Virtue & Mischief


Who knew my Ipod touch would be such an agent of mischief and anxiety?

I purchased it a year ago or so to listen to music as I exercised and to take pictures or brief videos at family gatherings, athletic events, or other situations that screamed “save this for posterity!”

The difficulty started, as it usually does, innocently enough. Abby asked if she could use it last fall, I said okay, and she proceeded to download a few free applications and games. Then Luke jumped on board, and did the same. Daniel naturally wanted to get in on the action and enlisted Luke’s help in downloading a couple of items and by this point I suppose the die was cast. Somewhere along the line I had assented to one of the amigos—I forget which one—purchasing a $3.99 online game and had entered in the necessary credit card information in the process. I should have known better.

I entered my office one morning, fired up my computer, and scanned my email inbox. That’s odd, I thought. What are these eight emails from itunes?? I clicked on them and discovered each constituted a receipt of multiple downloaded items accumulated over the course of the previous weekend. $3.99 here, $12.99 there, with a few $6.99’s peppered to and fro for good measure. All told, Daniel had “purchased” over $400 worth of Batman-related applications from Steven Jobs, Inc. I placed a feverish call to the Apple customer service line, explained with embarrassment what I thought had occurred (“Sir, I’m so sorry, but I believe my autistic son accidentally downloaded these items without understanding what he was doing…”) and pleaded for an expungement of the bill. The young lady on the other end oozed understanding and took care of the situation promptly, though she with sugary foreboding “Mr. Swensen, we’re happy to assist you with this issue on this occasion, but I can’t guarantee a similar outcome in the future. Please make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Well, duh. Did the poor girl think I was a moron or something?

Months went by and the amigos shared uneventfully the Ipod from time to time, an hour here, an hour there. Each enjoyed different games or applications, commensurate with their developmental levels and personal tastes. Luke had recently become enamored with “Clash of Clans,” a game described by Wikipedia as “an online multiplayer game in which players build a community, train troops, and attack other players to earn gold and elixir, and Dark Elixir, which can be used to build defenses that protect the player from other players’ attacks, and to train and upgrade troops.” That seemed fairly harmless to me, so I allowed him to play it for longer than normal one particularly cold and bitter weekend. On the following Monday I arrived at my office, settled at my desk with a fresh, hot cup of coffee, booted up my laptop, and logged onto my email account.

Uh oh. Itunes, itunes, itunes, itunes, itunes, itunes. My stomach seized and my heart rate increased with each opened email. The culprits this time were “in app purchases”—a series of items purchased while playing a certain strategy game involving, ahem, training and upgrading troops. Now I owed Apple over $600. Another call to customer support, another plea for forgiveness. This time I spoke with “John” who, it happened, was located in the Minneapolis area but was originally from Cincinnati. He feigned interest in Greenville (“I’ve heard of Greenville! You guys have that big fair, right?”) and, bless his soul, received the green light from his immediate superior to once more clear the account of one Timothy (“the Moron”) Swensen.

After inhaling the sweet aroma of a $600 debt wiped clean, I moved into “LET’S ENSURE THIS NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN” mode.

“John,” I began, “can you please walk me through the process with my device right now so a repeat offense is impossible? Because if it does happen again things are going to get extremely ugly at the Swensen household. ‘Drudge Report’ ugly, if you know what I mean.”

“Good idea, Mr. Mor—I mean Swensen. This is your ‘second strike.’ after all, and I’ve never seen anyone getting a third, you know, free pass. Ummm. So to speak.”

“Yeah. Right.” I shuddered at the prospect of a “third strike” in this context. For the next fifteen minutes John escorted me through the arcane world of Ipod settings, codes, and restrictions, a veritable cyber-warren of passwords, on/off switches and other information, and he issued commands to turn certain settings off and to establish passcodes here and passwords there.

After the intensive tutorial and guided tour, John confidently intoned “I think you’re good to go now Mr. Swensen!”

“I sure hope so, John,” I replied. “Because, no offense, but I never want to speak to you or your colleagues again.”

“Hahahah. I know what you mean, Mr. Swensen. No offense taken.”

“Because if I do, John, my children and I will have to pay the Piper and the Piper in this instance goes by K-R-I-S-T-A. And John?”

“Yes, Mr. Swensen?”

“We don’t want that to happen. Trust me.”

[Next week: “Paying the Piper, Part 2”]
Paying the Piper, Part 1

By Tim Swensen

Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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