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How to alarm a sister

October 7, 2022

I didn’t mean to alarm my sister. It’s that damn technology …

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

I’m not a fan of technology, though it’s helped me pay my bills for 18 years, editing and writing for this online daily newspaper. That’s not the kind of technology I hate. Not the kind that I can call up the CNS tech guys and ask them to fix it, and they do, and then I can go back to typing.

That kind of tech is OK.

The kind I hate is when Microsoft or Windows or Google or Apple or Some Other Carnivorous Creature From Hell “upgrades” my system so that I can’t do anymore what I want, which is type. And send emails. And fart around on the Net.

Usually when I’ve been “upgraded,” I have to call my sister because for many years she ran the tech side of a manufacturing company. She is a smart and doughty gal and not to be trifled with, if you know what’s good for you while I am alive. She got all the computer gadgets she’ll ever need, and knows how to use them.

Apparently, her Apple iPhone 12 Pro claims to be able to translate voicemails into text messages, and does so “without me [her] asking it to.” Then it texts the bloody mélange to an unlucky victim.

I had no idea such a gadget exists. But it does, and I hate it.

This is a true story, I swear to Zeus. It all happened in a few minutes.

But first, as we screenwriters say, here is the backstory. (Cue Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in C, fading into spooky music ...)

When my friend Patrick visited me in Denver last winter, he rescued from a closet a zip-up hoodie my sister had given me, to keep warm on walks at the dog park. In the course of these walks, Patrick pulled out the string from the hoodie. No big deal.

The weather having changed this week, I donned the hoodie and found there was a missing link. So I bought two new strings at the Surplus Store, for 49 cents apiece, but try as I could, I could not figure out how to stuff either one of ‘em back into the hood and through to the other side.

Having exhausted everything my tiny brain could muster, I figured that if I could super glue a string to the end of a knitting needle, I could push the needle through to the far end of the hoodie, et voila! Pull out ze string!

So I called my sister and told her voicemail the plan, and asked if she had a knitting needle, and could I borrow it.

Sister Deb called back about three minutes later in a state of alarm. She sounded like she thought I was about to th’ow myself off a bridge or sumpin’.

Here is the text message she received — the text translation of my voicemail:

“[garbled] … I need your advice on [garbled …] Patrick pulled out and since you're a girl I figured you know I was thinking like I had to get up knitting needle and superglue the end of it to the cord and push it through because I don't know [garbled]”

Let me be clear: My sister seems to have thought I was thinking about self-administering an abortion, and all I lacked was a knitting needle.


Let’s look at the intelligible fragment of this Text From Hell: “Patrick pulled out … you’re a girl [so] I figured you’d know … I had to get [a] knitting needle and superglue … and push it through … because I don’t know [garbled]”.

Well, what would you think?

(“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain)

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