For whom the bell rings, but should we answer?

By Don Rush

The other day, whilst sitting alone, contemplating life, my thoughts were interrupted. I was in sort of a dilemma. Then my thoughts shifted to something that probably most Americans may have, at least once pondered.
I will get to that question a little later, but first allow me to indulge myself and build up to it.
For the longest time I resisted tethering myself to electronic devices — this practice is a long-standing one with me, going back decades. I am not admitting to having blood relations with Ted Kaczynksi and his manifesto against technology, I just didn’t want to 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 want to invest in the purchase of 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 years ago. I reckoned I also wanted to rely on my brain and or memory.
So, I really didn’t have a mini-recorder. Didn’t have a Walkman radio either.
When mobile phones (car phones, as I recall they were called) were all the rage with young professionals in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I passed on those purchases, too. Yup, I didn’t buy, even though at the time I was a young pro myself. Years, as they always do, 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 and smaller.
As for beepers, do they still make them or have they gone extinct? I didn’t get one of them either.
Besides being cheap, I didn’t want to answer the phone whilst traversing the countryside in whatever vehicle I was making payments on at the time. The belief I held onto for years was simple: Phones don’t belong in cars. Driving alone in a car was “Don-time.” Don-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.
Our home phone was a safety device and as such, we kids were not to waste 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 west side of Detroit, we lived on the north side — way up north in the country, you know in the ghettos of Clarkston, Independence Township. I always thought about it, but never had the courage to ask Dad, “If something happens in Detroit, what can you do up here in Clarkston?”
Regardless, we were trained well, and so 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 dandy Don Rush. I was also trained at an early age to run for the phone when it rang — fast. While growing up, 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 (because of my training), my heart rates races and I jump to answer “the” ring, ASAP. Pavlov would be happy.
Stick with me, I am getting to my question.
These days I keep a cell phone in my pocket or within arms reach while I am awake. In my car, it’s hooked up to the stereo speakers. I will not leave home without it. When I sleep it sits next to my bed, still only an arm’s length away. Despite my best intentions, I now (voluntarily) have tethered myself to my phone. And, when it “rings” I quickly answer.
So, back to my dilemma, my question . . . 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 for what seemed like an eternity, which in reality lasted only a few moments. The span of more rings 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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