yes, my cell phone. As I saw it floating, green lights glowing on the screen, I laughed. Of all the disasters I might have expected that day, I would never have expected that. Nor would I have expected that after I got the phone somewhat dried off with paper seat covers, it rang. Yes, there in the pink bathroom stall. It was an important call that I had been waiting for, and I subsequently became one of those people we hate who talk talk talk on their cell phones in the middle of a restaurant. My food, the post-holiday diet plate, came, and I just stared at it as I talked. Food, schmood, I had business to take care of.

Much later, when Fred and I were touring the local Petco, squeezing the dog toys and watching a turtle calmly eat a curl of lettuce, my phone rang again. I retreated into the depths of the cat food for a work call.

On Jan. 1, Oregon’s new law prohibiting hand-held use of cell phones while driving went into effect. I bought a do-hickey to stick in my ear, but I haven’t mastered the use of it yet. The only time I relaxed on the hour-and-a-half drive to the Willamette Valley was on that section of Highway 20 with no cell phone reception. No service? Ah, free at last from the phone. Crank up the radio. And then, as I approached the Burnt Woods store, the phone chimed. It was back in service, and I had a message. I parked at the store, listened to my voicemail, called the person back, left a message on her voicemail.

I think we’re all becoming seriously demented these days and not in the way the folks at my husband’s nursing home are. We need something electronic going at all times. Silence scares us.

It’s something to ponder, along with how my phone survived its swim in the toilet. Is there a five-second rule for soaked cell phones? They float pretty well, although I don’t advise trying it.

Red-faced at A&W

Has this ever happened to you? I had just given my order at a drive-up A&W at the intersection of I-5 and Highway 34, coming back from a job fair at Chemeketa Community College. It was already around 8 pm. I hadn’t had much to eat all day. No time, too many butterflies in the stomach. I hadn’t planned to stop because I wanted to get home in time to watch the Grey’s Anatomy season finale. Priorities, you know? So I’m at this drive-up at this ancient eatery in need of a paint job, and I have told the invisible young man in the speaker that I want a regular root beer, regular hot dog and regular fries. I’m just a regular girl, aren’t I? Not exactly a healthy meal, but it had been a long day.

As the voice was confirming my order, I thought to look in my wallet to see what configuration of bills I would use to pay for my food. Oh no! All I had was one dollar bill and a few nickels and dimes. The twenty I got at the grocery store on Wednesday was in the pocket of my heavy coat, which was at home, this being an unusually warm day. I couldn’t even afford the root beer. I tried to explain to the voice that I had to cancel my order. Like one of those computer voices on the telephone, he kept saying he didn’t understand. Would I please confirm my order? After the third try, I simply drove out of line and back onto the highway, still hungry, thoroughly embarrassed and five minutes later than I wanted to be. I never did see the source of the voice. For all I know, it really was a computer speaking to me.

Now if I had not cared about the TV show, I could have eaten at a sit-down restaurant that took credit cards. No problem. Or if I had checked my funds earlier, I could have used the ATM at the college. But no, there I was, bigshot writer with one dollar and change, fleeing from the A & W.

Earlier that afternoon, I was guest speaker at Kitty Pavlish’s writing research class at Oregon Coast Community College. That fluffed my ego up so nicely, I decided to go for the job fair in Salem, looking for teaching jobs to supplement my writing. I was doomed to be late, even though I drove like a maniac, but I managed to speak to people about distance education, jobs in the English department, and community education courses. I came out of there excited about the possibilities. They’re actually looking for teachers, and it’s a great college, all red brick and new, in a beautiful green setting.

By the time I got home, I knew I couldn’t do that commute on a regular basis unless I earned a lot of money. It’s two hours minimum each way and most of a tank of gas, but I did learn some things that should help me wherever I teach.

Meanwhile, I missed the first 15 minutes of my show and then they had to end it with both Izzie and George apparently dying, George looking like raw meat after he got hit by a bus. Lovely thing to watch before bedtime. Why couldn’t he just ride off into the sunset?

During a commercial, I emptied my coat pockets: $20, a wolf keychain I bought two weeks ago,two dead AA batteries from my camera, and a smaller battery whose origin I do not know. If you think that’s bad, you ought to see my car!