CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sometimes it's hard not to listen in to a stranger's cellphone conversation. Especially when the person drops some little ear-tweaking teaser phrases that rank the conversation too potentially interesting to miss.I just never expected that I, a rapid cellphone opponent, would become one of those people.It happened last week when returning from an out-of-state teaching gig that left me stuck in the Chicago airport for several hours. I'm not used to air travel, nor familiar with how to endure crowded places for more than a few minutes, and I naively believed there'd be some quiet corner to work. I figured once a flight boarded, the seating area would empty for a while, making it possible to find a less frenetic place. Yet each time I'd settle and start writing, someone would inevitably come along, plop down a few chairs away and begin a long and loud conversation on their cellphone.One woman had a speech pattern that I found particularly distracting. It wasn't an accent. More like an impediment. You might even dub it an Irish Impediment since it was her habit of randomly prefacing words with the letter O.An example."O'Peter has been struggling with college. O'Yes, struggling. Peter. Really. He's taking O'Eight hours this semester, I believe, but he has this job at O'The sweetest little boutique ..."I tried to wait her out. Tried to move a few seats away. Even tried stopping what I was doing to sit, notepad in hand, openly listening to her conversation and jotting notes. It was hopeless. She was so loud and longwinded that I eventually gave up and moved to the seating area where my flight would be called.
Which is when my own cellphone rang.It was my 15-year-old daughter, Celeste. She'd been staying with a friend while I was away, while my friend Susan stayed at my house to take care of our pets.Before I tell more about the call, I should explain that Susan is the ultimate house-sitter. She not only tended our herd of animals, but hung curtains (including the rods), cleaned my garage and painted my kitchen. I was nearly as excited about her staying at my house as I was about the trip itself. Susan is also something of a dog whisperer, and she made a project of trying to fix our closet dog, Roo.For those unfamiliar with the Closet Dog breed, it's what you get when you mix an elkhound with a coyote and then allow it to simmer a few years with a dog hoarder (53 dogs in a single-wide trailer) before depositing the resultant basket case with a softheaded dog foster parent. Who's not up to the task of rehabilitating such an extreme case.Although I've not spent the money to get DNA confirmation, Roo meets all the markers, both physically and otherwise. She's compact, somewhat waterproof, skulks around the edges of rooms, and spends every night roaming the house, stealing whatever she can lay her jaws on and carry back to her closet, where her larder grows so large it can fill a garbage bag in a week.
I love that weird dog, but years of trying to alter her behavior have resulted in nothing more than waving the white flag of surrender. I deemed her untrainable. A lost cause.Susan disagreed. Insisted that during her time at my house, she would turn Roo around.
Celeste and I thought Susan's confidence was adorable. We knew Roo. Knew how frustrating and infuriating that dog could be.So now we're back to me at the Chicago airport. I'd abandoned my quest for quiet and moved into the crowded United Airlines waiting area. My cellphone rings. It's Celeste, calling immediately upon arriving home after being gone for most of a week."It smells amazing in here," Celeste says.She's walking around the house as she talks. Susan had already left, so the place is empty. My girl -- unaccustomed to a house that smells good -- is searching for the source. Finds it in the kitchen."Whoa!" She says. "You should see the size of this crock pot."The lid clunks down on the counter. With much lip smacking, Celeste is describing the giant slab of meat that Susan had left cooking for us. She stops chattering briefly to greet the dogs. Says hi to Murry. Hi to Chewie.
But no Roo.I'm confused."Wait a minute," I say. "You mean to say you got home and there's a giant crock pot on the counter with a huge slab of meat in it and one of the dogs is missing?"Which is how I learned people were eavesdropping on my conversation.Karin Fuller can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. O'And Roo can be found at Susan's house, where she continues her rehabilitation.