Happy Birthday To You Who Won't Read This

Today is my wife's birthday. She isn't sentimental about birthdays or most holidays, so I won't get in trouble for not remembering to wish her a happy birthday before she ran out the door, rushing to get our son to pre-school on time. I'll probably get in trouble for how much I spent on her present. She asked for a spa day. A massage and a facial. I'll never understand why women like to get their faces poked at as a gift, but she doesn't understand why I sit in front of the television twiddling my thumbs for hours at a time.

The Internet has made us connoisseurs even of things about which we know very little, so after some investigation I discovered a very nice hotel in our area also had one of the top-rated spas in the country. I ordered her a gift package called the "Indulgence," which includes five hours of treatments and pampering, including lunch. I can ruin the secret and tell you this because my wife has almost no interest in following technology, so she won't be reading this column.

The spa required me to come and pick up the gift card in person. I would have liked to simply hand my credit card over to my Web browser and be done with it, but that couldn't happen. They couldn't even send the card overnight, and like a good procrastinator, I only discovered this spot yesterday, so there wasn't time for me to wait for the spa to send it by mail. So, while she was dropping off our son, I was on my way downtown to speak to a living, breathing person about a gift card purchase. How quaint.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. That wasn't actually the first birthday errand I had to run this morning. First, I had to take a trip to the airport. Over the thanksgiving holiday, my wife lost her cell phone. She wasn't sure at first when it happened, but by the time we had picked up our rental car and installed the rented car seat in Newark, New Jersey, she realized that it was missing. So, we did what everyone does when they realize their cell phone is missing. We gave it a call, then sat quietly and listened for it.

My mind is trained to ignore cell phone ringing. I'm not sure when this happened, but ringtones don't catch my attention as easily these days. It's the same for car alarms. I wonder if any thief has ever been stopped by a car alarm. Most of the time when I hear a car alarm, I get annoyed at the car's owner for letting the alarm wake me up in the middle of the night. I don't ever think that the car might be getting broken into as I'm trying to fall back asleep, and I certainly never run to the window to see what's the matter.

We're at a point where it might be better to simply leave the car unlocked with the alarm turned off than to risk a false alarm at 2AM. I used to leave my car unlocked in my driveway. The other day I opened the door to find the glove compartment and center console open and tossed. Someone had broken in, or whatever you call it when no actual breaking is involved. There is nothing of value in my car whatsoever, not even interesting or important paperwork. The mess was a hassle, but the most expensive thing in my nine-year-old Camry is the child's car seat in the back. As long as that was still present, I was completely unperturbed. But now I keep my car locked, mostly out of spite to the would-be robbers.

In any case, the phone did not ring. Like I said, I tune out ringtones, but I can somehow sense a phone vibrating across the house. It's like a Spidey-sense. Spider-Man can sense danger, I can sense a phone on vibrate. Still, nothing.

It didn't take her long to remember what had happened to it. She had tried to cross through a security gate with the phone in her pocket. It was a forgivable mistake, even for frequent travelers like us. We were loaded for bear on that trip, with all our usual carry-ons, plus a stroller, a toddler and an armful of winter coats for when we got off the plane in the frigid northeast. We live in Texas, so a hoodie counts as a winter coat here.

I was trying out one of those new-fangled x-ray-friendly laptop bags. It would have been extra convenient, except that the TSA decided to pull me aside so they could swab it, which more than eliminated the time saved using the bag. They also swabbed my son's carry-on. He's two. His carry-on has Lightning McQueen on the front, and a bumper shaped like a car tire. He hasn't even seen the movie "Cars," but he pointed at the carry-on in the store and said "car," so we bought it for him. Needless to say, it hadn't been involved in any bomb-making scheme, so we were free to go. But in all the commotion, she forgot her phone in the little plastic and rubber bowl that she sent through the x-ray. The TSA, so mindful of my x-ray-friendly bag and the diapers and change of clothes in my son's tiny suitcase, were not kind enough to call after her to retrieve her phone.

The lost and found offices were also closed for the holiday, so we weren't even positive it was at the airport until Monday. I'm not sure how this could be, that it is impossible to get in touch with the TSA over the phone. Clearly there are people working, but they don't answer the phone. We tried calling her cell phone repeatedly, but they did not answer that phone, either. Oh well, at least the phone was safe and secure when I called after the weekend.

The TSA made me prove it was mine over the phone before they would put it aside to make sure nobody else claimed it. Stupidly, I gave them the only verifying information I could think of: the password to unlock the phone. Thankfully, cell phones today can't hold a charge beyond a day or so. The phone wouldn't power on. They decided to put the phone aside until I brought a charger to the airport and verified my claim in person. At last, a dead battery proves useful.

I'm still getting ahead of myself. Before the spa trip, and before the airport, I had one first birthday errand to run. Or rather, one errand to sit, since there was no running involved. I had to logon to my wife's Facebook account. She hates Facebook and never checks her own profile page. I created the profile for her so that she could see some of the photo albums her friends were posting to the site, since they were tagging her in photos, after all. The few status updates that have been posted in her name have been from me, and I make this clear when I post them.

I noticed when I woke up this morning that some of our mutual friends had been leaving happy birthday messages on her wall. Thanks to Facebook, they had beaten me to the punch, and also reminded me that I had forgotten to say "Happy Birthday" before she left the house. I had thought about it last night before bed. I should have set an alarm on my phone.

I posted a short message from her account explaining that it was not she posting the message, it was me. I left her email address and thanked everyone for wishing her a happy birthday, on her behalf. When the emails start coming in, I wonder if she'll be mystified by the flood of well-wishers. I still haven't been able to reach her on the phone this morning, and I refuse to send her a happy birthday message over email. That's something you do for an old college friend, or a long-lost elementary school buddy. Not something you do for your wife. Which means that most of her friends will beat me to the punch, and she'll think I forgot her birthday this year. But she's not sentimental, and she'll forget everything when I give her the gift card for the spa day, and her returned iPhone.

Now I have three months to think of a plan for Valentine's day. Like I said, she's not sentimental, but I'm setting the alarm on my phone right now.