The Beach is Calling

And it’s the only call I’ll take.

By Lee Ann “Sunny” Brown

The sound was so loud and unexpected that I jumped out of my skin. I had not heard anything like it in so long that I forgot what it was. It has been over three years since I have heard a telephone ring—ever since we disconnected our landline. I had forgotten how intrusive it is until I was relaxing at my mom’s beach house and her phone rang, almost startling me right out of my swimsuit. My mom’s house is the only place I go where a telephone still rings. It sounded like an alarm, like some kind of urgent message reminding me I needed to do something, or alerting me that I was in some kind of trouble. It unnerved me. It was anxiety provoking, which is exactly what time spent at the beach was supposed to be countering. The ringing even caused my blood pressure to shoot up. Thank God, my mom keeps a fully stocked bar.

I never have liked the telephone. I remember back when my husband and I were just dating. He’s be at my apartment, the phone would ring and I wouldn’t answer it. I also didn’t have an answering machine. He couldn’t understand why it didn’t bother me that I didn’t know who it was. I figured either they would call back or I would eventually see them. He finally got me an answering machine but I never listened to it. Not much has changed.

Right this minute I have over 20 un-listened-to voice mail messages on my phone. That includes my mom, my brother, friends and even my kids and my husband. If you are one of those unanswered calls just know that you are in good company. It’s not personal. Of course, I always look to see who called when I get a chance, and then I text them back–eventually. This drives my kids crazy because they accuse me of texting them and then setting my phone down and walking away. They complain that they have texted me right back and are waiting on an answer, one that might not come for hours, or days, even. So they call their dad. I just don’t walk around with my phone glued to my hands all day. After I have texted what I needed to tell you I set my phone down. Sometimes I even accidentally leave my phone at home. Or, sometimes I see a message but can’t answer it right then and plan on replying later but I forget that I didn’t actually reply. In my mind I did.

Even so, texting is my preferred message of communicating. I don’t have to worry about actual words and punctuation and grammatical errors by just using emojis. I am almost exclusively using them now. In fact, I am considering a way to write this column entirely in emojis.

However, I realize that there are some times in life when people feel they simply must be able to speak to someone, when they need you to hear their pleading tone. That is a delicate situation. I mean, a call just out of the blue is such an interruption. I could be in the middle of something important, or not, even, and suddenly my phone starts ringing, without warning? It’s just inappropriate. In fact, I venture to say that it could be downright rude. There must be some kind of forewarning. I know there are other people out there who feel this way, too. We seem to be a nation divided on this issue: To call or not to call is the question. The fact is there are so many ways to get in touch with someone besides actually calling them.

If you are like me, you prefer to first send a query message, usually via text. If I feel that a text could be too personal for someone I don’t know very well, I send a Facebook message. However, you never know how often someone is on Facebook, and they may never see it. So that is unreliable. Sometimes I have sent one anyway, and then followed that up with an email, just in case. But, some people have multiple emails and you never really know which one they check. I personally have over a thousand emails just sitting there waiting on me to check them.

In extreme cases, I also go old school and send an actual letter in the mail…but I don’t know how often they check their P.O. Box, either. Usually, if I don’t hear back from someone in a few weeks, then I will be forced to follow up with a text letting them know to check their Facebook messages, and email, and mailbox and to get back with me ASAP. But, I don’t dare disturb them with an actual phone call.

Don’t bother calling me, either, because I could be at the beach. There, the only phone I pick up is a shell phone. Maybe I can convince my mom that’s the only landline she needs, a shell phone, and the only urgent sound I want to hear is the beach calling. In fact, I hear it right now, don’t you? Sea you later! 

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