The words coming out of my mouth felt familiar.

Not that I had spoken them before. But I knew in my heart one day I would.

Seventy six percent of data?! You used 76 percent of our data in 24 days? Why ... how ... what ... how is that even possible?” I sputtered, tripping over my interrogative pronouns.

As confused as I was, I felt a special connection — whether digital or analog I do not know — with every dumbfounded parent who has ever given their teen a cellphone. I was part of a beautiful global community of middle-aged head scratchers.

“I don’t even know how that is possible ... I can’t believe ...” I said, my voice trailing off as I studied the pie chart on my screen that tracked every dog-being-cute video, every music download and Instagram upload, every Snapchat streak and text, every everything that consumed gigabytes.

Now, I have no grasp of numerics that sound like quantities made up by Doc Brown from “Back to the Future.” Gigabyte. Gigawatt. Bolt of lighting on a clocktower. I don’t have a firm handle on any of it. But what I do understand is what Steve at the Verizon store told me at Christmas — “12 gigabytes is a lot of data.”

That’s what Steve said. And Steve looked like the kinda guy who knew his way around a pile of gigabytes.

And I’ll admit I play it fast and loose with my own data, searching for important things like “Who is Zac Efron?” and “What does it mean when someone sends me a peach emoji?” I am also a sucker for Facebook videos — the “surprise” soldier-family reunion, kid eating an onion, penguin falling on the ice. I’ve seen them all.

But even with my extravagant data practices, I still only used ... “6 percent. Do you hear me?” I said to my 13-year-old, the words coming easier now. “All the stupid stuff I use my phone for, and I only used 6 percent! How do you use 76 percent?”

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The child gave me a wide stare, holding up her phone as if willing gigabytes to start leaking out the bottom so she could safely say, “No, it isn’t my fault. My phone has a crack in it and all the data must have drained onto the floor when I was doing my homework.”

Instead, she was now the one tongue tied.

She opened her mouth. Then shut it again. Opened. Then shut. Still no words came out.

“I ... I don’t know ... but I promise to be better!” she said, making sure to end on a high note.

“Short of livestreaming your entire day, I don’t know how it is possible,” I said.

Nearly two months with her phone, I’ve never even seen her talk on it.

All I hear is the gentle pitter patter of thumb pads hitting glass and intermittent laughter.

I wanted to call Steve and ask him what went wrong.

I’ll just have to wait till Wednesday. That’s when our data renews.

Martha Petteys writes a weekly column for The Post-Star. Write to her at petteyshome@gmail.com or visit her on Facebook.


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