For whom the bell rings, but should we answer?

By Don Rush

Don is under the weather this week, so we bring you this gem from Oct. 10, 2007. Enjoy!
The other day, whilst sitting alone, contemplating life, my thoughts were interrupted. I was in sort of a dilemma. Then I had a thought.
For the longest time I resisted tethering myself to electronic devices — this practice is a long-standing one with me, going back nearly a quarter of a century. I am not admitting to having blood relations with Ted Kaczynksi and his manifesto against technology, I just didn’t tie myself to technology.
When my peers in the journalism department at Central Michigan University were recording interviews and meetings with their pocket-sized micro-recorders, I chose to take notes with pen and paper. I still do to this day. Maybe back then I didn’t have the cash to buy a recorder, maybe I was cheap. Or, maybe I was cheap ‘cuz I didn’t have extra greenbacks in my pocket. Whatever the real and true reason, I didn’t purchase one until my second or third paycheck after graduating and landing a job with this company. I used it about four times and then put it up until I threw it away about a year ago.
When mobile phones (car phones, as I recall they were called) and beepers were the rage with all the young professionals in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I passed on these purchases, too. I didn’t buy, even though at the time I was a young pro myself. The years went by and I watched as technology whittled down the sizes of the mobile phones from shoe-box sized devices that resembled the phones I saw in the old World War II movies, down to cigarette box sizes.
As for beepers, do they still make them or have they gone extinct?
Besides being cheap, I didn’t want to answer the phone whilst traversing the countryside in whatever vehicle I was making payments on. The belief I held onto for years was simple: phones don’t belong in cars. Driving alone in a car was “me-time.” Me time in the car was time to think or listen to the radio. Telephones were for home. When I was a kid, we had one phone in the house. It was black and hung on the wall in the dining room, but could be reached from the kitchen. The telephone company (Ma Bell) owned our telephone.
The phone was, in our home, a safety device and as such, we kids were not to spend needless time in phone conversations with friends we already talked to everyday in and after school. Preached Dad, “We need this phone in case of emergency. If something happens to someone in our family, the only way we’ll know is if they call. They can’t call if you’re on the phone.”
Our extended family, grandmas, aunts, uncles and cousins lived on the westside of Detroit, we lived on the north side — way up north in the country — Independence Township. I always thought it, but never had the courage to ask Dad, “If something happens in Detroit, what can you do in Clarkston?”
Regardless, we were trained well, our phone conversations with friends went like this:
“Hello. Yes (or no). Okay. See you then.”
To this day, my phone etiquette is, in a word, terse. Short, to the point and rather cold, is another way to describe phone conversations with one Don Rush. I was also trained at an early age to run for the phone when it rang — fast. Wherever I was in our house, I would try to get the phone by the second ring. The fact that I could, tells you the size of our home. Dogs are trained to salivate at the sound of a bell. Me, my heart races and I jump to answer the ring. Pavlov would be happy.
These days I wear a cell phone on my belt while I am awake. When I sleep it sits next to my bed. I am now tethered to my cell. And, when it “rings” a catchy little tune called “Viva Las Vegas,” I quickly answer.
So, back to my dilemma . . . the one I started with; the one where I was sitting alone contemplating when I was interrupted. My cell phone chimed and I immediately went to answer it, but abruptly stopped in mid grab. An internal struggle ensued that in reality lasted only a few moments, but felt agonizingly long.
My question to you, dear readers, is this: Do you or do you not answer your cell phone while you’re in the bathroom and it rings? Send me your answers.
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One Response to "For whom the bell rings, but should we answer?"

  1. Cory Johnston   September 28, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    I have a cell phone, a business phone and a home phone. If I’m at home, they are all there, they all ring. I answer if available or not on one of the other two. After 4 rings they go to voice mail. Eventually I get around to answering. I’m even worse with text mainly because I don’t look at my phone until I have to.
    Now email on the other hand is in front of me at all times as I am generally in front of my computer screen and if not, it is on my phone wherever I am. I tag them, put reminders on them, delete them forward them, share them.
    Speaking of phones, who remembers party lines which weren’t really parties but more that your phone was also your neighbors and if they were on it, you could listen in, talk, or apologize for trying to use the phone they were already using. Probably some deep message about society in there somewhere but I’m not sure what it is.


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