Her voice was tentative, “Are you all right?”  My friend, Pam, asked.

At first I had no idea to what she was referring.  “Great.  What are you talking about?” I inquired.

“Well,” Pam started, hesitantly, “when we were having lunch on Monday and you got that phone call from AT&T, I was really surprised at how angry you got.  I’ve never seen you get angry.”

Alexander Graham Bell

Since October 16, I’ve had an ongoing battle with AT&T to get my home phone transferred from my previous server to their phone service. AT&T has been in business since 1885 and can trace its roots back to Alexander Graham Bell.  You would think this company would know how to connect a home telephone.

In fact, the process of connecting a phone appears to be so easy that they send self-installation kits to your home for you to install your own phone. (Because of their incompetance, I’ve received three installation kits.)  Yet even with 137 years of experience and the current ease of installation, I have been trying to get my phone installed for over a month.  It appears the skill needed to install a home phone has been lost by AT&T.

My journal logging the events over the past month is a three page, single-spaced document.  I’ve been shuttled to so many helpful service representative that I’m thinking of hooking a few of them up with some stray, unmarried cousins.

During lunch last Monday, I received a phone call from an extremely polite man from India or Pakistan informing me that I would now have a new phone number.  “It appears Mrs. Howard,” he quietly and most jovially said, “that you have misplaced your former phone number and AT&T cannot find it.

In response, I screamed as calmly as I could, “Oh, no!  I’ve had that phone number for 45 years.  You lost the number; now you find it!”  Then I hung up as I headed to the AT&T store where I had initiated the transfer.  The store resides only a mile away and I arrived there almost before he could call me back.

“Mrs. Howard, you must let me explain!” his quietude was withering.  I calmly screamed for a few more minutes.  Finally, I listened.  His explanation was classic.   I had somehow fouled up the account and even though AT&T was working as hard as they could, I would need to choose a new phone number.

I have spent over 40 hours on the phone with AT&T’s extremely polite and considerate representatives. My phone was originally connected by AT&T on October 16.  Disconnected on October 17.  The phone has been connected and disconnected an additional five times in the past month.  In response to each disconnection, I have been kind.  I’ve joked. I have raised my voice.  I’ve cajoled, begged, pleaded, demanded, asked to speak to the supervisor.  AT&T’s usual response is an extremely polite moment of silence on the other end.

I must commend AT&T for the training of their reps.  In the 40 hours spend being transfer from one representative to another, I have only encountered one person who has not treated me with the greatest of respect.

The only problem–I don’t want or need respect.  I need my phone.

It is November 15 and I still don’t have a telephone. Though I have been politely and joyously assured that I will receive yet another self-installation kit tomorrow.

The news reported that an owner of a restaurant asks that everyone check in their phones and electronic tablets when they enter the restaurant so the patrons will be free of such devices while eating their meals.  He said it was apparent that more and more people were not communicating with each other but texting, checking Twitter and Facebook and answering email during their visits at the restaurant.  “Mealtime has always been a time for people to touch base and talk.  The disturbing thing was that people were no longer talking to their table mates but communicating with everyone else in the world.”

At this age, I find that I am accumulating an entire zoo of pet peeves.  Nevertheless, this one is being pushed to the front, especially at church.  This is especially disturbing when there are mentally challenged people who need supervision and staff and volunteers are paying more attention to their phones or tablets than the members of a program.  I understand that our tablets and phone now contain our Bibles.  I know that many people discuss the sermon during messaging.  They are staying engaged through this median in new and exciting ways.  However, when I sit next to folks in a small group setting who are “engaged” with their phones or iPad, it isn’t the sermon or the scriptures they are discussing.  Almost without exception when I glance over, they are playing games.  At times they are texting but there is NO ONE else in the room who is texting back.  Therefore, how can they be discussing the Bible study?

Maybe I simply need to get with the times and ignore this behavior but it has become difficult.  Understand, I love the new technology.  I had a smart phone before smart phones were smart.  Special Gathering was using the TRIO years before the iPhone came out.  I get the convenience.  When my phone dies, it’s like a part of me is missing.  I get it.

But there is a time for polite company.  Here is a list of times that we should refrain from checking our messages, Twitter accounts, Facebook, texting, or checking our email:

  • During a worship service.
  • At a meal.  There are a multitude of scriptural teachings that God has ordained the meal as a time for fellowship and communion.  Losing that time is one of the travesties of modern society.
  • While engaged in a one-on-one conversation.
  • At a social event.

There are ways to send a message that isn’t intrusive.  “Can’t talk now.  I’ll call later,” is a message that takes seconds to type but communicates three things.  1) I got the message but I’m doing something important.  2) I won’t forget you and I’ll call back.  3)  To the people who are with you, it says, “You are important.  I’m not going to interrupt my time with you for someone else.”

I understand that there are some people with whom you MUST talk.  Your spouse.  Your boss.  Your children. A colleague who is currently doing you a favor.

However, why make an appointment with someone if you are going to be barely engaged?  Why go to church or a Bible study if you are going to be interacting with the vast world of cyberspace the entire time?  Why not stay home or in your office so that you can give full attention to the person who truly needs your attention?

The truth is that most of cyberspace communication isn’t that vital and could wait for an hour. Yet we want to answer because…? Each of us must fill in the blank because our unique personalities dictate the rest of the sentence.