Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cell phone tales

I have a cell phone. I don’t use it very often since I’m just not much of a phone guy. I may use it ten or fifteen minutes per month. Most of the cell calls are from my adorable wife, with whom I am madly in love. “Would you please pick up some dog food” is the second most common phrase uttered through my phone.(the first being "yes dear") I don’t even bother answering the land line at home since it is so rarely for me, what with Angel and her dog-people network of frequent callers. Even more rarely do I use my cell phone in the car. I am just not gifted with that sort of coordination, nor do I ever seem to have anything that urgent to discuss with anyone. I don’t deny that many people can use a cell phone safely while driving, I’ve seen them. I’m just not one of them. I once worked with an amazing lady. She was small yet charismatic, personable, smart and classy, not at all the type of person I usually associate with. All that self confidence is rather off putting to the socially diseased among us. I was heading to my car for lunch, or maybe it was the old truck, (do you care?) Anyway I was heading out to my vehicle when this lady, all five foot two of her, raced through the parking lot. She was driving a charismatic and classy Chevy Suburban, a full sized SUV as big as my first apartment. She was moving it along at a fair clip faster than my conservative bones would ever allow me to go. She was in perfect control though; I could see it on her face, confidence. She approached a too narrow space, stopped just past it and proceeded to back the tanker into it as gracefully as a swan on water. I watched, amazed. I have never backed into a parking space, much too risky considering my near complete lack of hand-eye coordination. What I saw next shocked and amazed me. She was flawlessly performing this maneuver while talking on her cell phone. I stared in stark amazement and raging jealousy. How was such a thing humanly possible? That would have been enough as it was, but she went even further. As she was mid sentence on her phone, halfway into the parking space, she saw me. With her hand never leaving the steering wheel or the phone leaving her ear, she waved at me. She didn’t skip a beat. The SUV was immediately perfectly aligned in its space, the phone call uninterrupted. She gathered her belongings and headed into the office building still talking. Of course she smiled and winked as she walked by me, that’s just what people like her do. It was then I realized that some people are just more gifted than others in the realm of physical multitasking. Because of this I am generally against cell phone bans in cars. I certainly can’t do it myself, but there are many people like this lady, movers and shakers and positive thinkers that CAN do this. They are probably in their cars right now, zooming along in snarled traffic, adeptly avoiding mishaps while chatting with others about cures for cancer and world peace. Who am I to deny them the right to solve the world’s problems on the go just because some of us knuckle - dragging apes can’t manage the feat? ______________________________________________

I was eating dinner last night, a home-made hamburger and some pan-fried crinkled taters and reading my book when I heard Angel call out from the back of the house; “Riiiiinnnngg!! Riiinnngg!!!” After a moment of this she walked up to me with my cell phone just as it went “Riiinnnggg!” to which she added “Riinnggg!!” This rarely happens as I said, much less so when I am at home. I don’t carry it around with me since it virtually never rings. And yes the ring tone is an old fashioned Bell Telephone “Riiinnngg!!”. I have tried other ring tones, but in my rigidly structured little brain anything else just doesn’t quickly register as a phone ringing. I was too late. It had already gone to voice mail by the time I remembered how to answer it.
“I missed it” I opined.
“Was it important?” Angel asked.
“It’s that lady, Sarah. I’ve been trying to get in touch with for a couple of days now, about that thing.”
“Oooh you should call her back!” Responded Mrs. Obvious.
“I’m eating my wholesome and perfectly prepared dinner and I’m in the middle of a paragraph. She can wait a few minutes.” I scolded.
Angel wandered off to resume her infinite chores with the dogs. I finished my dinner and the chapter in the book. I dialed Sarah’s cell number. It rang about eleven times and then quite annoyingly went to voice mail. (Is there anyone out there that still needs to be reminded to wait for the beep?) I don’t like voice mail with even more passion than I don’t like talking on the phone. If all I needed to do was ‘leave a message’ I would have written an email. Email, of course is nature’s most perfect and natural form of communication. It allows one to construct and edit sentences, organize thoughts, and even spell check prior to delivery. Voicemail and telephony don’t allow this. With a telephone whatever spills out of your face goes through regardless how crude, poorly enunciated or inarticulate. Mangled words, mumbles, clicks, snorts and wheezes all publicly bare themselves. Who wants that? Give me the pure white page, let me see my thoughts before they are broadcast. Let me clean it up just a little first. No ‘uuuuhs’ or tongue-ties or inappropriate pauses, just pure, clear words and sentences. I pushed the red ‘go away’ button on the phone before the voicemail machine started recording. I’d try later. In fact I decided that I would wait an hour or so. I didn’t want to catch her while she was driving in case she was more like me and less like that other lady I told you about. On the second try the phone rang three, maybe four times, I was ready to push the red button again when the sound changed. It was that sound you hear in that mere second after a phone connects but before the person you called says ‘hello’; a low rush and rustle of ambient white noise. I waited for the salutation, but it never came. After a pause, I called out “Hello!” in a friendly voice. Nothing changed. I waited, I could only hear what sounded like a very, very distant and muffled voice, two voices maybe. It sounded like a very distant conversation, but I could make out no words. More rustling, whatever the phone was being carried in was being handled clumsily, or worse, it was being handled by a toddler. (Not a big fan of toddlers either) “Hello!” I called out again, this time more annoyed. Nothing, just more rustling and muffled sounds. In my mind I tried to transport myself into that phone to try to see what was going on. Where would I have to be to be surrounded by these particular noises? If I were a cell phone that had just rung, what situation would cause these sounds? “Hello!” I shouted, because shouting into a phone solves all kinds of problems. After about two minutes I finally recognized the problem and the futility of waiting it out. I had recalled a situation with my own lovely wife. She was driving us somewhere and from behind her seat came this terrible sound, the theme song from some loud, inane, and intellectually insulting cartoon. It didn’t register to me immediately what it was.
“My phone” Angel said.
"What about it?” I replied.
“My phone is ringing.”
“It’s in my purse behind my seat.” Her arm was flailing behind her.
“Okay.” I answered, still trying to figure out where that infernal music was coming from.
"Could you get it for me please?” She seemed to be annoyed at something.
I reached behind her, picked up the weighty bag and started rifling through it’s dozens of buckled, snapped and zippered compartments, Dick Cheney didn’t have this many hideaways. I continued the struggle if only to put an end to the hellish noise. The music stopped, though I continued ransacking the purse for a minute or so more to find the phone. It was at the bottom of the largest compartment buried in a pile of those various little things women seem to need to loosely stuff in their purses. Somehow in all my struggling to find it, I had actually activated the phone. There was a faint voice calling out “Hello!” I handed it to Angel and she began chatting with her doggy-network-friend. At least that song had been silenced.
Returning to the present, to the rush and rumbling white noise, I realized I was stranded, just out of reach, in Sarah's purse. I was embarrassed. I felt the guilt of a cat burglar or peeping tom. This was just too personal, too intimate. I didn’t know this lady well enough to be eavesdropping on her purse. I blushed and disconnected.