Quit Screaming in My Purse

by Teri Franta - Date: 2007-02-20 - Word Count: 1256 Share This!

Recently, while in the checkout line at the grocery store, I heard this muffled voice squawking from somewhere below. I turned around and looked at the woman standing directly behind me. Apologetically, she glanced down at her purse and said, "I'm sorry, it's my husband. We have two-way radio calling and he's trying to get a hold of me." I asked her why she didn't take the call. She explained that she had already talked to him three times in the past four hours, camera phoned him pictures of the kids at the beach, and that she would be home in ten minutes anyway. The man in front of me asked her why she didn't just turn off the radio feature. "Impossible," she replied. "He would wonder where we are and go nuts." She then added, "I love that he misses us. I just wish he would quit screaming in my purse." As everyone in the checkout line laughed, it occurred to me how well, if not eloquently, this woman conveyed her point. While staying in touch is important, there's a time and a place. For this woman, it wasn't the time, and for all of us, it wasn't the place.

This experience reminds me of an effective advertising campaign developed for AT&T back in 1979. The campaign encouraged customers to make more long distance calls. The late Marshall McLuhan, legendary media observer, created the campaign's tagline. Clever and insightful as it was over twenty-five years ago, I wonder if we've taken his catchy slogan a bit too far. If you haven't guessed, the tagline I refer to is, "Reach out and touch someone."

In today's world, I wonder if it might be more appropriate to say, "Reach out and touch someone now," with the added postscript "…and it doesn't matter if they're right around the corner." It seems that wherever we are, whatever we're doing, and whatever time it is, we need to reach out and touch someone. It can't wait. In the car, at the store, in the gym, at a concert, at a club or a restaurant-it's all fair game. Place the call, take the call. We have phones in our homes, offices, computers, cars, briefcases, backpacks, pockets and purses. We can be driving by someone's house while talking to them on the phone. Do we stop and chat in person? No-because we're on our way to the store, the gym, a concert, club or a restaurant. You get my point.

There are no boundaries…and the rules that do exist are rarely enforced. We turn our phones off in the movie theater-most of the time. What about everywhere else? Begrudgingly on an airplane…and then we reach for the "built-ins" in the seat in front of us. I've heard cell phones ring at weddings, funerals-please don't get me started with restaurants, sporting events and concerts. Then there are the kids. My neighbor just bought her 8-year-old daughter a cell phone for her birthday. She said it was "only" to be used in an emergency and calling for pick up from a play-date. Does she really believe this-or does she care? What do you think? She bought her daughter the new 1,500-minute plan because it was the "best deal." The pink, rhinestone studded designer case was extra.

If adults have no boundaries, then who's going to teach the kids? Where will we be five years from now? Already, due to economics and convenience, many college students only have cell phones-and they use them everywhere. They've learned by example. Recently, at a baseball game, I asked the forty-something man sitting next to me to make his call from somewhere else, other than in my ear. It seems as if his buddy was stuck at work, and he was giving him a play by play report of the game. I could tell that he was mad that I said something to him. I thought I was nice and polite-I refrained from asking if his buddy had ever heard of AM radio.

I'm not a hypocrite. I'm guilty of taking advantage of-and abusing-constant telephone access. Between my two LAN lines, two cell phones and three email accounts, I can assure you that I do my fair share of "touching," and get a lot of "touching" in return. I find it overwhelming, especially when on deadline. It seems that there's never a good enough reason for not calling someone and call waiting means there's never a good enough excuse for not taking a call. The bathroom excuse works well, but then I know people who take (and make) calls while indisposed. I just hope not to me. My "safety" net is caller ID. It's the only way I can accomplish anything or get anywhere on time. The downside of not taking calls is the voicemail messages to check later...and the return calls to make. This involves leaving messages for people who urgently wanted to talk to you earlier in the day, but not so much later. I'm guessing it's caller ID at work…or else they're in the bathroom.

My point is that this constant telephone access is exhausting…and annoying. It makes our days longer, but not necessarily more productive. Do we communicate better than we did 25 years ago? Or do we talk more and say less? I find that conversations are often repetitive. "Did I tell you…?" - "We already talked about that…" - "I told her, but I'll tell the rest of you anyway…." It seems as if personal communication is not that personal anymore. When we finally get together face-to-face, we often have nothing new to say.

I'm not suggesting a cell phone boycott or other extreme measures. I'm all for progress and modern technology. What would I do without my Tivo and my Ipod? But we do need to establish some updated telephone protocol: Some new rules-or at least some common sense. Is it too much to think before we make a call? Can it wait? Is this call urgent? Are we bothering others? Is this best said in person? Is this a good time to call? No, yes, no, yes, yes, no.

If the adults show restraint, maybe future generations will follow. At the very least, it's worth a try. Back in the days before cell phones, we survived quite peacefully. So, the next time we start to pick up the phone late at night to return calls, let's not. The next time we're inside the grocery store and can't remember what's on the list-inconveniently at home on the kitchen table-let's rely on our memories or step outside. Don't call home from inside the store. The next time we drive by a friend's house, let's stop and have an old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. And let us teach our children the meaning of a true emergency. Let's not buy them the 1,500-minute plan. Finally, the next time we go to a restaurant, baseball game or concert, let's turn off our phones for a few hours. We can always excuse ourselves to check messages, or return an urgent call. And if we're truly waiting for an important call-and not from the hairdresser-let's use the "silent" mode. It's there for a reason.

By the way, if you're wondering what happened to that husband who was screaming in his wife's purse, I just couldn't help myself. I gave his wife a little advice. I reminded her of two old phrases that still ring true: "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," and "Silence is golden." Gotta run, it's time to let my husband out-I really need to get a bigger purse.

Related Tags: women, relationships, phone, humor, cell, happy, etiquette, commentary, essay, franta

Teri Gray Franta, a.k.a. the Sideways Chica, is a freelance writer working from (stuck) behind what she affectionately calls "the Orange Curtain." Her thoughtful, funny and at times sarcastic essays are drawn from her observations of life in the O.C.

© Copyright 2005-2007. Teresa G. Franta

Franta is also the writer behind the popular blog, "Here's to Happy Women... ." A large and loyal following, including plenty of testosterone, weighs in for weekly roundtables on whatever compelling subject hits Franta's radar.

Whether your knickers are in a twist due to an affair of the heart, the actions of a friend, or the rapidly changing times in which we live, Franta can't promise she'll untwist your knickers completely, but she can promise to make you laugh, smile, and yes, sometimes cry. It's all about life, all about laughter, and all about love - with plenty of sarcasm, humor and Franta's favorite, irony.

Recently nominated for "Best Writing" and "Most Thought Provoking" in the Share the Love Blog Awards, Franta invites you to drop in and get your thoughts provoked at http://herestohappywomen.blogspot.com

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