9/29/14, No Answer

Dear Everyone,

Instead of reporting to you on big antique shows, fashion shows, world events, or personal things that matter to me, sometimes even very personal (like losing a friend this summer, or my late son’s anniversary date last week), now and then I get to share a pet peeve with you, and it’s always rewarding when I discover that you share my irritation about the same thing, and I’m not alone in my complaint. (There’s comfort in numbers).

Communication used to be complicated and slow. You had to mail a letter or even a work project and wait for a response, sometimes even a long time. There was just no faster way to get things sent from Point A to Point B. Then the fax was invented which changed that. Within minutes, you could send a drawing, a letter, a work project to anywhere in the world, a huge change in getting work done faster, with no delays. And the Fax led to Email which revolutionized all our lives. Sometimes even too much so. You write a letter or send a photo or message, hit the Send button, and your message shoots around the world (sometimes before you even have time to think about it, or prematurely). Texts were an extension of that, and now seem to be the way everyone, or many/most people communicate, especially young people. And to some extent, it’s abused. I hear constantly about romances starting by text, and then people getting ‘dumped’ by text, which seems a very inelegant way to handle important personal communications and life decisions. My kids in their 20’s rarely seem to talk to anyone on the phone anymore, they text, which seems sadly impersonal to me. Email and Texting are convenient as can be, but easily abused, and on personal issues, they seem to create a false sense of intimacy which doesn’t really exist, and then they find there is a wide gap between reality and the person they were communicating with too intimately, with no real foundation for it.

And the arrival of the cell phone changed all our lives. John, my husband for 20 years, LOVED new technology. We had the first voice operated cell phone in his car, which called all sorts of people you didn’t want to talk to if you coughed or sneezed, and responded to every noise in the car. And he had the first ‘portable phone”, which was about as heavy as a bowling ball, was housed in a small suitcase, and which he placed on the table in restaurants, and loved showing off with it. That wasn’t very long ago, maybe 20 years or less. And then the machinery began shrinking to something smaller and smaller, at first hard to get into a purse, and by now so tiny you can tuck it into any bag or pocket. The things a cell phone can do today are astonishing, with endless ‘apps’. There is an app for just about anything, from random sex, to games, and things I never dreamed off, like a list of every restaurant in the area if you tell your phone you’re hungry. There are no more unanswered questions on any subject, what actress was in what movie when, who won the Oscar in 1949, history, recipes, addresses, information. Google has changed the world. And in many cases, cell phones have become as much toys as a convenience, or a business tool. And no question, originally, they made life incredibly convenient. You could sit in traffic and tell people you were late. For me, most importantly with 9 children, I could be found and contacted instantly if one of my children needed me, or had a problem. Before cell phones, I worried about it constantly, about my kids being able to reach me if they had an emergency and I was out. Or if I needed to reach them. Beepers were an interim stage, which warned you that someone needed to reach you, and you could rush to a phone to find out what the problem was, and sometimes it took a while to find a phone so you could call the person who beeped you. With cell phones, you were instantly reachable by the entire world, which has some real advantages, and admittedly some downsides. It also has its dangers, with people using cell phones and texting while driving. Even though illegal, many people still do it, and it causes terrible accidents. My children lost a close friend two years ago, texting while she drove on the highway. And I see people do it all the time, as I’m sure you do too, even worse with texting, since they are looking at their phones, not at the road.

There is no denying the fantastic convenience of having a cell phone, and being accessible to those you want to reach you. Even though it makes us too accessible, and there is nowhere to hide anymore if you want 5 minutes of peace and quiet. (I won’t look at email by phone, and only look at it at home on my computer. You have to draw the line somewhere, and that’s where I draw it, or I’d be answering emails all day when I’m out, trying to get things done, or with friends or kids). But we seem to have forgotten an important benefit that cell phones offer us, and were designed for in the beginning: So others can reach us and talk to us, and we can reach them, wherever we are, at home or out. Somewhere on the path of progress, people stopped answering their cell phones, and began using it as a screening process. At first, only a few did it. They flatly refused to answer their phones, and let it go to voice mail every time, which seemed annoying and snotty to me. Too fancy to answer their phones? Too important? Please. But now everyone does it!!!! EVERYONE, or just about. Whoever you call, whether it’s business people, close friends, a company, a shoe store, or even my kids, all you get is their message. NO ONE actually answers their phone now, whether it rings or is on vibrate. I WANT to answer my phone, and actually have a nearly antique cell phone that I love, because it has flashing lights to tell me it’s ringing if I’m in a place where I might not hear it (a restaurant, a baseball game, wherever, someplace noisy). It lights up like a disco ball when it’s ringing or has a message, and I love that. I love that model (a very, very old Nokia), and have replaced it several times with unused models of the same phone which I’ve found on EBay. I write on a 1946 typewriter, which is older than I am, and use a cell phone that is a dozen years old. It has no fancy ‘apps’, and I’m fine with that. It’s a cell phone, not a rocket science lab or a research library. All I want is to talk on it, that’s plenty for me. But NO ONE answers their cell phone anymore, EVERYONE lets it go to Voice Mail and checks their messages later. One of the great advantages of cell phones, for me, was being able to reach people quickly, especially in an emergency. It seems like people have forgotten that. All you get now is their message, and pray they pick it up soon. I don’t know a single person who answers their cell phone anymore when it rings, or vibrates. And you’re at the mercy of when they feel like picking up their messages (or worse, their message line is full, because they haven’t bothered to pick up their messages in days or weeks, and you can’t leave them a message at all). With caller ID, they can see who’s calling, so if they don’t want to talk to you, they can avoid you forever. But even if they want to talk to you, or like you, NO ONE picks up anymore. Not even my kids!!! An important feature of cell phones at all has been rendered obsolete. You can’t reach a person quickly on their cell phone now, because they just don’t answer. Okay, they may be driving. But other than that, there is just no reason not to answer their phones, except if they’re having sex or sleeping—-and even asleep, you may need to reach them quickly.

As an example, I was traveling yesterday, and staying in a hotel 3,000 miles from home. I got an alarming call from someone who thought my home was about to be burglarized, on a Saturday night at about 7pm. I couldn’t even call 911 from where I was, or I would have gotten the local police where I was, not the police at home where the house is. I called my kids in that city to have them call the police immediately. It went to Voicemail for each one. I called my assistants. Voice Mail, it was Saturday night, and there was no reason why they should expect to hear from me, and they have their own lives on weekends, and I normally don’t intrude on them out of working hours. I started to panic. Who to call who’d actually pick up their phone and call the cops for me, to protect my home??. I couldn’t find the number for my alarm company, great, now what? I called friends. Voice Mail. I literally called 20 people, and NOT A SINGLE ONE picked up. Not one. Meanwhile, the burglars could have been in my home by then, happily emptying it. It was an insane and frustrating feeling. I was able to reach NOT ONE single person. Nobody. I left frantic messages everywhere, and finally sat down at my computer, sending desperate emails. A friend called me 5 minutes after I sent the emails. And from then on, I started getting calls for the next two hours, after writing in the subject line: “I need HELP. CALL ME IMMEDIATELY”—–which if you do email, you know is also a classic form of Spam now, and a scam, where people hack into others’ computers and email and send out emails claiming to be that person, saying they are in a desperate situation, and trying to scam money from them. So half the people I wrote to by email, probably thought it was that, just another hacker sending scam emails. But no one picked up the damn phone for Heaven’s sake. They only responded to email. Who do I know who is so important that they have to screen their calls and can’t answer the phone when it rings? And yes, I know some famous people. But I wasn’t calling Sidney Poitier, Barbara Walters, or Ben Affleck to tell them my house was being burglarized, I was calling my children, friends and employees. Everyone did eventually call in the next two hours, although the problem was solved by then. And thank goodness, one friend called me minutes after she got my email, called the police and got them there. And fortunately, it was something of a false alarm of innocent people actually looking for someone else, and had managed to look suspicious, although they weren’t burglars. But what if I REALLY needed help immediately? If I’m injured or sick, or need help of some kind, or to reach someone for a serious reason? No One will pick up their phones and answer. They all think they are much too important now and screen their calls. I don’t do that, if someone calls me, I answer. Why wouldn’t I? Why call back later? In fact, much to my friends’ annoyance, I go in the other direction. I never turn off my phone, even in a movie—what if one of my kids has an accident or a huge problem? I want to know immediately. My worst sin of that kind was at my sister in law’s funeral a year ago, in that case I forgot to turn off my phone, since I never do, and of course it rang right in a moment of silence during the church service, and the entire church could hear it. I dove into my purse, grabbed the phone and turned it off, and everyone was mad at me. But I figure if someone calls me, they need me, and probably have a good reason to call me. I can’t tell you how irritating it is to call person after person, and have no one answer. I spend my life leaving messages for people who think they are too busy and important to answer their phones, instead of just talking to the people I need to speak to. I no longer know a single person who will answer their phone when it rings. I find that incredibly annoying!!!

If someone calls me, I answer my phone, unless I’m driving. And it would be soooooo nice if people would answer their phones when I call them. Even my dry cleaner doesn’t answer their phone. No one does. Maybe people need to feel a little less lofty and important, and answer their phones!!! Not doing so defeats one of the important purposes of a cell phone: being able to reach people immediately if you need them, possibly in an emergency. If we don’t abuse that privilege, then maybe people would start answering their phones again. It certainly would be refreshing!!! I’m not too fancy to answer my phone, and it would be great if others didn’t think that they are!!!

love, danielle

Leave a Comment

If you would like to make a comment, please fill out the form below.

Name (required)

Email (required)


19 Comments so far
  1. Jean September 30, 2014 5:36 pm

    I really had to smile now that the danger is over…did you mention this to the special children in your life? I agree with you in the matter of cell phones etc. hate that the modern “gizmos” have taken over our lives..no conversation but that a ringer doesn’t intrude. I spent 40 yrs on call at the hospital..so beepers were great..than cell etc. let us go to the store instead of being home for all the calls..

  2. AlexB September 30, 2014 7:42 pm

    You can call me anytime… I’ll answer I promise. 😛

  3. Teresa Cunha October 1, 2014 5:35 am

    Hi Danielle!

    The way technology is being used bothers me as well! I remember being on the phone with my friends all the time and being always anxious to meet with them and talk, and boy we spent hours and hours talking! These days people don’t talk they just text or talk to someone on the cell phone but not with the people they’re having a meal with…
    Of course it bothers me that people I can barely talk to when I’m with them because they’re always answering calls, don’t answer my phone calls when I need to talk to them, usually in an emergency. In my professional life, in the other hand, I often have to phone people to ask them if they got my email because I’ve been waiting for an answer for days! – The same people that at meetings are checking their emails on their cell phones (I also only check emails at the computer and never answer emails at night – yes, one has to draw limits).
    Last year I had to send an email to a collaborator telling her, after numerous failed attempts to talk to her on the phone, that if my father’s surgeon, in vacations at the time (my father’s was the very last surgery before his vacations), was available 24/7 – he provided his personal number- how on earth she couldn’t manage to return a phone call after several missed calls?
    So, I guess these days is easier to know what a celebrity ordered for lunch even before it arrives to his/hers table than to get a person to answer a phone call.
    By the way, my phone is only without sound for about an hour per week (when in church) and I always answer it.
    Best regards,


  4. Janet Henderson October 1, 2014 8:57 am

    Your experience sounds like it might make an interesting a plot in an upcoming novel. I am a huge fan and have been reading your work since my college days. Do you ever do book signings in Chicago? I would love to meet you in person and have you autograph your latest work for me.
    Don’t worry. I’m not a stalker, just an admirer. Ha Ha.

  5. Keyla Marques October 2, 2014 6:28 am

    totally agree with you on the cell phone thing. Why dont people answer their phones? I dont like to talk on the phone, but when someone calls me, I answer it. I hate voice mails and usually read my emails at night.
    thank god it wasnt something bad after all at your house.
    love, keyla

  6. Elaine October 2, 2014 8:45 am

    This is so true!!! My children NEVER pick up the phone when I call them, yet they expect me to respond instantly any time they text me at any hour of the day or night.

  7. PJ October 2, 2014 12:38 pm

    I must be the anomaly- I work from a home office and always answer my land line. If not here, I bring my cell and always answer it unless I’m driving or in church.

  8. Lidiane Gomes October 2, 2014 10:01 pm

    I totally agree whith you.

  9. Judy October 3, 2014 5:47 pm

    I have been a fan of yours. I need to know about one of your books, it is with a single mom and son is handicap the mom was walking and was hit by a bus which left her and no one know who she ways.

    If I’m wrong I’m sorry, just keep writing and so all your fans will look forward to all your books

  10. Lynn October 3, 2014 8:48 pm

    Many thanks for your gift as a writer. You are very talented, and your stories are meaningful.
    Lynn Miller

  11. fredrick karithi October 3, 2014 10:36 pm

    hi danielle,
    this blog reminds me of word from my lecturer yesterday, he was trying to bring out an image of how wonderful the world could be if all the people could be rational or rather considerate. people could do to others what they expect to be done to them. as for your case they could try to consinder your need of immediate help. how did they know you were not at the face of the death itself? as result of most people being irrational, the world is becoming less of a good place it could be if people are considerate. level of crimes could not be rising, inconviniencies could be minimal in our offices, workplace et cetera. the big question is, who gonna lead them to change this irritating tendency to feel important to rise to the needs of others?

  12. Carmen Larkin October 5, 2014 6:30 pm

    Didn’t know how else to contact. sorry if this is not the right place. My 90 year old mom has requested for her 91st BD. a paperback copy of your book “His bright Light”. I have found several available, however need to get large print. I live in Ontario Canada. Can someone direct me. Thanks

  13. Tina October 6, 2014 8:52 am

    Sometimes I forget my phone, if I am only away for a shorter time (sometimes, but not very often, I forgot my phone when I am at school or work), because that is the only one as I have. So its the only way I can get in contact to others.

    I do some texting as well…And my mother wants me to answer the phone when she calls, but not neceary the other way around…Sometimes I have it muted, (again, school or work), and sometimes I forgot to unmute it, and then my mother cant understand why I dont answer it…

  14. wendy bowman October 6, 2014 3:59 pm

    Hello Danielle
    This observation is so accurate. It is often shocking!! if someone does answer the phone. I am always hesitant for a minute as I had planned to leave a voicemail. The funniest thing that happened to me with this: I called the main number for the Income Tax dept 2 years ago. It was around 4pm so thought, of course, I will leave a message. It rang twice and a man answered. He actually just said hello with no confirmation of where I had called. I thought in that millisecond, to myself, I must have dialled the wrong number. He said no this is the Tax Dept what can I do for you. I told him my dilemma. He said no problem I can deal with that now and send you the information you would like. I thanked him immensely and he said he was just about to leave work saw the flashing incoming call and decided to answer. It was shocking!! I thought perhaps I had been transported back to perhaps 1970.
    It has never happened again but I always thought to myself, the least likely call you would ever expect to have answered.
    If I try and call my children they never answer but if I txt them I get a response in less than 13 seconds. I am well trained to just txt. I often want to just talk with someone so I will call my mother who is 89 and I know will answer the phone. The lost art of actually speaking to real people.

  15. Zhenya October 9, 2014 6:00 am

    Hi Danielle!
    I live in Russia, Moscow. I have been reading Your books in Russian for about 5 years and I love them!

    What you posted about using Voicemail of cell phones in the United States, is a surprise for me. As for Russians, it’s still normal to pick up, when the cell phone rings. At least for most people. Of course there are newest models of cell phones in market. May be the reason is that cell phones came a little later into Russia, and soon the situation will be the same as in the US, a don’t know. Anyway, I’m absolutely agree, that it’s abnormal – not to answer, when you are called.
    Thank you for Your books. I’m looking forward to read more of them.

  16. Sharon Smith October 12, 2014 3:30 pm

    I know exactly what you mean. A friend gets mad at me if I don’t call them at least every week. But I’m always getting their voicemail. They told me the other day to call them back. I almost laughed. Why? I told them I talk to their voicemail more than I talk to them. It is so annoying. Even my mother does the same thing. She doesn’t answer the phone. I people that I could be on the side of the road bleeding and no one would know. Why have emergency contacts when no one picks up the phone. I answer my phone and when I don’t people gets mad at me. LOL. Sure I think there are times and places to answer the phone. If your in a business meeting or in church you can set your phone to send a message to the incoming caller the reason you’re not answering.

    No one writes letters anymore. Its going to emails. Sure its faster. But I miss the personal touch. I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets annoyed.

  17. Leanne Chapman October 16, 2014 9:39 am

    Your September blogs are so moving. I have the cell phone problem with my 26 year old daughter and she does not have a landline. But I can text her to call and then she usually does. 🙂
    PS… I wish I hadn’t taken my Royal typewriter to Goodwill. It never got hacked
    Only needed new ribbon (lol)

  18. Lorraine October 18, 2014 5:46 am

    This was a great article. I find this, not just with cell phones, land lines as well, no matter who you call these days, some type of “machine” comes on, even with businesses. Which is a whole other topic, when you call a business, all the automation, press this, press that, and on and on.

    Things were so much simpler before the advent of all these supposedly convenient apparatus. The world survived quite long before cell phones were invented. Sometimes I feel if things get anymore advanced, people will be communicating by mental telepathy and we won’t have to even leave our houses, geez!

  19. Terri January 6, 2015 12:37 pm

    Can I get an AMEN? Testify Danielle!! I so agree with all you said–especially one’s own kids. It infuriates me when I call my 29 year old daughter and she does not answer. I got her her first cell phone for that reason only. To be able to call or receive calls during an emergency. And now she would text me back hours later if I was dying. Not really but you know what I’m saying. Ahhhhhhh!