Tuesday, February 23, 2010

the call

Up until a couple of years ago, my mom had a cell phone that rivaled the control panel on Star Trek. Big and boxy, it took up the entire top of the end table, already crowded with Kleenex boxes, hand lotion and assorted old magazines.

Last year, everything changed. My mom got a new Motorola and after a number of hang-ups, dropped calls, and forgetting to turn it on, achieved an uneasy sort of d├ętente with the gadget. When she got her new Bluetooth earpiece, all of my careful instructions fell apart. First there were the endless explanations over the phone of how to get it set up. Then, on subsequent visits to the beach, I found the earpiece had not in fact been Bluetoothed, and finally set it up myself.

Worst of all were the phone calls.

“Hello? Hello? Is anyone there?”

“Mom, you have to put the earpiece on your ear.”

“Hello? Who is this?” In an aside, to my father: “There’s no one there.”

“Then hang up. Just hang up, Joanie.”

“I don’t know how!”

This went on for a while until finally, the Bluetooth earpiece went the way of the old magazines and the Kleenex, resting amid the clutter of the end table. “In case I need it,” my mom explains to anyone who will listen. “I need it close by.”

But my mother’s love of her newfound toy, her cute little cell phone, has not abated. She is absolutely unable to ignore her ringing phone. The result is a lot of oddly distracted or upset phone calls that usually go something like this:

“Hey! What are you doing, mom?”

Sotto voce: “I’m in the doctor’s office.”

“Um, I don’t think you’re supposed to talk on the phone in the waiting room, mom.”

“I’m not in the waiting room. I’m in the little room down the hall.”

“Mom! What is the doctor doing? Isn’t he upset that you took a call?”

“Oh, he’s just looking at my file.” Trilling at the doctor, “I’ll be off in a minute, it’s my daughter. Hmm? Ohhh, yes. He says hello.”

“Mom, just call me later.”

Since my parents love to travel and are often on the road when I call, the other phone calls tend to go something like this:

“Hey! What are you doing, mom?”

“We… No, that was your turn. No, I don’t want to go there, that’s too much like the other one.”

Dad, in the background: “Well, you liked it when we went there last time.”

Mom: “Well, I don’t want to back there today.”

Beep. Beep. Beep. “I can’t, why is this phone not ringing?”

Dad: “Did you dial the number?”

“Yes, I dialed the number.” Click, click, click. Beep. “Hello? Hello?”

“Mom…I’m still here.”

“Oh (put-upon sigh), I’m trying to call someone about the thing. I have to call you back. I have to call you back!”

“Ok. Have a nice-” Click.