A friend recently called me, upset because she got a $350 ticket for talking on her cell phone while driving. “It was important,” she wailed. But it seemed no amount of explaining would convince Officer DoRight that the need to move her massage appointment from 2:00 to 4:00 constituted an emergency.
Cell phones have changed the way we communicate with family, friends, co-workers, and even spouses. 20-something newlyweds text each other while in the same room. Couples have proposed or divorced via text messages.
But of all the changes we see cell phones making in our culture (including the apocalyptic demise of grammar and spelling), one of the most significant is that we’ve somehow come to expect 24-hour availability from anyone on our speed dial list.
In the old days (yeah, anything before 2005), people would leave messages on answering machines and wait patiently for a return call that evening, or even the next day. We understood that people had lives and were not attached to their phones like portable oxygen masks. But we’ve gradually come to expect that if you have a cell phone, you’re expected to answer every call and return every text message right freaking now.
So today, I’m offering up my list of 14 Reasons (no matter how crazy I am about you or that we’ve been friends since 1963) I Might Not Pick Up When You Call.
1. I’m in the shower. It’s hard to hear under a waterfall, and my phone insurance doesn’t cover water damage (or stupidity, like, say, taking your cell phone into the shower).
2. I’m in a restaurant. People who have normal-volume conversations with someone across the table will pick up their cell phone and start shouting loudly enough to be heard in Botswana. Yes, the caller can hear you, but so can everyone else for 6 blocks in any direction.
3. I’m at work, and my crazy boss assumes my phone conversations will be about, well…business. (But if those fabulous boots we saw last weekend are now on sale, text me.)
4. I’m driving. If you don’t have $350 worth of news, leave a message and I’ll call you at the next truck stop.
5. I’m having a massage. Yep, as in naked, lying on a warm table, incense burning and a CD of crashing waves, all working together with a massage designed to bring the feng back to my shui, totally obliterated by your multiple redials, simply to remind me to pick up some creamer for your coffee.
6. I’m having sex. In the movies, they always stop and pick up. Seriously?? My phone has sailed out the window, been tossed down the hall, and one time, thrown under my car. (Don’t ask.) Even during bad sex (Bahahahaha! I crack myself up), in which case we’re going back into the bedroom until we get it right. I’ll get back to you tomorrow.
7. I’m on the potty. I’ve never been one to pee and chat simultaneously. And if it’s a long conversation, does one flush while talking (which can be heard by the person on the other end, forever outing you as a toilet talker), or do you come back and flush after you both hang up? Social etiquette sites don’t address this one, so I’ll call you back when I’m done, okay?
8. I’m going through airport security. These people are cranky monkeys (particularly after being yelled at by pissed-off travelers all day long), and when they say “Ma’am, put that phone down now,” unless you have an unfulfilled fantasy about being strip-searched while the contents of your luggage get tossed around like a fruit salad, you should just Put. The. Phone. Down.
9. I’m writing. Even Hubs knows to stay clear unless the house is on fire and it’s reached the hallway, but otherwise wait until I come out, all bleary-eyed and brain dead from four hours of editing my latest draft post. Too often, a great thought is working it’s way into a post, but irretrievably vaporizes after a 10-minute phone chat about where to meet for lunch.
10. I’m getting a tattoo. No, I’ve never had one, but I can see the unfortunate result of leaning over to grab your phone while Mr. Nasty Needle is filling in the exotic bloom on your left breast, which now looks less like a Bird of Paradise and more like a really long party favor.
11. I’m at the gym. It’s obvious that the guy on the treadmill next to mine, who has been arguing with his wife (apparently named “You Bitch,” because he’s been calling her that for the last 45 minutes), seems to believe that we’re all either deaf and can’t hear them as they loudly resolve which one of them had an affair first, or that we can hear and are fascinated by their dramatic, reality-TV life.
12. I’m getting a pap smear or a mammogram. In the first, all I can do is peer over the sheet to see a couple of people seriously focused on my lady parts, and in the second, I’m pretty much out of the game because my breast is securely sandwiched between two metal plates, both positions effectively preventing any movement on my part, up to and including reaching for my phone.
13. I’m watching a movie. I prefer movies to TV shows because I don’t like interruptions (After the 7th senior incontinence commercial, I lose the plot and the mood). I tend to turn my phone off for movies, even though it’s the 17th viewing of The Notebook.
14. I’m at a wedding or a funeral. Looking coy and slightly embarrassed when your phone goes off during someone’s wedding vows is only slightly less rude than actually answering it and getting up to leave the service, with an audible whisper, “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to take this.” If you’re that busy and important, skip the service and send a card.
So unless you’re a family member with unresolved anger issues and feeling the need to vent (again) for an undetermined length of time, a stalker ex-boyfriend who still believes we’re destined to be together, or an English-as-a-ninth-language sales guy with a condo in Rio you’re selling for half price because, dammit, I deserve it (in which case, I’ll get back to you, yeah, never), I promise to return your call as soon as I’m not doing any of the above activities.
In the meantime, as they say, “Your call is very important to me. Please leave a message, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can.”