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Petri: TSA phone charge rules means I can never leave the country

First Published Jul 13 2014 10:19 pm • Last Updated Jul 13 2014 10:19 pm

Bad news. Horrible news. The Transportation Security Administration has come up with a new restriction: If you are flying back to the United States from overseas — especially Europe and the Middle East — you should not bring your phone unless it has enough power to turn on when you arrive stateside.

Well, that’s it for me. My phone never has enough power to turn on even when I am safely ensconced on this side of the Atlantic.

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It’s a serious problem.

My friends like to call me "Nevercharged" Petri. That is the only way they can call me. They cannot call me on the phone because it is never charged.

They try to help me out. They have given me charging cases, the idea being that when I go out, the case will keep the phone charged when the phone would have otherwise run out of juice. They have given me little bonus chargers to carry around to plug the phone into when the phone and the case have both run out. I, of course, have forgotten to charge the chargers.

My phone is so often out of juice that nobody expects me to respond to texts. Consequently, if something were to happen to me, it could be days before anyone noticed. And something could happen at any time. I could walk in front of a bus. I could fall while opening a bag of pita chips in the shower, split my head open and not be found by the neighbors until weeks later, when they came by to thank me for not playing "It’s a Long Way to Tipperary" at high volume at 3 a.m. and beating time on the shower wall. (You have to celebrate the World War I centennial somehow!)

And now they tell us that unless your phone is charged, you may not be able to get it through security when getting off an international flight.

Yep, that’s it for me.

I once read a book of philosophy — or possibly it was just something I saw on XKCD — that said we were thinking of time all wrong. Time, it turns out, consists of a long, bleak period of millions of years during which you are not alive, followed by another equally long, equally bleak period of millions of years during which you are not alive, with the two periods interrupted only by a momentary flicker. That flicker is your life. (Wow, this got dark!) What I mean to say is: This about describes how it is for my cell phone. Its life consists of long bleak periods of inadequate battery strength briefly interrupted by flickers of life. It is very seldom charged. Mainly leap days.

When it is on, it spends most of its time lying to me that it is fine ("No, no, 8 percent, I’m great! Sure, open Google Maps! I can handle it!"), then expires dramatically as I am trying to show people a YouTube video. This is usually for the best. Nothing in life is longer than the three minutes of a YouTube video that you told your friends was going to be "really funny" and "so worth it."

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Sometimes, it stays charged for a good three hours at a time. (I know! I can never believe it either!) It allows me to play games and listen to music on it all the way up to the 15 minutes before the person I am meeting is supposed to arrive. Just when I need it to make contact is when it decides it has only 4 percent left. I shut down every app, to no avail. It creeps to 3. I send out several frantic last communications. It shuts down. I attempt to call the person on a landline, only to discover that the only phone numbers I still remember are the landlines of my friends from elementary school.

If you are out at a hip club late at night, I am the woman crouched in the men’s room with the door slightly ajar, looking a little furtive. This is because the men’s room has an outlet and I need to charge my phone. This is always a little harder to explain to people than I would like it to be. Or I am the person standing fully upright behind a large plant, holding my phone on tiptoe to reach an outlet on the ceiling. It is a pathetic sight. But this is the kind of thing my phone forces me to do.

"Get a new phone," people suggest. I can’t do that. I’d have to buy all new chargers.

So how am I ever going to get on a plane?

There is just one way out of it: I can never leave the country ever again. I regret it. But the TSA has left me no choice.

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