When my daughter comes home from college and the land line rings, I yell, “DON”T ANSWER IT!” She always wants to – she thinks it might be her grandmother or somebody. It’s not.

Reminds me of growing up, when we always answered the phone. That was a long time ago, before cell phones and answering machines, in the days when the phone rang and you could count on it being a relative or friend or someone you did business with. During my teenage years back in the days of the dinosaurs, I was either on the phone talking to friends for hours, or I wasn’t in the house.

My dad worked out of town and was only home on intermittent weekends. He was one of those guys who took the newspaper with him into the bathroom when nature called. He’d be in there reading the sports page when the phone rang. Back then, though, there weren’t lying, cheating jerks who wanted to fleece us over the telephone. So when the phone rang, we answered it. Also, because there weren’t answering machines, the phone just kept ringing. Teenage girls figured you were in the bathroom popping zits or something and they’d just let it ring until you got done and answered. Or, if they were lucky, your cute brother would pick up the phone and you could talk to him until he realized it wasn’t one of the girls in his class but some dumb kid.  

After a few thousand rings my dad would throw the newspaper down, pull up his pants, clutching them at the waist because he had to return to the bathroom and finish up, and stomp to the phone. He thought that if the phone was ringing all that time, it must be an emergency. He growled, “HELLO!” Either the friend thought to herself, “Oh crap,” and hung up on him, or she said in a mouse’s voice, “Is Suzy there?” He yelled, “NO!” and slammed the phone down.

Then he returned to the bathroom and picked up where he left off, until a few minutes later when the phone rang again. I’m sure he said to himself, “I’m not answering it,” but after it rang a few thousand times, he threw the paper down, grabbed his pants, picked up the phone and barked, “HELLO,” only to hear the same voice say, “Is Suzy home?” Sometimes, if this happened several times, he’d get mad and yank the phone out. That was before plug-in phones – they were actually hard-wired into the wall. Little red and green and white wires stuck out of the wall like a Medusa head. Those were heart-breaking times when I’d come home and pick up the phone and there was nothing but dead silence. Fortunately it was easy to wire it back together, but the down-time was agony – just like when a teenager loses her cell phone – it truly is the end of the world.

I’m remembering this because it’s Valentine’s Day and I’ve gotten so many calls this morning from New York, Astoria, Savannah, Newark – I feel so popular and loved – people all over the country want to talk to me. It’s too bad I don’t know any of them. They call to either sell me something I don’t want, or to talk me into sharing my passwords so they can get into my accounts and rob me blind. We keep that phone because it’s free with our internet, and because when the power goes out, as it does during storms, we still have a phone to use since we can’t charge our other ones. Most of my friends and family call me on my cell phone unless they memorized the land line number long ago and call it out of habit.

So here’s my Valentine’s gift for you. When the phone rings today, pretend it’s someone wonderful who is calling because they love you, but if you don’t recognize the number, DON’T ANSWER IT!