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Our house: where phones come to die

"UM," manages the bewildered hairstyle that trudges into the kitchen on pale stilts with flapping socks on the ends, "can anyone tell me why all my clothes are in the rubbish?"

"Evidently," I tell our second eldest teen, raising my eyebrows over the rim of my coffee cup, "you missed the announcement."

"What announcement?" he says, lifting his face up to glare at me from under his fringe.

"The one where your mother," I say, emphasising the word 'mother' in order to firmly distance myself from any potential ensuing conflict, "told everyone that unless their clothes are 'in' the laundry basket, not lobbed on top, or flung around the bathroom, it all goes straight in the bin."

"And another thing," says my wife, suddenly appearing, "this house will no longer be offering a belt extraction or pocket checking service. If it's in the laundry, it gets washed, mobile phones and all. If it's in a heap on the floor, the whole lot gets chucked. You have been warned."

My heart goes out to the deeply sighing teenager now hunched over the trash, morosely disentangling an empty milk carton and several crisp bags from a scrunched pair of trousers, but she has a point.



Bad enough the family bathroom has, over the course of the summer, come to resemble an explosion in an undergarment factory, but when the deafening spin cycle of clanking pocket contents finally finishes to also reveal the dripping hulk of what was once a mobile phone, it's the parents who are the bad guys.

"Honestly, I've had enough," says my wife, as our son shuffles off mumbling to himself.

Our hall stand is a grim testament to precisely what has her so exasperated. It's a cemetery of dead hand-held devices and it never ceases to amaze me how they can send a camera several miles under the ocean to film the Titanic or all the way out of earth's atmosphere to photograph the deepest reaches of space, but they have yet to come up with a bloody mobile phone capable of withstanding a 40-minute cotton wash.

"I'm no longer responsible for what goes into that machine," she says. "And I'm not replacing any more phones. If they can't look after their own things, they can do without them."

If only it were that easy, but in truth, we seem to be texting more than talking to our three teens since summer started. It's the only way to get them in for dinner or home before dawn.

Perhaps I'll be able to help pay for replacement phones with some of the coins we end up fishing out by the handful from the jammed dryer drum along with all the wreckage of keypads and circuit boards.

"You've seen the latest casualty," I say.

"Don't even tell me," she says from behind her hands.

It's an iTouch, as it happens, with a shattered face, yet another of the 21st century's great ironies – that the sum total of cutting edge technology can today be encapsulated in the palm of one's hand, yet they choose to make it out of a sheet of glass that bursts into fragments on contact with kitchen tiles.

"I don't think it was the wash this time," I tell her.

"Either way, not my problem," shrugs my wife as, on cue, the washing machine begins making a sound like sloshing gravel and I pat down my own pockets under the table to make sure I have everything, just as the eldest trundles in for his afternoon breakfast.

"Has anyone seen my phone?" he mutters blearily.

"Over to you," I tell my wife.

Later on, I have to be at a board meeting in our little girl's school, the last of the year, and I sit uncomfortably for an hour with my iPhone jammed in the front of my jeans where, not wanting to be a casualty of our new laundry regime and applying a middle-aged man's faultless logic, I figure there's no way I'll forget it later when I go to undress for bed, seeing as I'll have to pry it out from a painful depression in my lower abdomen.



When the meeting ends, I stagger to my feet laboriously with one dead leg and limp over to where the teachers are talking by the door, stealthily attempting to shift the uncomfortable electronic slab in my pocket without looking like a complete pervert.

The two young women are evidently waiting to clear the room for some sort of dance class, for which the music is already seems to be playing, rather loudly as it happens and, as we exchange polite parting pleasantries, I recognise the sound of one of my favourite bands.

"I love this guitar solo," I offer, to which they only smile blankly as I grin and nod my head in time to the music for a moment to show how 'with it' I am.

Only when I walk outside do I realise that I have somehow triggered the music application on my iPhone, which has been blaring Neil Young and Crazy Horse from my crotch for the last five minutes.

"If only the sound had been that good at the RDS last week," I tell my wife glumly when I get home and relay the details of my latest humiliation. "It was as good as being on stage with them."

"You," she says, chuckling, "are such an incredible idiot."