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While reading the newspaper on a Saturday afternoon a wailful call of "Beep. Beep" suddenly came from the living room. I looked up rather dumbfounded but was able to at least conclude it wasn't the "Road Runner" coming to borrow my sports section.
It was definitely a tone I'd heard before but I just couldn't place it. I finally realized what was producing this sound and, suddenly, beads of sweat formed upon my brow, my heart began to race and my hands began to shake. Sheer terror quickly engulfed me.
I desperately looked outside for my six-year-old son and meekly surrendered to the fact I was alone. Panic soon arrived. I frantically concluded it was me, unsupported, who now had the responsibility of responding to the beckoning calls from my son's virtual pet. I needed to preven t him from a virtual premature passing. The problem was I was virtually clueless.
I recalled from overhearing my children's conversations that this entreating noise could mean anything from "Sing me a lullaby" to "I need some chicken.'' I didn't know if I was supposed to hum him a few bars of "You Are My Sunshine" or take him out for some fast food. This was no ordinary toy; this was a little gadget with wants and needs! Why couldn't my kids have been satisfied with the silent joy of a pet rock?
Questions quickly flooded my mind. How long did I have to respond before I'd find myself havin g to explain to my son that his little "Freddie" (as he aptly named it) had met its demise under my watch? How had I got stuck chaperoning a battery operated, palm sized, quite demanding little toy/pet?
I finally located "it" and we now stared at each other as our new relationship began to unfold.
It actually appeared, on the screen, that he was shivering. I quickly concluded he was too cold and confidently went over to my thermostat and raised it a few degrees. I may get warm but at least he'd be quiet. Little did I know that his temperature was solely controlled by one of his buttons and not mine. All right, I was more than a little clueless.
I resumed my spot on the couch and the "Beep. Beep" returned. I reluctantly walked over to the coffee table where he lay. As I reached down for my little afternoon companion I saw the proverbial treasure map. Crumpled up at the edge of the table was the only thing that could assist me in sustaining Freddie's existence - DIRECTIONS!
In scanning the instructions I suddenly realized the button I'd just pushed had disciplined Freddie and he hadn't done anything wrong! Would he report this to my son? I still needed to figure out what he wanted but now I also needed to seek his forgiveness!
Gazing at his screen it was clear something was now wrong. He appeared quite dark. Demonstrating the depths of my ignorance I began blowing at him to supply some added oxygen. I perused the instructions and concluded Freddie was indicating he was dirty and needed a shower. My first thought was how the heck did he get dirty? My second thought was wouldn't it ruin the batteries if I held him under water? Any parental instinct here was quite lacking.
After the showering was complete I felt a sense of parental pride as he was now actually smiling. We were bonding. Surprising as it was, I had to admit I was now looking forward to an afternoon of quality time together. Just a dad and his son's virtual pet. Maybe I'd take him to a movie.
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