Lately I’ve been thinking about whether cell phones are a wonder or a curse. Sometimes it’s like wearing one of those ankle monitors that are used to keep track of house-confined prisoners.
Back before wireless personal communication, I made great use of landline phones. In the first few years of my marriage, I called my wife every day from work to see what she was doing and to flirt with her, as young couples do. As we started having kids, those calls turned into checking on the baby or conveyance of my shopping list. When the kids got older, the calls were complaints about homework and asking when I would be home from work.
We still have romance in our lives, but the phone calls turned into more of an obligatory chore. When cell phones became the norm, I was accessible to the point where communication with my wife was on an as-needed basis. It became like military communication: ETAfrom work, uplinks with the commanding officers (her mother and mine) and the battle plan for dinner. Still there was an unspoken understanding that I will answer the phone anytime she calls, or return her calls immediately. I never realized what would happen if I didn’t.
Until the other night, that is. I was still at the office, and our 21-year-old son is home from college for winter break, and he was having dinner in town with some good friends. He didn’t have any transportation besides TheBus, and he was relying on me to pick him up, although I didn’t know that at the time. It’s rare, but I inadvertently left my cell phone on my desk and went downstairs, so I was away from my phone for about 90 minutes. When I got back to my office, I saw that I had 17 missed calls! The first five calls were from my son. The next 10 were from my wife in various formats: text, voice mail and forwarded calls from my office landline. I guess after being unable to reach me, they pulled out the big guns.
I then had a call from my mother-in-law’s cell phone and finally one from my own mother. They must have figured that even if I was in a meeting with the president of the United States, I would answer the phone if either one of them called.