"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
October 21, 2013
Connections that Just Don't Connect
by Kathryn H. Kidd

When I work at the temple these days, I’m about as useless as hair on an igloo. In order to keep me appearing to be useful, the Powers That Be have devised an ingenious plan to keep me busy. It is my job to call temple patrons on the phone and tell them about slips of paper they left in the temple about — oh, two or three years ago.

These slips of paper have been sitting in drawers, unclaimed, for all this time. Nobody has missed them; nobody has known they were missing. I call people and tell them they have left these pieces of paper behind — if I can get them on the phone, that is.

And there’s the rub. You see, in these days where people have telephones that is almost surgically attached to their persons, actually speaking people is a whole lot harder than it used to be in the Dark Ages before the advent of cell phones.

Think about it.

Before cell phones, back in the prehistoric days of, oh, the 1990s, when a person wanted to talk to somebody else, he called that person on the telephone. Back in those dark days, people did have answering machines, so if that person was not home, all the person had to do was to leave a message on the answering machine. Message left. Message returned. Problem solved. Life was easy that way.

Now everyone has a cell phone on his person. So why is life so much harder?

I’ll tell you one big reason. It’s because everyone wants to save a few bucks by getting rid of their landlines and just having cell phones. What we few people who still have landlines know is that the rest of you are pretty much unintelligible when you speak to us on your expensive cell phone technology.

Yes, you may think we can hear you. The television commercials assure you that we can. “Can you hear me now?” the commercials ask. The quick answer is, “No. We can’t.”

It has nothing to do with coverage. Or maybe it has everything to do with coverage. I don’t know. I don’t even want to know. All I know is that in the past week I have fielded two very important calls from people I very much wanted to hear, and I only heard every third word. Or every tenth word. Or every fiftieth word. How do I know? All I know is that I had no idea what the people were saying.

All the time the people were on the phone, they were chattering merrily away and assuming they were being understood. I didn’t understand a thing, and it didn’t have anything to do with my ears. My ears were and are in perfect shape. My hearing is stellar. It was their cell phones that were causing the problem.

Both these people were people with a whole boatload of money — people who could afford the best cell phone plans in the nation. On both occasions, the conversations went like the newscasts when the anchors talk to a correspondent in the field halfway around the globe. The correspondent says something. Fifteen seconds later, the anchor might or might not hear half of the sentence.

Both talk at once. Neither talks at once. Nobody understands anything. It’s a royal mess.

One of these conversations was with a dear friend I hadn’t heard from in months. The other was with a potential client whose business could potentially get me out of debt. Did I want to hear what they had to say? You bet your sweet bippy, I did. I wanted to hear every ever-loving word. But both conversations were hopeless. I ended both conversations in total frustration.

I wanted to cry. But in both cases, the party at the other end of the line had no idea nothing was wrong. You see, my voice sounded just fine. My end of the conversation was coming from a landline.

I suspect most interrupted communication takes place via text, if you can consider messages that say, “Had a gr8 time tnx 4 ur present C u 2mrw :)“ to be communication at all.

(Gee, now I am sounding old!)

It isn’t just reception that is the problem, however. It is the answering machines that field the calls in the all-too-frequent event that the person is away from his cell phone or (more likely) has turned his cell phone off while he is at work or at the doctor’s office or is otherwise occupied. Here is a sampling of responses I get:

  • The phone rings twice and then goes dead.

  • The phone goes dead without ringing at all, even though I have dialed the correct number.

  • The phone is answered by an automated voice that says, “This mailbox has not been connected yet.” At this point the line disconnects. My favorite, however, is the ever-popular

  • “This mailbox is full. Please hang up now.”

Did you know how this is how your telephone is being answered? I’ll bet you didn’t. As somebody who makes a whole lot of phone calls at a time, I can tell you that this is what is going on when your cell phone does not think you are listening.

For the most part, I am a person who likes modern technology. The digital video recorder, which allows me to watch television shows when I want to watch them and pause them whenever the phone rings, is a miracle to me.

I also like our toilet seat that washes you and dries you while you’re sitting lazily in the bathroom being pampered. (I’ve heard the ones in Japan actually apply a scented powder to your rear end, but I’d have to actually fly to Japan to find out and I hate to fly.)

Oh, there are modern gizmos everywhere to get me excited. But when people show me their cell phones, I am not as impressed. Yes, they are great for taking pictures. Yes you can play all sorts of nifty games on them. Yes, you can read scriptures on them (and maybe even shop on eBay on them while you are pretending to read scriptures on them in gospel doctrine class, for all I know).

But as for actually talking on the cell phones, I’m not so sure. Talking on a cell phone is kind of like praying while you’re watching television. In either case, I’m not sure whether the signal actually gets through, or if it’s just bouncing off the ceiling. And in both cases, the signal in question is something that could be extremely important.

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About Kathryn H. Kidd

Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the possibility that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at every opportunity.

A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.

She married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.

A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy moderated a weekly column ("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian until she was derailed by illness in December of 2012. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.

Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she hopes to get back to writing a weekday blog once she recovers from being dysfunctional. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.

Kathy spent seven years as a teacher of the Young Women in her ward, until she was recently released. She has not yet gotten used to interacting with the adults, and suspects it may take another seven years. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.

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