Cell Phone Etiquette and Centipedes

By Curtis K. Shelburne

I just talked to Joshua, our youngest son, on the cell phone. Amazing.

Yes, cell phones in general amaze me. I have a love/hate relationship with
the gadgets. They are blessings when you own one (or if you need to reel
in a teenager) and a blight when they own you. For good or ill, they
spring up everywhere as uninvited as dandelions.

The problem is not just that the little e-buggers go off in all the wrong
places because we forget to turn them off (we’ve all made that mistake),
it’s that too often those of us who aren’t brain surgeons or such,
required by “life and death” jobs to keep the little howlers on
constantly, do so anyway. When’s the last time you had an uninterrupted
meal or a good conversation when you or a companion weren’t reeled in or
away by a cell phone? If I remember—a big IF—I’m planning to start turning
mine to “silent” or “off” at meals. A meal should be an event. A cell
phone call is usually a non-event that can easily wait thirty minutes to
be returned. I might miss one call in 67 that can’t wait. It’s a risk
worth taking.

Maybe I’m just surly, but I’m way over being impressed with folks who
scurry through airports hollering into thin air. Even less impressive is
the guy who loudly shares his end of a conversation with everybody not
more than six tables away at a restaurant.

File this under “confession” because it’s not a Christian impulse, but in
both of the scenarios above, I find myself itching to tie a wire to the
guy’s wireless Bluetooth, shove it past his Realteeth, and try to fish out
his appendix.

Okay. I feel better. Where was I? Oh, yeah . . .

What’s amazing about talking to Josh on a cell phone is that after I punch
in a few numbers, I’m talking to him as he is standing in Sudan, Africa,
just as clearly as if he was located fifteen miles away in Sudan, Texas.
Joshua is overseeing the building of a dental/optical clinic in Sudan that
will soon be used to show Christ’s love to thousands of refugees from that
war-torn land. Living without running water, without anything but some
scant solar power, Joshua has learned to be thankful for small blessings.
He’s learned, for example, a new definition of “good” sleep. Good sleep is
sleep uninterrupted by the sound of mortar shells and automatic weapons
fire. (We’re thankful that interruption has only happened once!)

Good sleep. It’s the kind that comes after you get up worried that you
just heard a rat gnawing on something in your hut, and then you find the
big rodent’s actually a friend—he’s eating a sizable centipede.

Cell phones and etiquette seem to be mutually exclusive, so I don’t know
what the actual rule is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not bad manners to talk
quietly on a cell phone during a meal if it’s not your meal, if the diner
is a rodent, and if the main course is a centipede.