Archive for Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Chinstraps and Mouthpieces: Trusty sidekick falls victim to snowstorm

December 24, 2003

Americans learned of great news Dec. 14 when U.S. forces located Saddam Hussein.

It was a triumphant day for the nation. But as a tyrant was found in the Middle East, something was lost on a substantially smaller scale later that day in Kansas City, Mo. After attending the Kansas City football game, I lost my cell phone near Arrowhead Stadium.

Minutes after the Chiefs clinched the AFC West title, I headed back to the Adam's Mark hotel where my friend had parked his vehicle.

Maneuvering the hills between the Arrowhead parking lot and the hotel, friends and I trudged up the snowy embankments east of the stadium. I struggled to move up the hills as three "friends" bombarded me with snowballs. I was happy to see the Chiefs win the game, but my disposition changed once I was pelted with snow and kept tumbling to the ground.

At one point I chased a pal with the intent to tackle, but -- surprise -- I fell down.

Finally, we made our way back to level ground and headed across the interstate overpass to my friend's vehicle.

To be honest, I thought tearing around in the snow was pretty fun until we neared the vehicle.

I took a quick inventory of my pockets -- and discovered I had lost my cell phone.

A Sanyo SCP-4000, this telecommunications icon had been my sidekick for nearly three years. And it could take a licking and keep on ticking far more often than a Timex.

The phone has been dropped several times.

Never a problem.

The phone was thrown across a room -- twice. On one occasion a friend acted as if he were going to fling the phone across the room. He thought he had a handle on the phone, but it slipped out of the case and crashed into a wall.

Not a problem.

While turning right onto a street in Lawrence with my car window down and the phone sitting on the dash, the phone flew out window and hit the street.

Not a problem.

After playing in a rec league softball doubleheader earlier this year, I returned to my car in the parking lot. I accidentally slammed the trunk door into the phone. It was stuck there for about two hours before I discovered it.

Still -- not a problem.

After the Chiefs game, somewhere between the stadium and the Adam's Mark parking lot, the phone fell out of my side pocket and into the thick snow.

A problem.

We headed back toward the stadium, combing our path. Dialing my cell number was useless because the phone was switched to vibrate.

Later that night, I recalled the good times Sanyo and I shared. That telephone had accompanied me to many Chiefs games and even more Kansas football games.

The phone has sent updates back to The Mirror office from state track meets. I also used it to call Tonganoxie from a snow-packed Hiawatha nearly two years ago when Tonganoxie was one win away from a state berth in boys basketball. The phone later was used to dictate stories from Atchison for two football playoff games. Again, those were frigid nights in northeast Kansas.

The Sanyo SCP-4000 even was on hand in Madison, Wis., in March 2002. Along with some college friends, I headed north for a road trip to watch the Jayhawks advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1993. Sanyo was there to call my parents that weekend and inform them I had watched the Jayhawks defeat Illinois -- in person.

The phone also was available to keep minds off a sporting event. While watching a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium against the White Sox in 2002, two friends played my phone's lone video game to pass the time as Kansas City pitcher Miguel Asencio gave up 14 runs in his major league debut. He also threw 16 straight balls in the first inning.

As I reflected on many other memories, I came to the realization I likely wouldn't see the phone again. I also would never hear "Miller Little" again. Although the tune became annoying to some, the jingle became my theme song when it played again and again with almost every single incoming call.

Sanyo had been lost in snow after surviving so many setbacks. A colleague wondered if he -- I'm sorry -- it had gnawed off its own antenna during the accident.

I continued to call the phone in hopes someone had found it and kindly was trying to find his -- its -- owner. But that plan was to no avail.

Instead, I thought, the phone eventually would run out of battery, but its spirit would overlook future Royals and Chiefs games.

Then last Wednesday, 72 hours after losing my loyal sidekick, I considered conducting one last search for my phone.

The snow had melted considerably after that game day. I decided it was time to head to Kansas City and search for my Sprint PCS phone.

With Operation Free and Clear in effect, I drove back to the stadium and picked the highest hill. I spent a few minutes searching back and forth, but didn't see the phone. As I headed back toward my vehicle with disappointment, I looked down one last time.

There it was.

The display was blank, so I pushed the power button.

"Battery low. Please recharge immediately," the display read.

I rushed the phone to my car and plugged it into its life support -- a battery charger.

Moments later, I made a phone call. The trooper was back in operation.

How much longer it will be used as my primary phone is uncertain.

It obviously has been a technological marvel for nearly three years. Sure, it hasn't always been at the top of its game. Several times it has lost a signal and consequently discontinued phone calls. But I'd like to think that had to do more with Sprint than my phone.

Nonetheless, there will be a time, sooner or later, when I will purchase a new phone.

A new feature for cell phone users allows them to buy a new phone but retain their old number.

For my cell phone, that probably won't be the case.

Like a sports legend who mastered his sport, my phone will be honored the same way -- its number shall be retired.

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