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Holinger: Attending a late-night class at phone school

Published: Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

Recently, I returned to school and slept through class. Maybe that’s because I didn’t want to go, but my wife, Tia, made me.

“Tonight’s our class,” she said.

“‘Our’?”

“You’re going, too. At eight.”

“That’s a half an hour before bedtime!” I exploded.

The outburst made no impression. That night, inside Batavia’s Verizon cellphone showroom, Tia directed me away from a couch that looked Goldilocks-right for napping toward a wall of phones tethered on wire leashes. “Here’s the iPhone 5.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You know how to turn it on!”

I can blow my own nose, too, I thought.

Eight o’clock came and went; I wondered if, like in college, students could leave after 10 minutes if the prof didn’t show.

“Look, people like us!” Tia said. I put down the hottest new mechanical marvel since the manure spreader, and met Tia’s new best friends, Boyle and Joanne.

“I’m not good at it,” Boyle admitted, guy to guy, meaning cellphones.

“So you got dragged here.”

He beamed. “That’s exactly what it is. Whadda they sell for?”

With a Steve Jobs flourish, I pointed to a chart. “Two hundred. Stripped.”

“Oh, I just lost it.” Joanne frantically finger-punched her 4S. “The picture of our great-grandchild.”

Chairs unfolded across the room, but classmates nearby grabbed them.

“Standing room only,” I joked to Boyle, and looked for Tia who had wandered off.

“C’mere!” she called from a front row seat. “These are really nice, funny people: Eileen, Cindy and Jim.”

“How are you with phones?” I queried.

Cindy laughed. “Mine’s a 4 or 5. I forget.”

“Whendja get it?”

“What day is today? When I had a reason to know what day it was, I did.”

“I have an old Samsung,” I said.

“I had one of those,” Eileen said as if comparing scars.

At 8:15, Kristin, our teacher, appeared. “Who’s got an iPhone?”

Eileen answered, “I’ve got this one.”

“A Droid,” Kristin said. “That’s a different day, but you can talk to Mark.”

“Oooh,” I nudged Eileen’s arm, “a private class.”

She glanced over her glasses. “Son of a gun!”

For 15 minutes, Kristin fired questions at us: “Who can access email? Everyone OK with texting? Have you tuned in Pandora? Anyone able to find the weather?”

Tia yawned. I yawned. A woman in a purple shirt answered her phone. “Whaddaya need? Mom doesn’t want to be alone. OK. I love you. Bye.”

“Sixty-one degrees.” “Sixty-four.”

“Your phones are set for different regions.”

I realized my eyes were closed.

“I just remembered an early morning meeting tomorrow,” Tia said. “We should go.”

On my way out, I waved to Boyle, still stuck there. Outside, I felt buoyant as a kid on vacation. “School’s out for sum-MAH! School’s out for e-VAH!”

What I learned at phone school was that it’s never too late to go back to school; there are, however, times too late for school to start.

• Rick Holinger has lived and taught high school in the Fox Valley for more than 30 years.

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