I have a very fractious relationship with my phone(s). I need them. I have to have them. I hate them. To me, the phone is a machine. A tool. An instrument to be controlled by me.
To other people, the phone is a companion. A good friend on a lonely day. A welcome break.
When the phone rings at my house, I don’t feel compelled to get out of the tub, off the toilet, out of bed to answer it. My mother, on the other hand, will leap hurdles (and, at 78 that’s saying something) to get there before it stops ringing.
“Hello?!” Her breathless, cheery greeting is always on the other end no matter what I may be interrupting. “One moment, Mr. President of the United States. The PHONE has rung! Summoned my attention! I will continue our conversation as soon as I have attended to the needs of the person on the line. Yes, daughter?”
How did I spring from these loins? The phone rings at my house, could be the President of the United States, I really don’t give a rat’s hind end. I’m in the tub. If it’s important, he’ll call back. If it’s not important, I really don’t see the need to pursue it.
When the phone rings, nine times out of ten the caller never wonders, “Hey, I bet I just dragged Carolyn off the toilet. Hope she had adequate time to attend to her personal hygiene.” I never hear, “Hey, are you busy? Is this a good time? Have you finished wiping?”
So, I can be in the middle of a Camp David style negotiation with two Heads of State and I’ll get, “Oh, my gosh, you’re not going to believe this! My dog just pooped out a chimmichanga wrapper!”
Back in the ‘pre-answering machine/pre-caller ID’ days, I never knew who was going to call. “Hello, Carolyn. This is your boss. Suzie Slacker just called in sick, so you have to come in and work.” “But I have a house full of guests in from out of town. I’ve been planning this meal for 2 years!” “Listen, Carolyn. Do you WANT to keep your job?” “Uh, yeah…” “Then we’ll see you in ten minutes.”
To me, the jangle of the phone signals Danger, Will Robinson! It’s knee-jerk. I run screaming. The unfortunate side effect of my phone-o-phobe, is that all 798 people who call me regularly take it personally. Carolyn has not returned my call, therefore, Carolyn hates me.
No, no, NO! Carolyn still loves you. She is simply busy. Writing. Eating. Bathing, mowing the lawn, going wee-wee, working toward world peace. She simply can’t find the phone. At our house, we have three phones that sport answering machines (built into the unit) and six cordless phones that die when kicked under the couch, never to be heard from again (fine with me). Whichever kid fooled with the buttons last, determines which machine will answer. The lights flash willy-nilly all over the house. “You have a call! You have 798 calls! Stop what you are doing right now, and return all 798 calls. Deal with the missile crisis! Handle the peace talks! Make life changing decisions! Danger, danger Will Robinson!”
This is not something new. I hid from the phone in high school. My friends would call to discover what I was having for dinner and to share their culinary adventures. I didn’t care about their tuna-loaf. I’m selfish that way. My sister on the other hand, lived her entire high school career within the radius of the stretchy phone cord. And yet, we are born to the same two parents!
Now, thanks to the advent of the cell phone, I am expected to care about tuna-loaf 24/7. Sometimes, my husband calls from work and I can hear the toilet flush in the background. “You are talking to me from the toilet?” How special. While I have been writing this blog, the phone has rung no-I-am-not-kidding 4 times. My middle daughter ‘butt-dialed’ me from school. This is a technical term meaning “I have my phone in my back pocket and when I sat down, I depressed your speed-dial number.”
My sister-in-law has been my sister-in-law for nearly 35 years. In that time, we have spoken on the phone, uh, two maybe three times. We have a mutual phobia of the phone, and enjoy that about each other. We both freely admit that we are more interested in the conversation we are having in person. When the phone rings, it is not a signal to ditch what I am doing and who I am focusing on, and rush to answer. To us, stopping to answer the phone says to the person we are talking to, “Hey, you really don’t matter as much as the telemarketer”.
My husband, will answer the phone in the middle of a screaming match with me. “And if you think that we are going to spend MONEY on something as STUPID as… RING!” “Hey!” he says jauntily, “This is Matt.”
Uh, hello? I was in the middle of making a crucial point, here. My kids are the same way. “And so, Junior, the moral of this critical, life changing lesson is…what’s that vibrating?” “My cell. Goofy-shoes from school is calling.” “But, I am in the middle of CHANGING YOUR LIFE WITH THE MORAL OF MY STORY!” “Yeah, but the phone. It was ringing!” “What does Goofy-shoes have to say?” “They are bored.”
Oh. Well. That is something.