Know One's Home

My phone just vibrated and ding- donged at the same time. It's AT&T calling - we need your wallet back.

"AT&T Free Msg: More than 65% (2664MB) of shared data for your AT&T Mobile Share group has been used for the period ending on 03/03/14."

AYFKM? ("Are you f---ing kidding me?" It's a text shortie for companies that charge data-usage to my credit card.)
Yesterday, they sent a text thanking me for my monthly payment of $202.97, which would have been fine if I weren't on the $150-for-two-phones (wife has the other one) plan. Today, I'm already posting the same numbers I did as a college freshman: 65 percent. #smokedtoomuchbackthen

I know I can buy more gigabytes for 10 bucks a month or whatever, but the dude on the phone made a point of specifying that, if I went over my data plan, my account would automatically bump up to the next tier. Overages would cost 20 bucks on the high side. He promised. So, how does my bill go from $150 to $202.97? That sounds like a lot of streaming porn... even for me.

Is it my auto-backup to iCloud? Is it the slow- motion video of my 20-month-old kid, Lex, running around the house, barking? Do I need to turn off HDR? Maybe I should shorten my emails, eliminate photos and start sending binary.

TXT MSG: Hey, AT&T, go 01100100 yourself!

All this nothingness is happening while I'm waiting for my drink at Starbucks (the one on Falcon Street in Mission Hills; holla, y'all!). Of the seven people in line, five are playing with their phones, one is paying for a latte, and the other is looking through her purse, no doubt for her phone.

As Ariel, the kickboxing barista with the ever- changing hair color, hands me my usual (venti iced coffee, no sweetener), the phone pings again. It's Mom.

MOM: Please e-mail me the photo you texted me. I can't open it. Lex looks so cute!
ME: You can't open it?
MOM: No. It doesn't work at my house.

ME: How do you know Lex looks cute if you can't open it?
MOM: I can see it, I just can't open it. There's something wrong with it.

ME: Can you e-mail it to yourself?
MOM: My phone doesn't do that.

I know when to throw up the white flag. Mom calls Verizon so much they've assigned a special agent to her account. She says she has him on "speed-dial," which means I'll need to help find his number on her allegedly non-emailing Android sometime soon.

When I get to work, I Facetime the fam for two and a half minutes - Lex's maximum attention span - before jumping into the day. There's Wi-Fi at the office, so my phone connects fast and free.

Simone and I don't have a landline at home, so when I call AT&T after dinner, I put the iPhone on speaker while checking data usage in "Settings." Not a big deal, but it does make the process of calling customer service a smidge less awesome.

Less awesomer still is the woman on the other end of the line, who reveals my first senior moment - or at least the first one brought to my attention. Turns out the iMac (which streams Pandora 24/7) and the TV (which streams Netflix so Lex can watch "Curious George Swings into Spring" at breakfast) are tethered to my iPhone hotspot when I'm home.

AT&T WOMAN: Before I issue your a credit, Mr. Perloff, are you saying you didn't know the other devices were using your phone as a hotspot?
ME: Correct. Isn't that what we just figured out together? How can I avoid this in the future?
AT&T WOMAN: Yes, Mr. Perloff. There should be a green flashing bar at the top of your screen indicating when other devices are using your phone as a hotspot.

I check my phone. Lo and behold, it's blinking... something about hotspots. Has it always done that? When did it start? No way it said that all this time. No way! Am I losing my friggin' mind?

The woman offers to walk me through the process of turning off my personal hotspot in the same condescending tone I'd use to help Mom find Verizon Guy's number. I decline, adjust the settings all by myself and put the phone down.

Some people have smart homes. Mine's a moron. Or maybe it's a case of operator error. Either way, this is where I come to relax, unwind, step in saliva- soaked Play-Doh in the middle of the night and wonder if I just crushed a mouse with my foot.

In this home-focused issue of PacificSD, San Diego Architectural Foundation president Maxine Ward leads a tour of the city's sublime residential architecture, and Miss California USA 2014 Cassandra Kunze shows how to shop for modern furniture in a fashionable fashion. Learn about going solar (see Dough Ray Me), enjoy the tour (see Try Angles) and happy sofa shopping (see Sittin' Pretty).

They say there's no place like home, but if I can't unplug and go off-grid when I'm there, maybe I don't know a place like home after all. I should Google "place like home."

Where's my phone?

-David Perloff, Editor-in-Chief

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