Since Friday, I’ve had the unexpected bonanza of three separate, entirely unrelated, and long-overdue conversations with people I’ve known for a very long time who live very far away from me. It’s got me thinking about time, energy, and how we spend both.
You know that feeling when your phone starts buzzing, and you think it’s a text message? But then it keeps buzzing, and you realize that you are being called -- actually CALLED? On the PHONE?! For most of us — more and more as our lives get busier and the ways we “ping” each other, as my programmer father puts it, become more and more numerous — that feeling is annoyance. Implicit in a phone call is a demand for your time, asking you to drop everything and engage or else miss your chance.
But sometimes, you’re holding your phone in your hand, doing something frustrating or boring or brainless, and suddenly your screen is overtaken by a name and a picture of someone you weren’t expecting to hear from, someone you really want to talk to. And any annoyance you might feel at having your google search or your game of Two Dots interrupted is swept swiftly away by the pleasantness of the surprise.
Our smart phones are amazing devices that allow us to do many things at once…and a lot of those things are not particularly important or meaningful or life-enriching. When you’re caught up in a busy day of doing a thousand things, ten-at-a-time, the “killer app” might actually be the original app. At the end of the day, perhaps the most amazing thing your phone can do is…to ring. To be a phone, this impossible invention that now allows us to connect to anyone on earth, anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re at home, or at work, or if you never left a forwarding number, your phone can ring and you can be reached. And sure, that’s annoying when it’s a telemarketer, or someone you’re trying to avoid, or the Red Cross begging you for more precious blood. You don’t have to take those calls. Sometimes it’s even annoying when it’s someone you really love and miss, because it forces you to stop and make space in your day for a real, meaningful conversation.
Isn’t it funny how we often need to be “forced” to give ourselves what we really need? There are few luxuries in this life as rich as a conversation with someone you know so well that, without even meaning to, you seem to skip the “catch-up” conversation and go straight to making each other laugh. Someone with whom you can zoom past pleasantries and straight into what’s really up with you. How miraculous that such a conversation is always a button's press away. How bizarre that we press that button so rarely.