ÂI knew someone would answer here.Â
I called a friend on her land line (home phone number). It rang and rang and I hate answering machines so I hung up. Then I called her cell phone. I received the following message This number has a mailbox that has not been set up yet.
Meanwhile our home phone rang. My friend’s son was on the other end. I saw you called. He said.
Why didn’t you answer? I questioned.
I was playing x-box. What do you need?
Your mom, is she home?
Where is she?
I don’t know.
Well I tried her cell but she didn’t answer that either. Do you have your dad’s cell number?
No, I don’t know it.
What?! You really should memorize that. What if something happened and you needed to get ahold of him? I teased him.
His response was classic childhood innocence (err, guilt?): If anything bad happened then I’d just go to my room and stay there until they got home.
After trying every number I had, I gave up and called my friend’s husband at his business (I knew someone would answer there). He had no idea where his wife had gone. In case you are worried by this point in the story, she eventually showed up-unapologetic, but alive. Then we shared a good laugh over her son’s response to my phone call.
My temporary frustration with her was also a little humbling. See, I hear the following quite often myself: I’ve been trying to get ahold of you, where have you been? My husband once explained it to someone (who was trying, in vain, to reach me): It’s not that she’s ignoring you. It’s that sometimes she ignores everybody. If I need to speak to her, there are times that I have to go and physically find her.
I have my anti-social
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moments, but I’m not anti-technology. I love the fact that a huge library of resources is available 24/7 (pending any power outages) via Google and Bing. I pin my favorite recipes on Pinterest (for the uninitiated, it’s like a big online bulletin board) and I sometimes creep my kids on Facebook too (if you don’t know what Facebook is, consider yourself blessed!).
As a result I want to figure out everything I might be wondering about, instantly. Which is why I’m annoyed when someone doesn’t answer their phone by the third ring.
Yet when I’m at home or out and about I don’t like it when others expect me to answer promptly. Sometimes I’m in the middle of things and can’t be bothered. Or the cell phone is on the kitchen counter, on silent. Other times I just don’t feel like chatting (it’s nothing personal). However, I wouldn’t travel without a phone (to call for help in case of trouble). Yet I try to ignore the thing while driving because that’s exactly what I tell my kids to do.
When I was a kid the movies and TV shows depicting the future had hovering automobiles and personal robots, but no cell phones or internet. Hovercrafts still haven’t shown up in our daily life. However, cell phones, computers, and the internet have changed everything.
Back then we had our own way of sending messages. Mom would already be off on errands and we’d realize we needed more stuff. We just called the grocery store or the drug store to see if she’d been there yet. If we didn’t catch her, we would leave a message. Eventually she’d call home from a Main Street store and we’d tell her to drive to the other end of town for the parts waiting at the Implement. To outsiders it may seem odd, but most Dakotans have always felt comfortable calling a small town business and asking such requests.
At our shop, (where I can’t ignore the phone), the message relaying continues. Every once in a while I’ll hear the ‘Has so-and-so been there yet?’ bit from yesteryear. More often, though, people are looking for a random bit of information about any number of things.
From the current road conditions, to a mailing address for someone living nearby, to the whereabouts of my brother-in-law, I’ve been asked a lot of questions, and answered most of them, through the years. No matter the request the conversation usually begins the same: I can’t get ahold of anyone else but I knew someone would answer here.
Being a phone operator/personal messenger at work doesn’t bother me though. I actually find it encouraging when that happens. Even with email and Facebook streaming into all those phones in all those pockets, people still call the businesses in town to make connections-just like they always have.
Andrea Beyers lives in Roscoe. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org