Thursday, January 18, 2007

My parents have always been eccentric. You don’t decide to spend thirteen years in the highlands of New Guinea, and have six kids there, without being a little crazed. So tonight they were to arrive for a weekend visit. They were going to stay with my sister V out in St. Charles. My brother Andy is also in from California and staying with V, but he is in a “focus group” meeting tonight that lasts until eight. So he obviously wasn’t there when they arrived at four fifteen.

When my folks got to V’s house she was sleeping and they couldn’t wake her so they left. To be clear, they didn’t realize that she was there. They just knocked for a time and got no response. My parents don’t have a cell phone, and yet they called. Perhaps they used a pay phone or bribed a neighbor, we’re not sure, but they called V’s cell phone from somewhere and told her they were going to my house since she was missing. Unfortunately, I am taking a night class on Tuesdays and Thursdays until six forty-five and Jes teaches until eight. If they came here around five, we weren’t here to meet them. It’s nearly eight and they are currently missing. I’d call V’s to see if they came back there, but she has no landline and she and her cell phone are no longer there.

Earlier, my phone rang while I was in class. I had remembered to turn the ringer off, but it still rang to tell me I had a message. Don’t you hate that? The call was from V on her way to her night job – which started at seven – wondering if I’d seen the rents and telling me the sad tale of the missed message. I triangulated with Jes – as V had already done when she couldn’t reach me initially- and Jes called her mother’s house, as my rents might have gone there. I also called my other sister Sandy to see if they had landed at her place. Nope.

Back to the cell phone thing, my parents are very into rates – cents per minute calculations. They discovered a few years back that they could do away with their long distance company and simply use a phone card from Wal-Mart. They don’t buy new cards. They have had the same card for years. They just keep filling it back up when the minutes get low. They have the card number on speed dial one. They have their password on speed dial two. My brother Phil programmed it years ago and I don’t think anyone knows what the actual numbers are anymore. It shows up on my caller ID as Colorado, which is additionally odd considering that they are calling from Wisconsin.

While the card is their little way of using the man to fight the man, it’s not like they bring this card with them when they travel. They bought a cell phone for travel a few years ago, but they didn’t like the rate and so they never charge it or use it. We can never reach them on the road and they like it that way, but occasionally this thinking bites them in the ass – as in tonight when presumably they drove all over St. Louis and found no one home. I hate to say it, but we are less worried than we are self satisfied in our smugness regarding their phone neurosis, and yet this smugness is but a thin veneer covering our own technology dependence.

The tricky thing about communication is the propensity we all have to miss.


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