Brand building through storytelling

Cell-phone follies

I’ve been told more than once, by more than one exasperated person, that my cell phone habits leave much to be desired. “You must have called during Pilates,” I explain. Or “The battery was out of juice.” Or “The phone was buried at the bottom of my purse and I couldn’t fish it out in time.” My most annoying answer seems to be “You called? The traffic must have drowned out the ring tone.”

Everybody wants to know why I never check for messages. Quite simply, I’m never expecting any calls. But it’s neither fair nor truthful to claim, as some have done, that I never answer my phone. When I do grab the thing in time, as a bus lumbers by and every horn on the street starts blaring at once, my answer couldn’t be more memorable: “Who? What? I can’t hear you!”

I’m told, mystifyingly, that I don’t need to raise my voice. I’ve read that shouting into a cell phone is strictly for grizzled curmudgeons—this according to a wildly popular book called How Not to Act Old. No one seems to understand that the best place to answer my cell phone outdoors would be the courtyard of a medieval convent, which is nowhere to be found in downtown Toronto.

No doubt some of you who know me are astounded to learn that I actually possess a cell phone. I haven’t wanted word to get around because then I’d have to rummage through my cluttered cavern of a purse, while contending with four shopping bags and a subway turnstile, a great deal more often than I do already. At moments like these, I bark, “Who? What?” with more than my usual pique. John Cleese could take irritation lessons from me. Asks the flustered caller, “Is this the YMCA?”

It must be 20 years ago that I spotted my first cell phone, clutched like a sceptre in the sweaty bronze hand of a Hollywood honcho who was one of my fellow hikers at Canyon Ranch. Mr. Big Deal carried his phone on the trail, where he scurried obsessively to stay in front except when pausing to chew out his minions in L.A. I took an instant dislike to cell phones, never guessing that within a few years they would be deemed essential to anyone with family, friends or colleagues and I would be pressured to join the modern age.

A pox on cell phones, I say! Once upon a time it was well understood that a person might want to daydream under a tree without fear of interruption. Cell phones did away with all that, so I remained a holdout. Then I was told more than once, by more than one insistent and persuasive person, “No one has to have your cell number. Think how useful it will be for outgoing calls!”

At the time I had a job requiring calls from the hair salon—and once from Hearst Castle, in the middle of a vacation—to make sure that complicated and expensive projects had not gone off the rails. Soon enough I realized that my boss and my staff would need to reach me with urgent bulletins involving budget cuts and the like. The boundary had been permanently breached between my private and my public selves.

These days I have no budget, boss or staff. And the people urging me to be a better cellular citizen are the same ones who used to assure me that I needn’t worry about incoming calls. One person in particular—my husband.

“I hate this phone,” I would say of my first-generation Treo. “It’s heavy, it’s clunky and I don’t understand it.” The solution seemed to be a new phone I could love, the iPhone 3g. It’s slim, it’s sexy and it has the most fetching icons that shimmy when they’re stroked just so. Plus, it’s terribly clever. It knows when the bus is due at my stop, where to eat just about anyplace, how the lyrics go to a gajillion songs and a whole lot more I haven’t even begun to figure out. If only I could be as smart as the iPhone 3g!

I’d been fiddling for a week with my new trophy when I figured it was time to make my first call.My husband answered on the first ring. “You’re returning my call!” he said with a smile in his voice. I hated to break it to him. “You called? I must have been in Pilates.”

Remember the old saw “You know you’re middle-aged when the phone rings and you hope it’s not for you?” Some of us are precocious. Click here to read “Not a phone person.”

Posted by Rona

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