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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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One little ker-plunk made lots of change
By ERNEST HOOPER
Published November 21, 2007
I heard the splash before I could utter uh-oh.
It happened that fast.
As I exited the car on a recent Saturday night, my trusty cell phone with 301 contact numbers slipped out of my hand and into a sewer drain. Oh, the horror.
I cringed and cursed and fretted - all in the span of three seconds. I forgot that at some point not too long ago, I actually lived without a cell phone and committed the numbers of friends and family to memory. I started to call 911, or AAA or Chad from Alltel.
And then it dawned on me.
I don't have a cell phone to call someone.
I lifted up the manhole cover in the darkness and saw only a reflection of the moon bouncing off the murky waters. C'est la vie. I carried on through the night, confident the company would replace the phone on Monday.
Turns out it would take the company at least a week to come up with a replacement. They might as well have told me that I had to spend the next 10 days without oxygen. Suddenly, the strains of LeAnn Rimes' How Do I Live Without You played in my mind. Apparently, the crisis required rehab.
But you know what? I survived. In fact, losing the cell phone liberated me .
Like a dog finally let off the leash, I roamed through Tampa Bay untethered. It took a few minutes, but I came to realize I didn't have to hold my right hand up to my ear while driving.
I also got the chance to listen to more music than I had in seven years. And you know what, this Kanye guy is pretty good.
Losing the cell phone also marked the first time in six years I was alone with my thoughts. I discovered my thoughts hadn't changed much: cheeseburgers, ribs, Florida's 1984 win over Georgia at the Gator Bowl and that girl I had a crush on in high school.
But I still enjoyed getting reacquainted.
What about the numbers I lost? Well, that still stings a little. No longer can I sit in a bar and impress folks by showing them I have the cell number for Pam Iorio (honestly, I think she changed the number years ago, but it still dazzled people). And if a deputy pulls me over, I can't show them "David Gee" on the contact list and pretend the sheriff and I are as thick as thieves.
Sheriff? Thieves? I guess I should have used a different cliche.
Anyway, the regret lingers but I'm rebuilding the contact list the old-fashioned way: one call at a time. Someone said I should send out a mass e-mail, but I despise such impersonal missives.
Besides, true friends who haven't heard from me in the last three weeks should be wondering if I'm still alive. They should be calling to check on me. Now I know who really loves me.
Yes, I've just exposed the ugly side of my insecurities. I'll tell the psychiatrist next week.
I eventually rejoined the 21st century and am back to carrying my cell phone wherever I go. The only person happier than me is my wife: Yes dear, I'll pick up some eggs on the way home. No, I'm not in a bar. That's just people in the newsroom watching reruns of Cheers.
Okay, happy is a relative term, but at least I know now that I'm not a slave to technology. After all, it's a cell phone, not a Blackberry.