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IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, March 2, 2011 • Posted March 2, 2011

Cell Phones Unleashed…

Not too many decades ago, decisions were fewer and much easier to make. In car-buying, color choices were black or white. There was vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream; then Baskin-Robbins busted loose with more flavors than they could think of good names for.

Minds grow dizzy with today’s barrage of choices—paper or plastic, regular or decaf, debit or credit, smoking or non-smoking, etc.

On the cell phone front—and it is a broad one—my skills are limited, and I seek no more. "Apps" is a brand new word for which I have no use. Not until recently did I know what a ringtone is. A grandchild explained it to me….

* * * * *

Ringtone selections bob about, seemingly harmless, in a great sea of options. But, many of them are potential sources of interruption, embarrassment and confusion. Typically, ringtones are chosen as casually as coffee or tea options on the "blue plate special" down at the Bluebonnet Café.

Big mistake! Remember, gentle readers, ringtones that are pleasing to your ear will also be heard by other ears, sometimes many of them. And often when we are double-dog sure that phones are turned off.

Heat flushing from a reddened face is guaranteed when the phone rings during worship, weddings, ordinations, oaths, funerals, and many other settings when a background of serenity is both desired—and assumed. In these delicate moments, we become fumble-fingered and wrong-handed. At once we are any of the Three Stooges, but performing without pay. Complications stack up when offenders search pockets or through the tangled mass of items snuggled in women’s satchels that are masquerading as purses….

* * * * *

I sympathize with ministers who pray that members of the flock will remember to silence their cell phones. Fat chance for 100% positive results. Spoken requests—or those written on bulletin covers—have strong potential for offending attendees. And that’s the last thing clergy want to do.

In all crowds, there’ll always be a few phones, fully charged, volume up and very much "on."

So, make ringtone selections carefully. Church bells, harp melodies and lullabies are good choices. Avoid such numbers as "Dark Town Strutters’ Ball," unless much of your day is given to strutting. Go "thumbs down" on "Reveille," except while attending Aggie musters….

* * * * *

No one is immune. Repeat regularly: "There but by the grace of God go I."

My friend, Dr. Jimmie Nelson, a longtime preacher man, has seen it all and done much of it.

A while back, he drove a goodly distance to conduct a funeral. His daughter, eager to know of his safe arrival, dialed him up—right after he’d finished the scripture reading. Unflapped, he ignored the ring. Instead, he stared awkwardly toward the empty pew to his left, as if he knew the exact spot from whence the offending sound originated. Mourners’ brows wrinkled; they felt his pain, assuming that the ongoing ringtone melody was bouncing off the lectern.

At mid-point of my remarks during the inauguration of Dr. Bill Ellis as president of Howard Payne University last year, I absent-mindedly answered my ringing cell phone, fishing it clumsily from my academic regalia. I was certain it had been silenced; I was wrong. Long-time friends kidded me, sure that it was a planned stunt. It wasn’t. (My wife couldn’t rib me too much. Several years ago, during the deacon ordination of a son-in-law, her ringtone cut loose with "Happy Birthday." It seemed an eternity before she seized it from the aforementioned satchel.)…

* * * * *

A ringtone sounded during morning worship at our church recently. The offender fumbled greatly before locating the phone.

It finally silenced, there followed several moments of whooshing sounds, like the final pops of corn wrapped in little mufflers. These were the "sign-off sounds" of a dozen others who had forgotten to silence their phones, too.

They lucked out; there but by the grace of God went they….

* * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com

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