Cell phones: Living with life's little hang-ups

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Apr 01, 2008




I was about halfway through my brilliant explanation of spinal disc disease when, suddenly, the exam room filled with the thrilling sounds of the William Tell Overture.

Naturally, I expected to meet the Lone Ranger at any moment. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Instead, I observed Mrs. DeBlab reach into her purse, open up the source of the unexpected symphony and answer her cell phone.

It was an important communiqué.

Apparently, she was called upon to decide whether her daughter, Paige, could have a cupcake this close to lunchtime. Rather than keep you in suspense, let me reveal the shocking conclusion right now. There was to be no cupcake. However, permission was granted for the ingestion of a banana. (Whew!)

I was ready to continue our discussion, but didn't get the chance because Sharon DeBlab got another call almost immediately. This one revolved around a homework assignment that wasn't even due for two more weeks.

While still holding the phone to one ear, she looked at me and told me to continue the explanation. "Don't worry, Doc," she said. "I can listen to you while I handle this problem. Being a parent makes you good at multi-tasking." (I doubted whether she could even uno-task.)

Every few seconds she said things like: "I see, uh-huh, yes, OK." Was she talking to me or the person on the telephone?

"Sorry about that, Doctor," she said after the call was finally over. "I like to keep in touch with my kids all the time. It's one of my little hang-ups." (Hang up is something she should do more often.)

An hour later, I got the much-anticipated call from Mrs. DeBlab. "Now, Doctor, what was it you said about a disc? I don't remember all the details of our conversation." (That's because she didn't listen.) Worse, I could tell that she was doing it again. Only, this time, I was the person on the telephone and someone else was getting short-changed.

My re-explanation cut a sizeable chunk out of my valuable lunch hour.

Cut the cord

Unfortunately, that afternoon dialed in new problems. They came in the form of Mr. Swagger. "Good afternoon!" he said as I entered the room. "And how are you doing this fine day?"

He didn't give me a chance to answer. He just continued talking. "What are you up to? That sounds great, just great! Let's do that. We'll have to get together soon."

At first I was confused. Then, he turned his head and I noticed that something was growing and glowing out of his right ear. It was one of those Bluetooth things. He wasn't talking to me at all.

I ran my index finger across the front of my neck indicating that it was time to cut the call. Fortunately, he got the message before I was forced to use the neighboring finger.

"You know Doc," he said. "These things are a great invention. It was expensive, but worth every penny. You should get one. You could get all your phone calls done while seeing office calls or doing surgery. People wouldn't mind if you talked to other clients while they were in the office."

I never had a chance to respond because another call came in. "Sorry Doc," he said. "This is an important, private call. I have to take it. Do you mind?"

At first I thought that he was apologizing. Then, I realized that he actually expected me to leave the room so that he could have privacy for his call.

For that, he got "the look." Now, I cannot take credit for inventing the look. I learned it from Father. In fact, it probably goes back through countless generations of fathers. Each generation spent time honing and perfecting it. At any rate, this icy stare means it's time to make yourself scarce. Mr. Swagger got the message.

"I'll finish my call in the other room," he announced.

A few minutes later, Mr. Swagger lost it. The screaming started, and it was coming from the hospital lavatory.

"Call the plumber! Call the plumber! I accidentally flushed my Blue Tooth!"

The situation reminded me of another thing I learned from my Dad. "Everything belongs in one of two places: either where it belongs, or in the trash."

In this particular case, however, I thought the toilet provided an acceptable alternative.

Dr. Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.