Today we’re sitting in a waiting room, waiting. Every few minutes someone’s cell phone rings. That reminds me of being in church one Sunday morning a couple of years ago, hearing a cell phone ring.
There are times in a service that nobody would hear a phone go off, like during a particularly loud and familiar hymn. There are other times everyone can hear, even that old guy with a turned-off hearing aid. This was one of those times. Nobody was talking, the organ was playing softly. Deep in prayer towards the end of the service.
RING! I don’t recall the ring tone, but it was one of the brand rings. What’s the number of rings before it goes to voice mail? It rang one time less than that. Eternity in church feels like a long time. All through the ringing you can hear fumbling. Digging. The phone was at the bottom of a very deep purse.
Finally she found the phone. Foolishly, I thought she’d just silence the ringer and call it good. I’d be wrong. That’s when I learned more about the phone’s owner. An old lady’s voice loudly said “Hello!” This is just a guess, but she probably had or should have had a hearing aid.
That’s not enough! It was a brief discussion, that ended quickly with “I can’t talk now, I’m in church.”
Bear with me for a moment now, I’m on a cell phone roll. This story reminds me of a time I was at a lecture when the meeting host told us all of his announcements at the opening of the meeting. He told us about the program, which included a special guest from a consulate in Minneapolis. Concluding his announcements with the request that everyone turn off their phones, he put down his phone and introduced the Norwegian consul.
Wouldn’t you know it, about two minutes into her talk, a cell phone starts ringing, with a particularly cute ring tone. It’s loud, and ringing on the PA system! It rings once, twice, and during the third ring an obviously flustered host comes running from back stage, up to the podium, reaches past a confused guest speaker, and grabs his phone off the lectern!
At the next month’s lecture, he made a big flourish about putting his phone into his pocket. Next time you try to call me and I don’t answer, it might be because I forgot to turn the ringer back on.
We bought our first cell phone in December 1996. I remember that date because that was when my mother died unexpectedly. We would be driving to Denver with the kids, trying to make arrangements for the funeral and our trip, all unplanned. I picked up the phone in the morning and we hit the highway that afternoon, ready to make all necessary plans on the new phone.
A mobile phone in 1996 wasn’t a smart phone. It wasn’t even dumb. A lizard would be smarter than that phone. The battery alone was bigger and heavier than my current iPhone. For all the complaints about modern cell phone batteries, they last far longer than those from twenty years ago. All the phone would do is make calls, and I could stuff a little piece of paper into the case with a list of phone numbers. There may have been a “last number redial” function, but it would have been difficult to figure out.
For all those complaints the phone was a marvel of modern technology. One of my vivid memories of that old phone was sitting on the front porch with some friends that spring, talking about cell phones. Our friend Mark P wanted to see it and learn how to use it. He made a quick call to his daughter, his first words were “Guess what? I’m calling from a cell phone.”