Bad news. Horrible news. The TSA has come up with a new restriction. If you are coming back to America from overseas — especially Europe and the Middle East — you may not bring your phone unless there is enough power in it to turn it on.
Well, that’s it for me. My phone never has enough power to turn on even when I am safely ensconced on this side of the Atlantic.
It’s a serious problem.
My friends like to call me “Nevercharged” Petri. That is the only way they can call me. They cannot call me on the phone, because it is never charged.
They try to help me out. They have given me charging cases that I am supposed to put the phone in so that when I go out with it, the case will keep the phone charged when the phone would have run out of juice on its own. They have given me little bonus chargers to carry around to plug the phone into when the phone and the case have run out. I have forgotten to charge the chargers. (In my defense, I don’t know what they were expecting.)
Still, they worry. So do I. My phone is so often out of juice that I respond to texts quite sporadically. Consequently, if something were to happen to me, it could be days before anyone noticed. And something could happen at any time. I could walk in front of a bus. One of these days I could fall while opening a bag of pita chips in the shower, split my head open, and not be found by the neighbors until weeks later, when they came by to thank me for not playing “It’s A Long Way To Tipperary” at a high volume at 3 AM and beating time on the shower wall. (You have to celebrate the World War I anniversary somehow!)
And now they tell us that unless your phone is charged, you cannot take it on the plane.
Well, that’s it for me.
I once read a book of philosophy — or possibly it was just something I saw on XKCD — that said we were thinking of time all wrong. Time, it turns out, consists of a long bleak period of millions of years, during which you are not alive, followed by another equally long equally bleak period of millions of years, also during which you are not alive, interrupted by a brief momentary flicker. That flicker is your life. (Wow, this got dark!) What I mean to say is: this about describes how it is for my cell phone. Its life consists of long bleak periods of inadequate battery, briefly interrupted by flickers of life. It is very seldom charged. Mainly leap days.
When it is on, it spends most of its time lying to me that it is fine (“No, no, 8 percent, I’m great! Sure, open the Google Maps app! I can handle it!”), then expires dramatically as I am trying to show a group of people a YouTube video. This is usually for the best. Nothing in life is longer than the three minutes of a YouTube video that you told your friends was going to be “really funny” and “so worth it” and “Sarah how have you not seen it yet? Where have you BEEN?” The instant you turn it on you realize it didn’t actually have any jokes in it, and you have to keep telling your friends that “the best part is coming up” until three seconds before the end. (This was also how you tricked them into reading “Crime and Punishment.”)
Sometimes, it stays charged for a good three hours at a time. (I know! I can never believe it either!) It allows me to play games and listen to music on it all the way up to the 15 minutes before the person I am meeting is supposed to arrive. That — just when I need it to make contact — is when it decides it has only 4 percent left. I rapidly shut down every app, to no avail. It creeps down to 3. I send out several frantic last communications. Then, with 2 percent remaining, it shuts down, never to revive. I attempt to call the person on a landline, only to discover that the only phone numbers I still remember are the landlines of my friends from elementary school.
Because this is the case, I carry a charger around with me everywhere I go, even if it turns out I have forgotten my phone. Once a stranger on the train walked down the car I was on and said, “This is a long shot, but does anyone have a charger for an older iPhone 4?” and I did. I did not lend it to him, though; I was at 2 percent.
If you are out at a hip club late at night, I am the person crouched in the men’s room with the door slightly ajar, looking a little furtive. This is because the men’s room has an outlet and I need to charge my phone. This is always a little harder to explain to people than I would like it to be. Sometimes I am the person standing fully upright behind a large plant, holding my phone on tiptoe to reach an outlet on the ceiling. It is a pathetic sight. But this is the kind of thing my phone forces me to do.
“Get a new phone,” people suggest. I can’t do that. I’d have to buy all new chargers, and I have so many. I’ve gotten attached.
But then how am I ever going to get on a plane?
There is just one way out of it: I can never leave the country ever again. I regret it too. But they have left me no choice.