Why does no one want to talk to you until you're on the phone?
The quickest way to draw attention is to be otherwise engaged.
If you don't believe me, ask a mom. Sister-in-law Christine has six kidlings milling about. She swears that the whole half dozen can be ensconced in their own rooms, mired in books, toys, video games or pillows - until she picks up the kid magnet.
If she just tries to sneak into a closet during the calm to call her husband, sister or even Time and Temperature, a sudden storm flings open the door and there's the whole brood:
''Mom, where's my other blue sock?''
''He hit me back!''
''The dog knocked over the whole bottle of bleach. It comes out of the carpet, right?''
As soon as she hangs up to launch into a tirade, she's alone. It's as if they never were there.
That's why all emergency kits should include a phone - not to call for help but because of the simple fact that putting it to your ear guarantees that at least three people will be buzzing around you jabbering even if you are on what you thought was a deserted island.
I remember many moons ago when I was young and dating a girlfriend who insisted I call on a regular basis. I never dialed without first having a novel already open. Back then, phones were mounted to the wall and the family said it was the only time she was in one place long enough for them to catch her. So they did.
''Look what I made at school!''
''Can you run me to town to get air for my bike?''
''I know you're on the phone, but before I forget, I need to tell you all about Mable's gall bladder surgery. What's-his-face on the phone probably is reading a book anyway.''
My dad, a guy who himself treated the phone as if it was constructed of poison ivy and barbed wire, once called me at college to say my mother would like to talk to me. I'm thinking of calling her next week. By this November for sure. Unless I can get my wife to do it for me. I hate the phone.
The latest wrinkle comes courtesy of somebody named Faison who apparently doesn't like to get calls, either. So he's been giving out my number.
Lately, I come home to a lot of messages on my answering machine:
''Faison, dude, it's Patrick. Look, I really need that 20 you owe me.''
''Faison, it's me. We met at the party. You said you were going to call me. C'mon, Faison, pick up the phone. Faison, you know you like me... (etc., etc., etc.)''
''Faison, it's Dad. Call your mother once in a while.''
None of Faison's callers seems fazed by the message on my machine: ''Hello. This is the home of Burton and Terry Cole. (Notice, no Faison is mentioned.) Please leave a message so we know that you called.'' (Notice, I make no promise to return the call.)
Yesterday, the phone rang: ''Hey, this is Faison. Any messages for me?''
A poignant one came to mind, but before I could deliver it, Terry appeared and started pestering me to clean out the garage and a neighbor kid burst through the door to demand Kool-Aid.
I've disconnected the phone.
---- Write the bell-free grump at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't bother calling. He won't answer.