“Cell Phone Civility,” Nov. 22, 2016

Say what you will about cell phone addiction. It’s not my problem. But I will admit, if my phone rings, I grab it.

Imagine we’re sitting, just the two of us, engaged in polite conversation, when suddenly you burst into flame. I would do my best to put you out. But if, in the process, my phone rings? I might be tempted to pick it up.

Would I abandon you in your time of need? Of course not. I’m just saying I might be tempted.

Why? Because sometimes, when my phone rings, I will suddenly like magic hear a voice or see a face that I love. And I will shout, “Hello, my darlin’!”

It could be my children or grandchildren. My family in the South. Or my husband on his way back from the gym asking to pick up take-out for supper. They are all “my darlin’s.” They answer to the same name. They know who they are.

It lights me up like Christmas each time they call _ or email or text or send photos or videos or speak face-to-face via FaceTime.

Actually, the little people don’t call on their own yet. They still need help dialing. Lucky for me, they have parents to help.

My family, like yours maybe, is scattered about the country. We live hundreds or thousands of miles apart. I’m grateful for any communication, whatever it takes to keep us in touch.

This week, I heard from some of my family in the South. My brother called to discuss the state of the world and Clemson football. My niece texted to say “Hey!” And my sister and I commiserated about various aches and pains, laughing loud, the way we like to laugh.

My daughter in California, God bless her, called as she often does to “check in.” She also texted me a photo of a diorama of Brazil, created by her Henry, who is 5, and knows more than I do about geography and most everything else.

My oldest, an actor on location back East, texted several times, then phoned one night and we talked for two hours about everything and then some.

I was also treated to several videos and photos and FaceTime calls from my youngest, his wife and their three little ones in Montana. Randy, who is 6, gave me a tour of a Lego Christmas village he had built. Eleanor, almost 2, showed me how she “bakes” cookies in her oven. And Wiley, almost 4, told me his mama had ruined Christmas because she wouldn’t give him a fig bar.

“Give the boy a fig bar,” I said.

“We’re out of them,” she said. “When I told him that, he said I was a stinky armpit lady.”

See what I would miss without my cell phone?

My children grew up in California, far from my mother. I phoned her every Sunday, mailed her school pictures and snapshots from birthdays and holidays. It wasn’t much, but it was all we had. She’d have loved to feel as close to her children and grandchildren as I am blessed to feel to mine.

A cell phone can be a godsend. Or it can be a nuisance _ an intrusion that robs, rather than enriches, our lives. Given my “near addiction,” I try to follow a few rules:

1. The ringer stays off. I keep it on vibrate. If I can’t hear it ring, it can’t disrupt conversations or distract me from friends on fire. I check messages and return them when I can.

2. I try never to accept or make calls in public. I step outside or wait for a less intrusive time.

3. No cell phones at the table. Even important calls can wait until the end of a meal. And no talking or texting while driving, unless it’s handsfree, which I can’t seem to figure out.

The problem with electronic devices _ cell phones, iPads, TVs, computers _ is not how we use them. It’s how we allow them to misuse us.

If you call me, leave a message. I’ll get back to you when I can. And if I call you? You do not need to answer.


Unless you really want to.


  1. Kate Sciacca says

    Well I had to laugh at that fig bar request… my grandsons will have their fill (and then some) of fig bars as their favorite Uncle, Bob (our youngest) has to sell 12 dozen (yes, 144) of them for his high school baseball fundraiser….
    I do the same with cellphones- especially vibrate only… although I’ve been known to glance at a text while sitting at a long red light… don’t tell the NHP ?
    Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving- 4 of my 8 were MIA but it was still a great day ?

  2. Zandy Benefield says

    Great! But I have a different problem. My late father was in assisted living/nursing home (March 2008 till March 2013). I was the contact person in case of emergency. I was TETHERED to my phone 24/7! I have gotten better about letting it go to voice mail, but it is still difficult getting out of that “mode”.

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