*POW@* and she takes another one to the gut…

For Christmas this year Bella got a new cell phone. Despite my reservations, we got her a Black Jack II with a full QWERTY keyboard and although it was web-enabled, it did not require a PDA monthly web plan like the iPhone, Blackberry, or Tilt. I had given her an unlimited messaging package ($20/month) as an allowance upgrade when we moved to Orange County from Joshua Tree, which included unlimited IMing and she had developed quite a texting network over the last six months – hence the QWERTY keyboard request.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but when Bella got the phone, she was not entirely thrilled. One, it was her only gift from me, Chad , and Santa, and two, I guess she had been hoping for something even more glamorous, like Verizon’s Voyager or at the very least she’d been hoping for the Tilt. After a week of ignoring the new phone and threatening to trade it in for another, she finally charged it up and got started on it somewhere in the beginning of January. We saw right away that her gmail was coming up automatically, so we immediately took it into the AT&T store to have the web connection disabled. Turns out that you cannot disable the web and still keep the unlimited texting – and remember you get charged for every text you receive, so even if SHE stopped texting a million times a day, she could still GET a million texts a day from all her friends… so getting rid of unlimited texting was not really an option.

We settled for getting rid of all the web icons on her phone so that she wouldn’t be tempted to go online. And we sent her on her merry way with severe admonitions that she would be responsible for any errant web browsing bills.

Well, I got January’s bill not too long ago.

Bella’s portion of the bill was $946.85.

Did your heart just stop like mine did? Talk about little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.

$837 was incurred the first day the phone was turned on.

Then imagine me arguing with AT&T representatives, saying that my daughter said she’d never gone online intentionally. Well, you can imagine how that went over. I’m sure those cell phone reps hear that story more than once a day. I was assured that a high-level adjustment claim would be submitted and I would hear back from them shortly.

Ten days went by and the only AT&T calls I got were ones threatening to disconnect my service. I called back, only to discover that NO CLAIM had ever been submitted on my account. And so I started the entire process over again, this time with no small amount of fury and frustration in my voice. And this time I was told that the cheapest unlimited web data plan with unlimited texting was $50/month. And that signing up for this plan improved my chances of of getting the $946.85 knocked off my bill. So, in hopes of getting the charges reduced I threw yet more money on the problem and signed up.

And in case I haven’t mentioned it, Bella isn’t even allowed within ten feet of her Black Jack at the moment. I had her pull her SIM card and start using her old RAZR immediately.

To put not so fine a point on it, the relationship between Bella and I these last few weeks has been strained. Very strained. She, of course, denies any responsibility.

Luckily for her though, it looks like she will not be grounded the rest of her high school life. I received a text today saying that the charges have been reversed.

But to be honest, the whole situation’s been so stressful, it feels like I’ve already paid that damn bill – with buckets of anxious sweat.

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