My friend broke my phone!

She opened it like a flip phone. It's not a flip phone. It's a swivel phone!

Published March 27, 2009 10:10AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I'm in a quandary, and need some help on dealing with a problem. I have a friend with a very big heart. She's always the first to step up to the plate to help out others in need. A good lady. But she has habits that drive me nuts -- sort of like how a sibling would -- and she just won't change her ways. Well, for the most part, that's just fine with me. It's what makes her who she is. She's 50 years old, and has recently acquired a cellphone, but has often borrowed mine to make calls. I have a $435 swivel phone. She ALWAYS tries to open it like a flip phone. I try to get to it first and open it for her, but it doesn't always happen, as it's usually when we're in the car and she needs to reach in the back to get it out of my purse.

So, this weekend we were out on a "girls' weekend" in a remote wilderness lodge where I was the only one with a signal and battery life. So even though my friend now has her own cellphone, she borrowed mine several times. As it was only about 10 degrees out, I let her take it outside to use without opening it up myself. Now it's broken because of this issue of being pried open improperly. I wouldn't be so mad, but I'm irritated by the fact that over the weekend she also borrowed my snow machine and never offered to pay for the gas, and drove in the 10 mph range, when most of the group was blazing around 60-80 mph. I was not the one who invited her, but still needed to baby-sit due to her inexperience. It was all good fun, but these little things added up when I brought my phone in to find out what the problem was and realized she broke it. As I mentioned, she's the type to help out when and where she can, and I don't want to hurt her, but I do want to have my phone replaced. How should I approach it? I'm usually pretty blunt, but that can be pretty unkind as well. She'll likely give some reason as to how it couldn't have been her fault, and I'm just no good at proving the point without getting mad. I'll lose my friendship over it if I go about it that way. Any advice would be helpful, especially on how to bring it up in the first place.

No Phone in Alaska

Dear No Phone,

The next time she says, May I borrow your phone? tell her, "The correct phrase is this: 'May I borrow your expensive, delicate, $435 swivel phone, which must be opened carefully with a deft swiveling motion?'"

Emphasize "deft swiveling motion."

Mime a deft swiveling motion. Place your palms together flat and twist them back and forth to simulate deft swiveling motion. Ask her to join you in this. Swivel your palms together at the same time, chanting "deft swiveling motion, deft swiveling motion."

Consider the meaning of "deft swiveling motion." Consider the double helix; consider the deft swivel move of the offensive tackle heading for the flat, conserving energy in his large frame, appearing "quick for his size."

Consider the implications of "deft swiveling motion" for conflict resolution and world peace: You are opening the phone but there is minimal apartness caused by the opening. The two pieces are still married; space is created between them laterally rather than oppositionally. It is a beautiful thing to contemplate; they remain in their plane of origin; they open but do not unfold; they glide. Note also that the swivel does not create an angled hinge point outside the plane; it merely shifts components within the plane, maintaining the essential integrity of the phone's simple, flat shape.

The flip, however, opens up a whole new set of vulnerabilities for the phone, concentrating great potential angled leverage in one tiny weak hinge! It brings into being the terrible fragility of the hinge point.

O terrible fragility of the hinge point!

It is paradoxical, is it not, then, that while the swivel, in itself, is a safer and stronger motion than the flip, yet, because we assume that the future will come at us in the shape of the past, we are more likely to damage the swivel phone than the hinge phone! It's a first-to-market problem!

In attempting to open the phone, we are driven not only by past habit and stored experience but by raw primate instinct. We tear at the phone like a pork chop! We try to open it like a hazelnut! We want to peel it like a banana!

You never saw an apple open on a swivel. You never saw a pear fold open like a flip phone. Yet we grab the phone and tug at it before studying its shape, before visualizing the hidden connections that hold together what appears to be one solid object but which is actually a set of objects connected, invisibly, by clever engineering!

Why, O great Mercury, do we destroy the phones we love? Why?

Anyway, you've got a practical problem, too. You need a special set of phone-breakage risk-reduction and damage-mitigation procedures.

So first of all, stop putting your phone in your purse. Carry it on your person. When you are driving, keep it in a pocket. Or buy a shoulder holster for it.

Also, memorize the following useful commands. Practice delivering them with loving directness:

Do not touch my fucking phone.

If you touch my fucking phone I will strangle you.

And finally this: "Here is the fucking repair bill."


What? You want more advice?


By Cary Tennis

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