“Hello, good day, can I help?” If you call my house, you’ll get some version of this greeting. Depending on my mood, it’ll be chipper or bitter. On this particular day, I was cursing Bell and his many descendents including whoever’s behind the smart phone as I bit back the impulse to shatter the phone against the wall for yet again being a demanding interrupter of all things creative.
You know the scenario, you’re sitting there, finally writing more than one sentence for the first time in how long, or editing someone else’s writing and finally getting into the rhythm of it, then the phone rings. Now because you never had a room of your own and learned early how to push ambient noise to the back of your consciousness, usually noise is not intrusive, especially when you’ve finally, oh God yes, sunk into the world of the story, or if it’s a non creative piece found a way into the story after grappling with it for the better part of the day with deadline hanging over your shoulder like a teacher with a belt slung over her shoulder, you hear it but don’t hear it. Let it go to voice mail, you’ll check it in a few. You really try to be dilligent about returning voice mails and email messages just so you’re not too removed from what you need to be on top of but you can’t answer the phone just now. Except the person on the other end is psychic and knows you’re there or persistent enough to keep trying or fell asleep on the hit redial button, so they keep calling. Kind of like I do when I’m trying to get through to APUA: somebody pick up the phone dammit because I can do this all day!
After the fourth or fifth redial, you emerge from the land of the story that’s now dancing away with a taunt like a sweet dream that won’t stay on waking, with a roar and a vague hope and dread: this better be an emergency, damn I hope it’s not an emergency.
Of course it isn’t.
Of all the times I’ve chosen trying to write over answering the phone there’s only been one genuine emergency, not anything I could do anything about as it turns out but something heartbreaking that I needed to know…and still have difficulty shaking.
And that’s why we answer the phone isn’t it, because of that one random possibility that, yes, indeed, the sky is falling. And yes, by this thinking, if I had kids all of this would be moot, not answering the phone every single time it rang even if it meant I never got anything else done would not be an option. But I don’t and…
Most days, look up, the sky is still there, and no writing is happening, because the phone is ringing, or someone has to tell you just this one thing, won’t take a minute, or you’re wasting your time ranting about why the phone won’t let you write instead of doing some actual writing.
Yeah, okay. I’ll go. But I’ll tell you this, this is one of the reasons why I don’t want a cell phone. Because I am NOT always available, no one should be; whether it’s the need to write or some you-time or whatever, as much as people need people as Barbara sang, people also need space and time.