A couple of Sundays ago I had a crisis. The crisis began with a phone call at 5:30 a.m. (Notice: unless it is a dire emergency, do not ever call me at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. More than likely I’ve been up until late-thirty working on a sermon.) Anyway, the person calling at that time of the morning to tell me they might not be at church because they had not gotten enough sleep messed up my phone.
Something happened. Maybe I hit the wrong button in my stupor. Maybe there was a glitch in the phone’s software. Who knows? At any rate, when the phone blasted forth its chime at the predetermined time to wake me, I hit the snooze button. After all, my sleep had been interrupted at 5:30. Eight minutes later the chime sounded again. I tried to turn it off. I couldn’t. The phone was locked up.
As I prepared for the day, every eight minutes the chime sounded. I couldn’t turn it off. On top of that I couldn’t make a call. I couldn’t receive a call. The phone was useless except for sounding a chime every eight minutes.
Before the worship service began, as I was placing my sermon notes on the pulpit a high school senior walked by. I told him my problem. He picked up my phone, punched it with his finger a few times, handed it back to me with the words, spoken in a tone that recognized my technological deficiencies, “All you have to do is punch the home key three times.”
“All you have to do is punch the home key three times?” Let me tell you about phones, you arrogrant teenager. I’ll tell you about phones.
As a child the phone number we had was CR 0120. That was it: CR 0120. The phone was on a stand in the central hallway at my grandparent’s house. When someone was calling our house there was two short rings followed by one long ring. We only answered when there was two short rings followed by one long ring. Any other combination was an indication that one of the other five persons on our party-line was being called.
Later, when I was a bit older, the number was changed to CR-2-0120. We were no longer on a party-line. It was our number exclusively. No one could listen in. We had arrived. But we were still limited in our conversations to that central hallway. Finally, my grandfather purchased a twenty-five foot cord to the handset. Now we could actually go into one of the rooms off the hallway, close the door, and have a bit of privacy. Amazing.
At my second church, we had a phone right out of Mayberry. The phone was on the wall and you actually had to crank a handle to notify Ms. Essie at central you wanted to make a call. It was a fifty-six person party line. When Ohio friends called us every day for two weeks while we were on vacation they got charged for the call even though we never answered. After all, Ms. Effie answered. And then there was the time we had a special meeting at my church to raise money to pay the Social Security for Ms. Effie.
So, listen Mr. Teenager, with all your techno knowledge about punching the home key three times, you don’t know squat about phones.
The email that appeared on the screen had a familiar look to it. Could it be? Well, look here; it is. Old Russell was making contact. Let's see, the last time we were in communication was... Okay, it was right after Lynn and I married. So that makes it eight-and-a-half years.
I remember that last communication. He said he was going to come through the area and thought we might get together to catch up on old times. I gave him my address. I gave him my phone number. He told me he was in a new business venture. Hmmm. I'm thinking back on it now. It was something about selling some kind of vitamin supplement. He asked me if I'd be interested in hearing about it; this venture held the possibility of untold riches. I told him how very grateful I was he'd think of me. But, I said, I wasn't cut out to be a salesperson, that I knew absolutely nothing about vitamin supplements. The conversation ended shortly after that.
You know, now that I look back on it he never came through the area. Eight-and-a-half years. And there's this new email on my screen. I clicked the proper place and the email opened. He bid me greetings. He told me he couldn't believe it had been so long since we'd been in touch. He brought me up-to-date on his side of things. He's gotten a doctorate. He's teaching in a small college. He's really doing well. He says he's coming through the area soon. He wants to know if I would be interested in getting together to catch up on old times.
I'm typing in my answer now. I'm telling him that, of course, I'd be interested in getting together when he comes to the area. I suggest he call or email and let me know the specifics of when and where. I give him my phone number because it's not the same it was eight-and-a-half years ago. I hit the reply button. My email host informs me the message has been sent.
Oops. I should have reminded him of my age. I should have included in a gentle hint that because of my age he might want to make sure he comes through the area in the next decade. Otherwise, I might not be here. I might be in the home; or I might be in a place that has no phone number. But I do hope he calls. I'm dying to know what new venture he wants to interest me in now.
Now, I'm sitting here watching that “message sent” on my screen. I admit I was a bit put off that he waited eight-and-a-half years to contact me again. It was really inconsiderate. It was really taking our friendship for granted. Eight-and-a-half years of non-communication, does that qualify as friendship or should it be relegated to the realm of acquaintance? It's really kind of impudent of him to restrict our contact to once a decade. Gracious, you never really know about people, do you?
I'm turning off the computer now. And my better self is whispering in my ear. I hate it when he shows up. He's telling me I had my friend's email address and I had his phone number these eight-and-a-half years. He's whispering that I send out dozens of emails a day. He's telling me to quit blaming my friend for my lack of communication.
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