December 12, 2001
Hold The Phone
We know we're screwed, less
minutes into the morning commute.
heading into The Tube
is at a complete standstill, backed up all the way down Webster Street
... past the US Bank and the 99-Cent Store and the stoopid new Der
Weinerschnitzel restaurant (*I* was hoping it was going to be a TACO
TIME). Nobody is moving. Nobody is doing much of anything, in
besides waiting, and tapping the steering wheel impatiently, and
glaring at each other a lot. David and I are too far away to
the exact cause of the traffic jam, although I can see the flashing
lights of an emergency crew, somewhere up ahead. Looks like another
morning rush hour fender-bender. Probably some moron with a cell phone.
that, or else they're filming "The Matrix 3" already.)
worry," David says reassuringly. "You're not going to be that
late." And he swivels the Subaru around in the direction of the High
Street Bridge. Unfortunately, we swiftly discover, 99.97% of our fellow
commuters have the same idea. That's the problem with living on an
island: there are only a certain number of ways on OR off. Within
seconds we are stuck in yet another nose-to-bumper mess.
I glance at my
watch: 7:55 a.m., and we haven't even made it onto the freeway yet.
Too bad there isn't a way to let my boss know I'm on my way ... just
so she doesn't think I've quit or gone on strike or moved to Oregon
during my lunch hour or something.
And then it hits me: hold
mean that literally. Hold the phone ... as in, hold
the CELL PHONE that you're carrying in your PURSE,
of the time I forget I even own a cell phone. I
rushed out and bought it in September, right after the terrorist
attacks -- I get the feeling that a lot of people
rushed out and bought a cell phone right after the terrorist attacks,
motivated the same way I was, by fear and sentiment -- but I've barely
given it two *thought molecules* since I bought it. It lives in a
special top-secret zippered compartment in my purse, along with the
little charger doohickey and the little ear plug thingamabobs. The only
time I ever really think about my cell phone is when the monthly bill
lands in my mailbox ... or on the two or three occasions when it's
actually rung. Once, when I was standing in the check-out line at
downtown San Francisco Ross Dress-For-Less Store, Jaymi's boyfriend
Joel called from TicTac. I felt the phone vibrating inside my purse and
I thought we were having an earthquake. And then again, just the other
night, Jaymi called when she couldn't get through on the regular phone
("There is Chrismas music
coming from your purse,"
said David that night, mystified, as an electronic version of "Jingle
twinkled merrily from inside the special top-secret zippered
suppose that part of the reason I don't automatically think of using
the cell phone is the fact that I still hate cell phones. I find them rude
and intrusive and annoying, most of the time, just like 99.97% of
the people who use them. I wrote cell phones off as one of those trends
I planned to avoid indefinitely ... like hip-huggers, or Chris Rock
movies, or ginko biloba body wash.
now here I am, pulling the Nokia out of my purse and dialing my office
from the car. Trés 21st Century, Secra.
immediately get my own dulcet tones, of course. Hi. You've
reached The Dirt Company. Our regular business hours are Monday through
Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you'll leave a message at the ...
I cut my canned self off in mid-schpiel and start punching in extension
numbers, hoping I might get lucky and catch a live human being, already
in the office ... somebody who can start the coffee and turn the phones
off night bell and do all of the stuff *I* am supposed to be doing
right now. After repeated attempts to connect with a warm body --
repeated encounters with other canned voicemail greetings --
wind up leaving a voicemail message for JoAnne. (HiJoAnne
It's-me-Secra I'monmywayintotheoffice butwe'restuckintraffic
I'llbethereassoonaspossible OK?) I feel a little funny, with
this teeny-tiny piece electronic gizmo pressed against my ear
feels like I'm talking into a garage door opener -- but I
manage to get my entire message delivered
without being cut off. For good measure, I copy the message to Dawn and
to the Office Manager and to a couple of the more reliable
environmental techs. (Read this: any of the young environmental techs
who weren't doing tequila shooters at the Christmas party.) And that's
it. That's all I can do.
Butt = covered.
of course when I finally straggle into The Dirt Company, fourteen and a
half minutes later -- sweaty, winded, lugging Christmas
copier paper and three days' worth of Slim Fast and apples
-- there is
nobody in the office yet. No messages on the company voicemail, either,
except for mine. In
other words: nobody even knows that I was late, except for the
buttload of (unerasable/irretractable) voicemail messages I've left all
over the place, like poop in a dog park.
well. Nothing I can do about it now.
in the morning -- much, MUCH later in the morning
-- my boss comes strolling into the office, with a latte in one hand
and an armload of shopping bags in the other. (Someday *I* want to be
the boss, Isweartogod.)
"Your assistant called," I say
brightly. "She's stuck in traffic in Alameda, but she'll be here as
soon as possible."
spend the rest of the day feeling pretty darned smug about the
resourceful and responsible way I'd handled the situation. True, nobody
really had to know that I was delayed in traffic --
I could have skated on this one, easily -- but I still think I probably
did the right thing, calling to leave a message. Plus I got to use my
cell phone finally. That's kind of cool. Maybe it might come in handy
once in a while, after all.
matter of fact, I decide to leave my phone turned on for the rest of
the day ... just for the hell of it.
not? You never know when I might suddenly hear Christmas music coming
from my purse again.