What not to say on your cellphone

Don’t call me anymore to ask, ‘Did you bring my laundry upstairs?’

“Mom, you need to get a new toy for the dog. He’s really bored,” says my son over the cellphone.

“Why are you calling me about the dog at this exact moment?” I ask, frantically searching through piles of marked-down dresses at Nordstrom Rack. “Get back to your 10 hours of homework.”

Five minutes later, I hear my daughter’s voice, “What’s for dinner?” she asks, as I maneuver my little red Honda out of the parking lot. “Mom, I hate that stuff.” Click.

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the quality of cellphone conversations is deteriorating? But before you can say, “Oh, no, not another cellphone story,” I bet you
get three phone calls: No. 1. Will you pick something up? No. 2. Will you tell someone where something is? No. 3. Will you settle an argument between No 1. and No 2?

Last Saturday at Costco, while considering the purchase of a 50-pound bag of broccoli florets, I saw a woman looking at a 20-pound bag of sausage. “Honey,” she says over her cell, “will you run to the basement freezer and let me know how much sausage we have left?”

I pictured her husband listening to one of those educational CDs. You know the kind I mean. Harvard professors lecturing on black holes and molecular biology. And just as this poor guy is about to grasp the concept of String Theory, he gets the call about the sausage.

Fortunately, my husband, a Greek and Latin scholar, will sometimes pepper a conversation with some exciting new research on the Peloponnesian Wars. But mostly his cellphone calls revolve around one topic: toilet paper ... picking some up.

Then there is the dreaded, “Where are you?” call.

“I’ve been waiting for you to pick me up at the train station,” says my daughter. “You’re late. Where are you?”

“Where am I?” I yell. “I can see you calling me to see where I am. That’s where I am!”

I called my cell provider for some help. An operator suggested I check out the company’s website, “mired in the mundane.com.” I didn’t find anything helpful so I called again and spoke with a customer service representative:

“Ma’am, if your children and husband are that overly dependent on you, maybe it isn’t a problem with your phones. Maybe it’s a deeper problem within your family.”

That did it. I decided to start PECCA: People for the Elevation of Cell Conversations Association. Here are a few dos and don’ts.

What not to say on a Cellphone:

1. Where’s the remote control?

2. Will you bring my laundry upstairs?

3. Can you pick up some freezer bags?

4. Did you feed the dog?

Acceptable cellphone conversations

1. How did you like the latest Philip Roth novel?

2. Wow! Your interpretation of Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man” really blew me away.

3. Can you brief me on what “bundle” means, as in “the bank sold bundles of mortgages.” I’m meeting some friends for coffee and I’m feeling a little insecure.

Janine Wood is a homemaker and writer in Deerfield, Ill.

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