I remember when the majority of my friends didn't have call waiting, and when I was the only one in our group to have 3-way calling service. And I even remember when there wasn't always an answering machine to pick up when people weren't home, and those days when there was no caller ID to let you know if you really did want to answer that call.
I spent a lot of time on the phone when I was a kid. Long summer afternoons. Late nights. It wasn't often far from me. I think my parents even put a phone on my birthday cake when I turned 13.
But as much as I loved the phone, and used it nearly constantly, I also have fond memories of times spent without the phone. The phone was for at home time. When you couldn't be with your friends in person, you had to call them to connect. It was nice to have that option, but it wasn't always possible. And usually there was a point in which a parent on one of the ends of the phone line would restrict the hours spent talking. If you were away from the house, pay phones were the only way to get in touch with someone, and they would only last until your quarter ran out.
When I was 18 I got my first cell phone. It had a very simple snake game on it, but that was pretty much as exciting as it got. There was no texting, and I was calculating minutes in my mind each month to make sure I didn't get hit with crazy overages. Still, it was nice to have a phone that worked anywhere (in theory - there were a lot of cell phone dead spots back then).
I am still a little amazed at having a smartphone - which is basically a small computer in my pocket that can also make phone calls. It is rare for that phone to be far away from me, especially when I'm out of the house. But that doesn't mean I'm going to answer it just because it rings. Or that I'm going to respond to a text message or email right that second just because I hear the little water droplet notification noise.
If you aren't my husband, my kid, or possibly my mom, I'm not answering my phone in a restaurant. Period. And if you are one of those people, I'm having a super quick conversation mostly to ascertain if you are bleeding or not, and then telling you I will call back.
In fact, if you aren't my husband, my kid, or possibly my mom, I'm not answering my phone a lot of the time: During a great tv show. When I'm writing. While I'm in a store. In the car (even if I'm not the one driving). If I'm having a great conversation with someone in front of me. During dinner, or even a particularly yummy snack. While I'm listening to NPR with my family on Sunday night. In the middle of work. When I don't want to take a break from my book. Or when I'm in the bathroom for any reason.
You see, just because I have a phone, and you have the number, doesn't mean I am required to talk to you at the exact second you decide to call. This isn't a slight. It applies to people I love very much, and with whom I always enjoy talking. It really isn't about you at all. It is about me. About my boundaries. About me being present in the moment I am in, and not connecting with the place I am not every second of the day. About me not being distracted.
This is true of social media, too. I will pop on for a few seconds to update something in the moment, or to share a picture while I'm out doing something, but it I usually won't be responding to comments or interactions until I get home. And 90% of the time, the status update or picture won't actually get posted until I'm home, either. I'm in the moment. I'm WITH the people I'm with.
Of course there are exceptions. There are times when I need to be out of the moment, or I need to reach out for support right away. There are times when I want to update facebook right that second, and I do it. There are even times when I make a quick call to ask a question or check up on someone, even though I'm riding in the car or on the way to an outing with my family or a friend. I'm not unreachable. But I am aware that most of the time things can wait for a couple of hours.
These are my boundaries. I don't expect you to share them. But if you do, know that I will never be insulted that you didn't answer your phone for me because you were doing something else. I don't think it is a reflection of how much you care about me, but could very well be a reflection of how much you care about yourself.
I remember those days of walking away from the house and leaving the phone behind, and in almost every instance, it was okay. So while I will always have my phone with me these days, I might not always act like it.
Do you feel like you have to answer the phone when it rings?