I don’t like answering the phone. The phone ringing always means bad news.”
I can’t remember who told me that. It’s one of those sayings that are kind of closed minded, no room for negotiation. But I kind of/sort of agree with my long-forgotten acquaintance about the telephone. I’m really not fond of them.
It just occurred to me the other day how my opinion of the phone has changed over a lifetime.
I can remember as a kid being outside the house hearing the phone ring. I’d drop what I was doing and run inside to answer it, because maybe it was one of my friends.
Does anyone remember “party lines?” They were the discount phone service of the day, in some regions the only kind of phone service. You shared a line with a number of other people. If you were nosey (or a kid doing mischief while your grandmother wasn’t looking) you could ease up the receiver and listen in on other people’s conversations.
I remember there were rules for when it was OK to call someone. Not before 9 a.m. and not after 9 p.m. You did not call during suppertime, because you might be greeted by someone’s mom or dad saying, “We’re having dinner now, call back in about an hour.”
A long-distance call was really big stuff once upon a time. It cost a lot too. In the early days, the operator had to place the call for you.
As the years went on, the joy of the telephone began to fade. The phone ringing didn’t always mean someone friendly was on the other end.
I went through a period where I tried to live without a telephone. I was considered weird (nothing new for me). A boss convinced me in his own special way I needed a phone. He told me, “Get a phone or you’re fired.”
Then came cell phones.
When I got my first cellular phone about 15 years ago in Roswell, I thought it was cool. Phone calls in the car! As time went on I realized these things could be just as annoying as the home phone.
After my first $300 cell-phone bill, I decided I didn’t need one. At the time I had a boss who kindly coaxed me into keeping my mobile phone. Actually, his words were, “I either have a way of reaching you any time, anywhere or I’ll get someone else to do the job.”
To me, it had gotten to the point when the phone rang it was like someone saying, “I want to talk to you NOW! I don’t care what you’re doing!”
Well, that’s the way I used to see it. The Lady of the House has showed me when the phone rings you don’t always have to answer it. She has caller I.D. Her phone rings one way for Clovis-area calls and another for long-distance calls. If she doesn’t recognize the number, she doesn’t answer it.
I’ve reached a compromise with the cell phone, too. I leave it on with the ringer turned off most of the time, unless I’m expecting a call. If they leave a voice mail I can get back to them later.
I answer the phone right away if it’s the boss, though.
Or The Lady of the House.
Grant McGee writes for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. Contact him at: