Elliott Sullivan and his beloved cellphone.

Elliott now has something of a social life. He’s one of the after-school loiterers at Dairy Queen. I tell him to behave, at least purchase a small Blizzard and call me for any reason.

Now that he has more autonomy, having his own phone provides Kristen and I a little peace of mind. At least that is what we tell ourselves to justify the purchase because not many actual calls are placed. He sure does look at it a whole lot though, which can get Kristen wondering how well it would hold up to a hammer. Still, it is nice to know that if need be, he can reach us.

I’m not much of a phone talker myself, so I guess I can’t fault Elliott much for his reluctance to explore the most archaic function of his device. He’ll trade a hundred messages with a friend and I’ll suggest how about he just call them? And he’ll shrug. It’s sort of like New Math. If he can’t figure it out on his own I probably won’t be of any help.

For those of us who are more comfortable writing than speaking, messaging is a slippery slope. I’m more comfortable if I can tap out a response on a keyboard, perhaps with an edit or two. But now the lack of practice with old-fashioned talking means the mere sound of my cell phone ringing elicits a reaction somewhere between uh-oh and who the hell could that be?

A few years ago, I somehow managed to Facebook-call a guy from my high school basketball team, all from my back pocket. I didn’t even know that technology existed and before I could wrap my brain around it I heard, “What up bro?” It was kind of mortifying. We hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in 25 years, so it was a pretty awkward conversation. “Ummm… hey, Hodge. How are you doing, man?”

Last week I did the same to my neighbor, Raph. Well, technically it was the front of my leg that did the dialing this time, although I doubt that makes anyone feel better. From my pocket I heard, “Hello? Tim? You there?” Raph and I don’t typically speak on the phone. We just see each other on the street or text, so I apologized and then we chatted for a couple minutes. It was actually quite pleasant. Who knew?

It’s not just me, though. My lifelong friend, Schulzie, inadvertently butt dials me all the time. It’s gotten to where the caller ID might as well say “Flim-Flam Scam Corp.” because answering is pointless. After a few groaning “hell-ohhhs” I’ll give up and listen in while he debates the best brand of chocolate milk with his six-year-old. When I report this he just chuckles, completely unconcerned with the infraction. He will probably live longer than me.

Margo wanted in on the telecommunication action, too, so we got her one of those Gizmo watch things where you can program in 10 numbers. I’m not bragging, but I cracked the top five. Still, when “Margo” appeared on my caller ID the first time I was startled. I had dropped her off at softball practice and ran to Dick’s Sporting Goods (to return her fourth rejected pair of cleats of the pre-season) so it wasn’t like she was completely off the brain. But a phone call from her, on her own device, seemed so bizarre it may as well have come from the womb.

Practice had ended early and once I got over the surreal experience of my baby girl calling me from her wrist, I assured her I would be there in a minute. There was a little distance between the parking lot and the field so we just spoke – me on my iPhone and she on her Gizmo watch thing, right up and until we were face to face.

Tim Sullivan grew up in a large family in the Northeast and now lives with his small family in Oakhurst. He can be reached at tim@sullivanfinerugs.com.