Get off the Phone!


Sometimes it’s hard to get off the phone; just ask my mother. Growing up, I remember there were times when she would be on the phone, silently motioning to one of her brood to come over. She would mouth the words, “Ring the doorbell!” while frantically miming the pressing of a bell.

We, her children, well at least me, the smartest of the progeny, knew just what that meant: “I have been on the phone with this woman for WAY too long, and she has barely taken a breath, yet continues to talk, and your father is coming home from work in an hour, and I have to have dinner ready for seven people [that would be our family] within that hour!” Thus, the emergency signal to ring the bell. Dutifully, one of us would do so, and she would sigh dramatically, telling the person on the other line, “Oh, someone is at the door, I’ve got to answer it. Sorry to cut you off. Good-bye!” It worked. Every time.

Now, as an adult, I have found myself in this particular predicament a few times, but have found that the doorbell excuse is no longer believable. The problem is that really nobody seems to come to the door anymore, at least right before dinner. The UPS guy will ring the bell, but he just walks away. The solicitor will ring the doorbell, but if the dog and I stay hidden in the family room, she will eventually go away.

So, the other day I was talking, well being talked to on the phone with my friend, “Betsy”. Man, did she have a long story to tell. All that was required of me was an occasional “uh-huh” or “oh”, so she could at least know I was still alive on the other end. Don’t tell her this, but I have been known to get my ironing done, my bills paid, and even play a little online Mahjong while she goes on and on and on… I have known her a long time, and I have learned that sometimes she just needs to tell her tale. 

So, here I was, in the same predicament my mom was in 50 years ago. My husband was coming home from work in an hour. There are only the two of us to feed, and honestly, if dinner wasn’t ready, John would have been happy to have grilled cheese. That’s the kind of guy he is. But I wanted to have dinner ready. I was making a guacamole dressing for taco salad. Anyway, I cut open the avocado, and wouldn’t you know, it was rotten.

I just had to go to get off the phone so that I could run to the store to buy an avocado. But how to do it? Most people would say, “Just tell her, you gotta go”, but the rest of us know that that is nigh impossible. The speaker barely pauses between sentences, certainly not long enough to get a word in edgewise.

So, doorbells no longer do the trick, but we are in a wonderful modern age in which we can plug earphones in to our cell phones. We can get in the car and drive to the store. All while saying “uh-huh”. It is even possible to walk through the store, squeeze the avocados, purchase the avocado in the self-check lane, and drive home. I did just that. And I never skipped a beat in my acknowledgments. In fact, I was able to peel the avocado, mash it up, make a tasty dressing and still listen.  

Dinner was delicious, by the way. I told my husband about my feat; I could see the mixed responses he was considering, as in, “Should I laugh?” “Should I shame her for not being a good listener?” or, “Should I look at her with complete admiration, because not many people could do such a thing? Only my wonderful wife.” I’m sure he chose the third option.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Betsy. And really, I was listening. I just know that sometimes she does not need my insight, my questioning, my follow-up. She just needs to tell her story. Still, I am a little embarrassed about driving, shopping, and cooking during a phone call, and I promise to never ever do it again. But truth be told, I am pretty proud of my achievement too, even if it did kind of happen by accident. 

I look at it this way: Betsy got the opportunity to talk, I got the opportunity to listen, well, sort of, and John and I had a delicious taco salad. Win-win-win. 

Who needs a doorbell, anyway?