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Telephones and Relationships

One thing that shouldn’t be funny but is? Phones. We’ve talked in earlier articles about how communication – and the ways that it goes wrong – are often funny. Phones have to be funny by extension because they both facilitate and obfuscate communication. But, they ways in which we’ve elevated them to the status of ritual paraphernalia makes it even more comical. Let’s talk about that.


Telephones Are Gross

I hate carrying a cell phone with me – particularly now that they’re also computers. I held onto flip phones for as long as I could but by college having a computer in my pocket became something of a necessity. That was also around the time that I started reporting. Being able to take photos and even write stories on a phone was definitely worth compromising on my anachronistic views of technology.

But, now I don’t do that kind of reporting anymore, so my smartphone almost always stays on the desk at home when I go out. This is seldom a practical problem, but it sometimes comes with emotional complications.

This article is going to be about miscommunication with telephones, but there is one more detail that will be important, but I don’t remember whether it’s come up before. I don’t drive. I hate driving. It’s been probably over ten years since I was behind the wheel of a car. The good news is that I’m not lazy. When I was a young(er) man, I loved walking and I still can. People forget walking is a thing.

“I Didn’t Know Where You Were”

I think I mentioned before that I met my fiancée in A.A. We met at a meeting we call “the noon group.” It meets six days a week at noon. One day, a few weeks ago, I came home at around quarter after one in the afternoon.

“Hey, jerk,” says my loving fiancée. “I tried to text you and I heard the phone ringing in your office. I couldn’t reach you, I didn’t know where you were, or when you’d be home.”

I told her that there is a meeting that I go to at noon, sometimes six days each week. I told her that it is called the noon group, and that we met there. It may not surprise you, dear reader, to learn that this did not help my situation.

So, the next day, I needed to go to a different kind of meeting. I told her that the meeting starts at six, so I should be home no later than eight o’clock or so, but that I had my phone if she needed to reach me – even though I hate checking my phone during meetings – because I love her.

I got a text at 6:05.

It said “Hi.”

I’m not an angry person, but I did express to her that I was a little irritated that I told her that I would have my phone during a meeting for emergencies and she texted me a very non-emergent message when she knew I was busy. She conceded that she really does just like being able to get ahold of me but that I don’t need to carry my phone if we communicate about where I am and when I’ll be back.

happy couple

“I Must Have Been Driving”

Fast forward a week or two. It’s the day of the church picnic. She volunteered to host an event during the picnic, and I volunteered to set up and clean up afterward. She had to leave before the ending, but I told her that I would be at the beach where the picnic was – even if cleanup was done – so that she could pick me up when she returned. I, flexing after my recent win, didn’t have my cellphone.

She left, the picnic ended, and we packed everything up to be brought back to the church. The event organizer asked if I might go back to the church to help store everything away. Naturally, I did.

That’s not the joke. No, no, this is not a joke about me not being responsible after our talk about communication.

Immediately upon getting to the church, I used the church’s landline to call her (that’s right, I memorized her phone number. I was born in the ‘90s, I can do that). No answer. I left a message saying that I was at the church, but that I really would stay here until she arrived.

Arrive she did.

“I would have been here sooner, but I went to the beach first because that was where you told me you would be,” scolded my loving fiancée. “I eventually figured that you were probably here.”

“I called you,” said I. “You didn’t pick up but I left you a message.”

She looked at her phone and found my message.

“I must have been driving,” said she, her anger abetting, somewhat. “When I’m driving, my phone goes into do-not-disturb and it doesn’t tell me that I got any calls or messages.”

“That sounds like it’s Steve Jobs’ fault,” said I. And again, she conceded.

“Did You Try Calling?”

Another week or two goes by. I’m out-of-town for an eye exam. I had expected to be able to find a taxi home, but was unable to. (I don’t remember whether it’s come up or not, but I live in a very rural area.)

Since I had my phone on me to find a taxi, I texted my fiancée for a ride as she had suggested I might do in the event that I was unable to call a cab. I waited about twenty minutes and got no response. So, I started walking home. I was, after all, only eleven or so miles from home. A while later, I get a call.

“Where are you?”

“On the highway.”

“I was just supposed to find you on the side of the road somewhere?”

“I guess.”

“Why did you start walking?”

“I couldn’t find a cab and I couldn’t get ahold of you.”

“Did you try calling?”

“Would that have helped?”

I told her the name of a coffee shop that I was approaching and she was able to find me and give me a ride home.

2 girls 1 barbell

On My Way

It actually happens that I get into situations like this with people other than my fiancée as well. I recently needed to meet a local business owner to do some bank paperwork. She lives and works in the next town over from me, so I tried to schedule things for when I would be in that town.

I texted her that I would be at an area church for business and could meet her at that church or at her business a few blocks away. I didn’t hear back, so I concluded my business and started home.

When I was almost all the way home, I got a message asking if I was at the church because she was on her way. I told her that when I didn’t hear back from her I headed home. Fortunately, she knew where I lived (somehow) and swung by so that we could go to the bank together – even if it meant an extra trip back and forth for us.

Verified Spam

I have problems with spam and robo-calls just like everyone else. But, being in A.A., I’m kind of contractually obligated to pick up the phone when it rings. Fortunately, my service provider automatically screens my calls. Calls come up as normal callers, verified callers, or spam callers.

One day, I got a call that was listed as both verified and spam. Curious and confused, I answered. It was my phone provider. We conducted our business and then the voice on the other end asked if I had any other questions.

“Did you know that your number is listed as spam when you call your customers?” I asked.

“Yes. We’re a verified number because we’re a real, registered business, but we use automated calling and call centers, so we’re also automatically listed as spam by our screening program,” he explained.

“So you’re ‘verified spam’ then?”

“Pretty much.”

serious vs humorous

Telephone and Cable

Come to think of it, I’ve had some interesting interactions with my phone company – which is also my internet provider and my aspiring cable television provider. Maybe some of those affairs will be the basis of the next article.

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