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And the Winner Is...

By Allia Zobel Nolan

Everyone wants to be a winner. But, sometimes, you just can’t win for losing.

Take my recent first place in a prestigious international writing contest. I was ecstatic to get the top slot, which came with a gold medal, stickers for the book, and a cash prize of one hundred bucks.

I got the stash in the mail, but not the check. I mentioned it, and an acquaintance of mine enlightened me. “They probably sent your money electronically. Check your phone,” she said. The cash is probably in your account already. Just hit ‘Accept.’ Easy peasy.”

“Of, course,” I said, thinking easy peasy for you. Difficult smificult for me.

See, I was probably the last holdout in my area code who didn’t have a smartphone. And I would still have my trusty 3G red and silver flip phone with the worn-out keyboard if I hadn’t come up against the brick wall of modern technology. “Ma’am,” said the condescending “We value your business” store associate. “You can NOT renew your contract for the same phone; they’re, like, dinosaurs, caput, obsolete,” she continued, with a roll of the eyes that intimated I might just be obsolete, as well. “People your age buy a smartphone to avoid folo,” she said sticking a $400 contender in my hand and leading me to the register.

Of course, it never dawned on said representative that if “folo” (fear of missing out) were a problem, I’d probably already have a smartphone. Still, I walked out happy to finally join the ranks of practically everyone living.

Meantime, a notification arrived on my computer. A popular online payment service had my cash. To retrieve it, though, I had to open an account. “Easy peasy,” I said to the cat. “I can do this. I have a smartphone.”

My cat’s eyes grew wide with disbelief as I easily filled out the form, when a red pop-up advised, “Contact customer service.”

Wait time was between two and three hours. So I left my name for a call back. The call came; I gave the rep my info, and she said, please hold. I put the phone down gently. It went black. No recorded message, no elevator music, no nothing.

“Is anybody there?” I yelled. And then, to help keep my sense of humor, I sang in an hysterical musical burst: “Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody care? Does anybody even know I’m thereeeeeeee?” I turned my phone on and off, and found out that, indeed, no one really was there.

I rang again and got Phillipe, a very nice man with a heavy accent who said he’d help me. According to Philippe, since I just opened the account, I’d have to answer some personal verification questions. I asked him if my answers should be in the form of a question, like on "Jeopardy." Phillipe wasn’t amused.

“Here goes,” he said. “Did you ever own a pink midi dress with lace trimming and a Peter Pan collar when you lived on Baker Street in Boston?” he asked. “I wouldn’t be seen dead in one,” I answered. “So obviously that is a no.”

“Good,” said Phillipe, sounding a bit excited. I exhaled in relief.

“Next: What kind of sprinkles were your favorite when you were five? Chocolate? Multicolored? Or None? “Well, I loath and detest multicolored sprinkles,” I offered, “and I wouldn’t really have ice cream without sprinkles. So I’ll have to choose Number 1: ‘Chocolate.’”

“Yeee-es,” Phillipe said, and I could visualize him doing a fist pump.

I gulped while he read the final question: “Is your firstborn’s name Sylvester, Sean or Penelope?” Hmmmm, trick question, I thought. You can’t fool me. If I’d have had a child, I’m sure I would have remembered.”

“No kids with that name,” I told Phillipe, “but I did have a kitten named Sylvester. Does that count? And hey, Phillipe, how come you guys know all this personal stuff? Do you have me followed? Are you part of the FBI?”

“Congratulations,” Phillipe responded, completely ignoring me. “Your account has been verified; your money is waiting for you.” Ding. My new toy went black again.

Okay, so that wasn’t exactly easy peasy. But I felt proud of myself. I put my smartphone in my jeans’ back pocket because I noticed that’s what all cool and savvy users did. “This calls for champagne,” I said to the cat as I waltzed to the powder room before heading out.

That’s when my Smart Phone did not live up to its name and fell, plop, into the loo. That’s the bad news. The good news? I now have an online payment service account, which as soon as I figure out how to use it, will help me pay for the replacement. Who said, “You can’t win for losing?”

— Allia Zobel Nolan

Allia Zobel Nolan is a Norwalk, Connecticut, author with over 150 titles to her name. Her devotional, The Worrywart’s Prayer Book, was the top winner of the 2022 Indie Book Award for Christian Non-Fiction.

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