Friday, November 18, 2011

Still Life With Robin: Running for the Phone

by Peggy Robin

It’s becoming more common, especially among young adults, to be without a land-line, relying entirely on a cell phone number for everything. I can see the sense of that: When you’ve grown up with cell phones, and you’ve had one since high school or maybe even middle school, why should you ever give out another number? Your cell phone number will stay with you through college, job changes, address changes; it may be the most constant and dependable thing throughout your entire life.

There is one other thing I’ve noticed, though, about these cell-phone-only people (hereinafter, the CPOPs): They seem to think this is the situation for everyone else. So if they are in touch with others who have and use multiple phone numbers --work numbers, home numbers, cell phone numbers-- they still call only the cell phone number, no matter what they’re told about the preferred phone call order of the person who uses several different numbers.

What does that mean in practical terms? Well, at least for me, a land-line-conditioned user (or LLCU), it means once a CPOP has my cell phone number, that’s the number that will ring whenever the CPOP wants to get in touch with me. Since I don’t carry my cell phone around with me while at home or work (I have a home office), it spends most of the day in its charger. So I’m perpetually running up and down flights of stairs to grab my cellphone when it rings. That’s because, like most other LLCUs, I have fixed in my head the notion that if my cell phone rings, it’s probably an important call from someone needing to get hold of me right away.

I realize, of course, that I ought to change my response, but I’m afraid it’s become a kind of Pavlovian bell for me. I hear the cellphone ring, and I try to remind myself it’s just another call, and the person will leave a voicemail, but even as these thoughts are going through my head, I’m up and running. I usually get to the phone just as the last ring has faded away, and all that’s left is the “missed call” number glowing on the phone’s display for one more second, before the screen goes dark. I go through the steps to bring the number back up and am not surprised to find it’s one of my CPOP friends or business acquaintances. I’ve already learned it’s not worth the trouble to remind a CPOP that I’m one of those LLCUs whose cell phone is very much secondary to that old, wired, anachronism they don’t even own. Just as I am a creature of my upbringing and conditioning, so are they. So I keep up my running up and down flights of stairs, and do my best to find the positive in the situation: It’s good exercise. I may never change into a CPOP, but I’m certainly becoming a faster stair-stepper!


  1. In addition to the LLCUs there are still a few of us Land Line only types --LLOs. The CCOPs just assume you have their number now that they have called you so they don't leave it as part of their message. And since they are CCOPs their number is not listed in any phone book. The CCOPs expect us to be on call anywhere and everywhere and can't comprehend that some of us want to venture out and not be chased down by every silly phone call.

  2. Peggy -- Easy solutions to avoid running up the steps:
    a) Place the charger in your office, not upstairs. The cellphone is then always within reach.
    b) Forward your cell phone calls to your office number -- or whatever land line you are answering at that moment.
    I had a similar situation in which Verizon could not penetrate my office building, but I did not want to give people more than one number in order to reach me. Every morning, I just forwarded my calls from my cell phone to my office phone. It takes 10 seconds. I reversed it at the end of the day.

  3. Good tips! I've actually tried putting my cell phone in an upstairs charger. The downside is that I tend to forget to take it out of the charger before I leave the house. (I remember it when I see it sitting in its charger near the front door.) I have also tried forwarding, but that also provides me with opportunity to forget to reverse it. I can exercise my memory or my stair-running, and it seems the stair running is the more fool-proof way of dealing with it.