“Oh, no!” A Cell Phone Tragedy
I tell these stories to share a little bit of the extraordinary experiences I have had. Some are humorous, some are serious, and some are just down right embarrassing, but as I promised from the start they are all events that have been taken from my travel journals.
I was going to Albania fairly frequently. I participated on Jesus Film teams in the summer, and at other times during the year I was going back to do dentistry in the villages. I felt it was necessary to finally get my own cell phone in Albania so that I could be a little more independent, and not be a burden to my friends. In other words I didn’t want them to have to “baby sit me.” I was learning the language, the customs, the country, and I felt I could handle some of my own arrangements while my friends continued to take care of other matters.
In 2003, I went on the AERO Projekt, which I have described before as the Jesus Film outreach to the villages. AERO stands for Albanian Evangelical Rural Outreach. Karen and I, and friends Dennis and Terri, and Edis had started an English club with Albanians who had moved to Wichita. That summer I took my wife Karen, and our youngest son, Joe. I went on the project and they went to the city of Korça to stay with the family of some of our Albanian friends who now live in Wichita.
I was staying in the home of a man who lived in a mountainside village. I woke up one morning about five o’clock and couldn’t go back to sleep so I went out on the front porch and read my Bible by the light of my small Mag Lite. This particular morning also just happened to be my birthday. I figured that at some time in the morning Karen would be calling me from Korça to wish me happy birthday, so I put my phone in the front pocket of my T-shirt. The sun was just beginning to create an amber sliver along the horizon of the mountains to the east when I felt the need to use the banjo (pronounced bon-yo), or toilet. Now this particular banjo was an outhouse set on the slope of the hill built up with stone pillars on the down hill side of the structure. The actual facility was what is referred to as a Turkish toilet, which means there is a hole about four inches in diameter over which you squat. The idea is for the business to fall through the hole, and in this case increase the mass of the mound of business that was piled on the slope of the hill beneath the banjo.
There is a ritual that must be performed before you squat and that is to check all pockets to insure nothing falls out during the squatting. In the darkness of the banjo I performed this ritual obligatorily and leaned forward to prepare to squat. I had failed to remember my cell phone in my T-shirt pocket, however, and gravity and simple physics launched my phone in a perfect trajectory right at that hole. The phone hit the brim and then fell into the dark abyss below. I said, “Oh… no!”, and quickly dropped to my knees and peered into the depths. Fortunately the impact with the brim of the hole had caused my phone light to turn on, and it had landed face up on the top of the pile of manure. Determined to be ready to get my ‘Happy Birthday’ phone call from Karen, I reached into the hole to retrieve the renegade cell. At this time in my life I was weight lifting regularly and my biceps could only be described as “GUNS”. Well, kinda sort of. The point is my arm had to be squished into the hole, and the pile was deep enough that I had to extend pretty much up to my arm pit. The only saving grace was that the phone had landed with the light on and face up so I didn’t have to grope for it. Once I had the phone, I extracted it and my arm from the hole to find I had a nice gooey circumferential brown arm band ringing just at the juncture of my deltoid muscle into the biceps and triceps. The arm band was easier cleaned off than my phone, but I did have it ready when Karen called a few hours later with my Birthday wishes. I must admit that the reception was kind of crappy though. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist).
I went back to my base camp a couple of days later in a town called Permet, and told the story to Gary who was a friend from our church in Wichita and who had been a member of another team. I told the story to him much as I have told you. At the end Gary rubbed his chin and said, “You know. I don’t think I would have said Oh, no!” I said, “Well, as a matter of fact I didn’t say Oh, no.” Gary smiled and said, “I thought not.” Later after supper I came back to our room where Gary had been writing in his journal. He said, “Tell me if this is right,” and he proceeded to read to me the story I had told him. At the end he read, “I said to Rob that I don’t think I would have said Oh, no!, and he said, ‘Well as a matter of fact I didn’t say Oh, no!'” We both laughed and went on with the evening.
A few days later after we had been back out into the villages, and then returned to the base camp to prepare to come back to the States, I met a friend that had been with Campus Crusade for Christ in Albania from the beginning years named Cori. She had come to Permet for meetings or something, and she said, “Rob, I was just told the best cell phone story I have ever heard.” I quickly recited the story as before. At the end she said, “You know, I don’t think I would have said Oh, no!” I said, “Well, as a matter of fact I didn’t say Oh, no!“
You may be wondering what I did say. Well, I said what probably ninety-nine percent of the people in the world would have said seeing their cell phone fall into a hole of manure. My desire is to have only wholesome speech come out of my mouth, but I’m not perfect, I’m just forgiven. There are times when that explicative just fits, and that was one of those times.
I did immediately thank God, however, that the light had turned on and that the phone had landed face up so that I wouldn’t have to go fish for it. I believe that God is more honored and worshiped when we humbly ask forgiveness for our failings, rather than pretend that we don’t make mistakes, or that we would have reacted to a situation better than someone else. I still have that phone, by the way. I and others have used it for many years. Which I think is a good object lesson here—regardless of our mucky past we can still be used effectively by God if we are willing.
May God Bless You until next time!