Your Phone’s Ringing

Quiet morning in the library. Outside the window, sheep obeyed the lead dog. Inside, books were rearranged to follow the flow of the alphabet. Magazine pages occasionally ruffled.

I was playing with random thoughts, trying to figure out things I’ve since forgotten, when the hideous tune rang out. Loudly.

I moved my head a few degrees in the direction of a student wading through her twenties. She must have had a courtesy-free childhood where thank you and please were never circulated.

The terrible ring struck back. Speak of rudeness, she looked my way, as if I were somehow connected to the noise.

I returned her glance and upped her in intensity. This foolish woman was turning pages while her phone was howling…I looked straight at her and scowled.

She tightened her eyes and x-rayed me. Maybe I’d embarrassed her – but who else would teach her? We looked straight at each other; the phone ended its signal. Its mimickry of one of the Nutcracker dances. Silence returned – but this was just the opening fire. I could imagine the movies she’d ruin, the suffering waiting room patients who would hear her ballistics.

And worse, her insufferable attitude, how she distanced herself from the crime. I was appalled. No cell phones should be allowed in this peaceful place until users passed certain tests.

Later that evening, as we finished dinner and ran through our days together, I decided to recount my awful encounter – in part, seeking the comfort of loved ones.

“And it kept ringing, and she didn’t move a muscle. In the library! What’s going on with the Xers or maybe it was a Yer. Who can remember the cut-off date during a time like this.”

My son looked up. “Maybe she thought it was your phone.” I looked back at my teen son with a sense of profound disappointment.

How was he going to analyze reading passages on the SAT if he couldn’t figure out what was happening here, I snapped at him.

“Why would she think it’s my phone, if it was clearly her phone. Finish your peas.”

“Honey, “ my husband started.

“Well, it was a stupid point. And I deserve a hug for having to put up with inconsiderate people. Letting the phone ring – on and on. That ersatz sugar plum dance sirening in my ear! It’s not like I don’t know what my ring tone sounds like…”

“Dear …”

“It’s really pretty simple. If you don’t know how to answer a cell phone, use a pay telephone. Or get some lessons. And don’t practice in the library… Was that what you were going to say…”

“It was your phone.” “

What! Then why did it sound like faux Tchaikovsky?”

“When I was de-muting it – not sure how it got muted in the first place – I changed the tune for you. “

“And never got around to …”

“Telling you. If you want your old ringy dingy back, I’ll take care of it.”

“Please – and promise never ever to change my ringy dingy again without some sort of decent alert. This is so embarrassing. Now I’ll have to sit on the non-window side or wear a floppy hat or sit in the back where there’s no light.”

My son looked up at me. “I know what you’d say to me, not that I ever have those sorts of malfunctions. Just tell her you’re sorry – she knows it was you – a Boomer technophobe who doesn’t know …”

We were interrupted by the ring.