Reprinted from September 1998
Since RB passed away everything has this as a reference point: “Oh, that was after RB died,” or “Oh, that was before RB died.” I am amazed at the things that have happened to us since RB died. For instance, when RB was alive we did not own a cell phone. Cell phones were around in 1991, but did not enjoy the popularity they do today, and now the costs are within the reach of just about anyone.
I recall RB used to become annoyed if someone was asking about an item in the store and their spouse or significant other sitting outside in the car gave a honk or two. It annoyed him to no end for a customer to have an apparent decision maker along who would decide whether the person they might barely know or care about wanted an item or not. They were like an official circuit breaker for sales.
If RB was annoyed by these things, what would he have been if the prospective customer whipped out a cell phone and called a couple of people to decide whether or not to buy whatever it was they were looking at? Or worse – what if in the middle of the “pitch” someone called them on their cell phone to chat?
It is nothing today to be showing someone something they’ve inquired about and having their cell phone ring and then have them stand there chatting away for maybe ten minutes while you squirm around the items in the counter, the showcase unlocked, and waiting for them to return their attention to you.
I had one the other day. Other customers were in the store and I had about 6 watch bands out on the counter. The potential customer was trying to make a decision and I was trying to figure out which ones fit the watch for width, her for the length and the general color, etc. The phone rang.
“Oh, hi. No, I’m not busy…Uh huh…Hmm…I don’t like that one” “No, I was talking to someone else.” “Go ahead” “No, I am not busy.” “Uh huh…we could go on Friday..No, not that” “No, I’m talking to someone else.” “What? I can’t hear you.” “What about Thursday? Did I say Thursday?” “No not that one.” “I did not say it couldn’t be Friday.” “Where do you get these silly ideas? I said Friday or maybe Thursday.” “How much is that?” “What” “What am I doing? I am trying to buy a watch band.” “Am I at Walmart? No silly, I’m at the jewelry store.” “Paying too much…??” “Well…I am just looking now.” “Yeah, you could meet me?” “Hello? Hello? She must have gone through a dead zone.” “Well these are nice, but I’m going to look around.”
More than once, we have had customers, who are no way near impaired, call from their cell phones in the parking lot and ask us to bring their repair job outside to them.
One day a few months ago, a woman received a call and of course immediately diverted her attention from the merchandise to the incoming call.
“Hello…yes, this is Patty.” “What? You will be here about four, huh. Okay, and you are bringing Bobby” “Oh wonderful, yes? I said wonderful. Yes….yes…no…no, uhhuh…wonderful. Okay. See you around four.”
She hung up and said, “That was my daughter calling. She is getting ready to get on a plane in Maryland and wanted to tell me she’ll be arriving here about four.”
I am thinking what modern technology means to us. A woman need not stay at home to find out when her daughter is leaving an airport half way across the United States. She can go on shopping and doing her errands and get the same message delivered right to her. Never mind the shopkeeper! The daughter need not run down an empty phone booth in which to insert coins or a credit card to call Mom in Texas. I wonder what Superman does?
Last week we broke down on the road between here and no place. Out here, there are hundreds of miles in between cities so I thought right away, we need not fear, we had a trusty cell phone with us. RB would have been so proud we came fully prepared. I whipped it out and it read “No service”. I didn’t feel so secure. Finally a friendly state trooper came by and called on his radio to send out AAA and somehow notified my son to drive out and pick us up.
I had to marvel how it was someone could talk to their daughter hundreds of miles away and I couldn’t get my phone to work well enough to get out of jeopardy. The first thing I did when I got back to terra firma was to junk that phone and get another one.
RB would be proud of us for our decisions.
When I was looking at that tiny little instrument, I recalled that back on the farm, in the early ‘30s, there was one phone for many square miles – maybe. Sick folks and others would trek to my grandfather’s house and they’d stand at the wall cranking and listening for an operator who brought the miracle of the outside world to our home.
No one had to fear being cut off from the outside again unless the lines were down. What would grandmother have thought had you told her she could check on her gold watch being repaired at a jewelry store in the big city by picking up a tiny instrument with no wires and pushing some buttons? For that matter, RB might be astounded that he could be floating around in his hot air balloon or playing golf someplace, or four wheeling in the desert, and be able to pick up the phone and find out what was going on at the store!
Well, maybe it is just as well he can’t, we’ll never know.