Thelma and the Great iPhone Caper of 2015

Some people in this world are Thelma and others? Well, they’re Louise.

“Afraid that she will be prosecuted, Louise decides to go on the run and Thelma accompanies her.” (source)

I am so not a Thelma. I am not the one who is persuaded. I am the persuader.

Case in point: My new (ish) iPhone.

Wait. Let’s back up for those of you playing the home game (a/k/a, those of you who don’t know me in real life.) I break things. Usually only things that cost me money to replace. Currently I own three Apple products. This morning, two of them had cracked screens. That’s not bad luck; that’s Cathy luck.

In March, I switched cell phone companies. To avoid getting nabbed for fraud (keep reading), let’s call the company “Dash Wireless.” (I know if you’re actually reading this, I’m not fooling you, but I have done no small amount of SEO copywriting and know this change will keep web bots from returning this post on searches for, um, Dash.) So I switch to Dash, and I, being clumsy as hell but also having learned from 41-plus years of being me, well, I buy the insurance. Because I kind of need a phone, as much as I hate it so much that when you call me, odds are your ring is the Darth Vader theme. Don’t take it personally; I just kind of resent being shackled to a phone. I am at the mercy of text, voice, and email. We used to live in caves, people.

Ahem. Where was I? Ah, yes, Dash. And insurance. And me, of course, dropping my phone. I sigh. I try for many months to make do, but the nature of the break along the back of my phone is that it’s somehow puffier, and my ear develops an inconvenient habit of muting the call/launching FaceTime/disconnecting the call, so I finally cave, pay the $200 insurance deductible – the Dash rep told me it would be $50, but whatever, there’s a cost associated with being me and of course it’s not $50 and of course I have no proof she told me that – and get my new phone.

I get this phone as El Cap and I are headed to Tennessee for a few days, so by the time I activate the phone, I’m in Macon, Georgia and have almost no reception. Same in Tennessee. When we get home I realize, um, hey, the only way people can hear me is if I talk to them on speaker phone. This, of course, is wildly inconvenient for those around me, so I call Dash and get directed to the local Dash store, where they look over my phone, agree that it’s a refurbished piece of junk and I need a new one. Of course, the crappy warranty refurbs they offer are back ordered, so they give me a bunch of paperwork and tell me I’ll get one in no less than a week, likely more.

That was December 15. Later that day, of course, I drop my phone and crack the screen. Because of course I do. I opt to take a wait-and-see attitude, because hey, the damn thing wasn’t working anyway and maybe I’ll catch a break. So yesterday my new phone – the one I couldn’t get three hours before I broke the screen on the non-functional one – arrives. I go to the store but never even get to sign in because the woman in the Dash reception area sees my screen and tells me I can’t get my warranty phone unless I pay another $200 claim to the insurance company.

“But I already paid that and y’all sent me a phone that doesn’t work. This one,” I say, gesturing to my phone.

“But the screen wasn’t cracked.”

“But it didn’t work anyway. I paid for a phone, the phone you sent didn’t work, and you said you couldn’t repair it, so what does it matter? I still paid for a phone that works and you sent me one that didn’t.”

“It doesn’t matter. You can finance a new phone if you’d like.”

I sighed (which is what I do a lot instead of opting to lose my shit) left the store, and called the insurance company, where two minions told me my situation certainly was frustrating, and I could get a new (read: refurbished) phone for $200. I tell them they’re not getting any more of my money (because at this point I’m pissed at myself, pissed at the Dash representative, and not at all happy with the condescending bitch on the phone who fails to see the difference between “frustrated” and “furious” and the pretense of “pleasant” is long gone) and hang up the phone. At this point I’d like to note I am sorely missing the days of slamming down a receiver (on the sort of phone that would also eliminate some of my other problems.)

That’s when I decide to – brainstorm – fix the screen and go back to the store the next day. Except I worry they’ll remember me, so the plan is for El Cap to go in on my behalf (we share an account) and trade in my phone. And then El Cap gets paged to go to work, because he’s a tow boat captain and Saturdays are apparently like Black Friday of boats not working, and I call Thelma.

Oh, that’s not her name, because the first thing she says to me when this is all over is “Is this going to be a column?” and I promised her it wouldn’t and while this isn’t a column, I still probably shouldn’t expose her secret identity because she’s my friend and also game for wacky capers, although, as you’re about to see, she really should be driving the getaway car, not robbing the bank.

I go to Thelma’s house. Thelma, who planned a perfectly relaxing day of reading in a hammock, comes out to greet me and I tell her, “I need you to commit cell phone fraud with me.”

She looks at her husband and her impressionable teenage daughter, sighs (not out of rage, like I do, but because she’s realizing, again, that she should never have me around her impressionable teenage daughter. Or she’s depressed she only attracts crazy people for friends. Hard to tell with sighing) and grabs her purse.

“OK,” I tell her on the way to the store. “You have to be me.” She closes her eyes briefly and gets out of the car with my phone. It is at that moment I realize I do not like waiting to see if the Great iPhone Caper of 2015 will work. I am, for lack of a better analogy, the one who robs the bank. I am a lousy “wait in the getaway car” partner; I’m positive everyone walking out of the store knows I’m trying to defraud the cell phone company (although, in all honesty, I don’t think many people would blame me.) I think of five different things to tell her, but she’s gone and I don’t want to show my face in the store in case they remember me. I then get the brilliant idea to text her, except, hey, I don’t have a phone. I reach for her phone, but I don’t know the passcode, which is actually a good thing because I’m pretty sure the tech, not Thelma, now has my phone and if he sees messages like “play it cool, Thelma!” he might get suspicious.

Ten minutes later she comes out to the car.

“OK,” she says, and she looks pale and wide-eyed and maybe a little ill. “They want to know things. I told them my purse was in the car.” She then asks for my wireless account passcode, the name of my first pet, and my license. I figure either she’s really committed to getting this phone for me or has a master plan to punish me for dragging her into this. I figure if she is stealing my identity, “identity theft” is actually a good enough reason to give my boss as to why I don’t have a phone come Monday, so I write down my passcode and my first pet’s name and hand over my purse.

After she goes in the store I realize we never gave Dash the real name of my first pet, but I have no way to tell Thelma this. It was not a good 15 minutes for me. I kept looking around, waiting for the cops to arrive, because there is no way anyone will believe Thelma is my driver’s license photo and it now occurs to me they may think she stole my phone and purse and that’s when I realize she has my purse. Which is my favorite purse, my Brahmin, and not inexpensive. That purse has never even touched the floor and now it’s headed for some grungy evidence locker. Also, Thelma has all my debit cards and my Discover card and my business AmEx and I don’t even have my phone to call her husband to tell him to bail her out. Worst. Friend. Ever.

But apparently the fact that Thelma looks less like me than Geena Davis does bothers no one in the Dash store, because she walks out of the store with my new iPhone. She gets in the car, hands me the phone, looks at me like she really wants to go back in time and not have moved to Gulfport, and says, “Here is your new iPhone. That. Was. Awful.”

Not ONLY did I give her the wrong secret answer, they actually looked at my license (me: 5’4″, Italian, dark hair; Thelma: NOT 5’4″, northern European, freckles), looked at her, looked at the license, went in the back, came back, went in the back again, and… came out with my phone. I’m pretty sure they knew it wasn’t me but didn’t know how to handle it, and since she did have the phone with the proper serial number, apparently figured, meh, what the hell? This is what happens when you pay people minimum wage, Dash.

They did, however, make Thelma choose a new nine-million-digit passcode for my account, and she randomly (but cleverly) grabbed my insurance card and gave them my insurance policy number. Which means if I have a phone issue in the future, I can now get a free mammogram. Or when I go for my mammogram, my left nipple will have its own ringtone. I don’t really know how passcodes work. Also, I probably should give that number to El Cap. In case he ever has to call the phone company. He doesn’t need a mammogram. I’m hoping.

(Also, a giant, huge, larger-than-life shout out to Tony at Gulfport’s Cell Phone Solutions, who fixed my screen for a fraction of what the mall guys charge and also, without looking at me in an “I told you so” tone of voice, told me they had great prices on Otterboxes. I now own a pink and white Otterbox, and I will now be bringing my cracked iPhone to Tony every time I break it, which I’m not even going to pretend won’t happen. Because it’s me, y’all. It’s kind of my thing.)

Also, when I told El Cap about this later, he suggested we should have gone to Radio Shack and bought walkie-talkies. This is why I love him. Also, I now totally know what to get Thelma for her birthday.

UPDATE: My mom just read this and sent me an email, which read:

So, Thelma and Louise in action.  I should have warned her about the sofa you “returned” when you moved from Kissimmee.  I’m beginning to believe you are not really my child.

That’s totally another post, y’all.


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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.