The three most irritating sounds are a doorbell, the knock, and a phone ringing. They mean someone is about to bother you, and usually uninvited.
How do we handle the strain of knowing our cellphones – an inhumane tool of intrusion that we carry around with us - could go off at any moment? No wonder people have such short attention spans! They’re slaves to the knowledge that their dentist, child’s teacher or hair stylist could interrupt their life at any moment via a ring, buzz, beep, or annoying pop tune.
A few days ago my prehistoric cellphone was dying. Normally that would be a crisis of near apocalyptic proportions for the modern-day human enslaved to technology. I cast about halfheartedly for the charger, but all I found were the revitalizers for my kids’ tablets.
I figured my dumb phone would pass with dignity into temporary night. Instead, it kept emitting death yelps every few minutes for more than an hour, persisting like an opera tenor who keeps singing despite the improbability of drawing deep breath after stabbing himself. Eventually, I began screaming at my phone during each mournful beeping, “Just die! Die already!”, while wishing for a rubber mallet to help it along.
Thankfully, my husband’s number has its own ring on my cellphone, and it’s the only sound I truly welcome from it most of the time. But even then, when he calls from the store one too many times with a silly question, I want to remove him from my contact list.
I blame my aversion to being bothered on my dad.
On many Sundays of my childhood, Dad drove our car into a little hollow in the field behind our house to hide it. If someone unexpectedly knocked at the door on the weekend, Dad gave the silent, urgent command for us to stop in our tracks and crouch down out of sight of the windows. Then he held a finger to his lips with the intense look of a hermit. It was like freeze tag, only more tense. We dared not move or make one little squeak, no matter how our hamstrings ached, until the intruder gave up his efforts to bring us to the door.
Maybe that’s why I got into trouble with the law several years ago when my oldest son Berto called 911 by mistake as I was vacuuming. When I took the receiver from my laughing boy and hung it up, I thought it was merely a telemarketer - until a policeman banged on my door a few minutes later.
I wasn’t expecting a policeman, so I didn’t answer the door. I interrogated him through the wood, asking why I didn’t see his patrol car (around the corner, apparently) and what precinct he was from. Eventually, however, he tired of my evasive maneuvers and quite dramatically threatened to knock down the door if I didn’t answer it. At wit’s end, I called my husband at work and cried, “Honey, there’s a man at the door who says he’s a policeman! What should I do?”
“Answer it!” was my pragmatic man’s reply.
The thought had never occurred to me.
I’m this close to parking my minivan in the backyard on Sundays.