If the phone doesn't ring, it's me

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.


– Havelock Ellis


It was cold and wet outside one night last week, but inside couldn’t have been better.

Supper was over. The dishes cleaned and put away, and my wife and I were seated close on the couch watching both the fire and a TV show while two little white dogs lounged at our feet.

It was very, very nice and relaxing and cozy ...

Then the phone rang.

I grumbled a bit and started to get up, but my wife said, “Let it ring. It isn’t anybody.”

As usual, she was right.

It’s never anybody on the house phone.

I bet it’s the same at your house.

Gradually, or maybe not so gradually, over the past decade, we have forsaken all callers to the telephone linked to a wall in the kitchen and an upstairs nightstand.

It has some uses, I am sure, just none that come quickly to mind.

Everyone in the family, after all, has a cellphone – usually in a pocket on their person.

This is how we stay connected. It is how our friends and even co-workers connect to us when they need us.

The house phone, the “land line,” is for those who don’t know us.

More and more, they are people we don’t want to know.

As you no doubt have discovered, the once vaunted “Do Not Call” List is a joke. It did not stop political “robo-calls,” and it does not stop the nightly sales pitches from smart-aleck or fumbling sales-folk trying desperately to get us to give them money for something we do not need.

Let me state, for the record (repeating my wife’s past protests):

“We have never bought anything over the phone.”

“We have never given money to a charity over the phone.”

And lately, “English is a useful language. You should learn it. Let’s start with the word NO.”

But after a while my wife got tired of asking for supervisors (“Click”) and complaining to the useless state phone monitors (“Well, ma’am, we just can’t stop those guys ...”)

So, she quit answering the phone. She has even removed the personal greeting, selecting the recording that comes with the answering machine.

The only thing left for me to do was to turn the volume of the phone ringer down so low it is barely audible.

But 60-plus years of thinking a ringing phone indicates news or a friend or an emergency still has me getting ready to answer when I hear one.

That’s why I have a wife.

She pats me on the arm and calms me down.

“Let the answering machine do its job,” she says. “If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.”

They almost never do.