by Mike Todd

I paused with the unfurled paper clip clenched between my fingers, gathering the courage to stab it in, feeling the same hesitation that Brutus probably felt the last time he hung out with Caesar. “I don’t understand why you’re doing this,” my wife Kara said.

“I just have to,” I replied. And with that, I stabbed the paper clip into the side of my iPhone, the device that had been like a friend for the last two years, always within arm’s reach, offering entertainment and Facebook updates while my kids perhaps did something wonderful and unnoticed on the other side of the screen. The iPhone gives so much, asking only in return that you forsake your immediate reality and all those who inhabit it. A small price to pay, really, for continuous access to videos of cats riding on goats.

As the paperclip went in, a small tray popped out. In the tray sat a tiny card, printed with the name of the wireless carrier that I’d been using for many years, which shall remain nameless here, because corporations are people, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, and I don’t want to hurt his or her feelings.

My two-year contract had expired the previous month, which gave me the leverage to call and ask him or her to stop charging me so much money every month. To my surprise, he or she obliged, via his or her customer service representative.

“We can give you the ‘Squeaky Wheel’ discount,” the rep told me (paraphrasing), and it was enough grease to make me stop squeaking. When the bill came at the end of the month, though, only about half the promised grease actually showed up.

“Et tu, Verizon?” I said. Okay, it was Verizon. I hope his or her feelings aren’t hurt.

So I decided to bring my phone to a lower-cost carrier, because I am either efficient or cheap, depending on whether it’s me or anyone else choosing the word.

“You’re not going to have enough data on that plan,” my wife said, hiding safely from my frugal clutches behind her brand-new two-year Verizon contract. She’d just upgraded to an iPhone 6 Plus, which is basically the same thing as her old iPhone 5, except it has a fingerprint reader and is big enough to double as a cutting board on a tuna boat.

As part of the deal, I replaced my iPhone 5 with her old one, because hers had spent two years riding in her purse like a pampered Chihuahua, and mine had been scratched, chipped, cracked, smashed on the ground and dropped in the toilet, requiring a heroic amphibious rescue.

“Your husband is eligible for an upgrade, too,” the lady at the store had said when Kara got her new phone, which meant that I was eligible to waste money on something I didn’t need. By that rationale, I’m also eligible for a Mercedes.

So I decided to stick with ancient two-year-old technology, even bumping down my plan to cost about half of what I’d been paying, prompting Kara to warn me about the perils of proceeding through life with an underpowered data plan. I think I’ll be OK, though. I’ve spent the vast majority of life so far with zero monthly gigs of data. I was just a dude, standing there with no signal at all. And everything went OK for the most part, except for the bald spot.

After popping a new card into the side of the phone and clicking it into place, my iPhone was functioning again, exactly as it had before, but for much less money. This is a rough spot in our relationship for sure, but I’m hoping that Verizon and I can still be friends.

You can cancel your contract with Mike Todd at

Ed. Note: Last week Mike Todd won a Keystone Press Award second place for “Best Column” among all of the hundreds of newspapers in the state under 10,000 circulation. Jim Harris, also of the Local, won first place.