Community Columns

MIssed cell phone connection: Matt, call Debra - she called me by mistake

I've been clear about the fact that I am not a fan of cellular telephones. However, bending to the technological advances and having been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, I do have a cell phone, and being somewhat the hypocrite, I am forced to admit that I depend on it.

Only a few folks have my "private" number, so when the phone rings -- not often -- invariably it is somebody to whom I probably wish to speak. Like everyone, there are occasions when I don't wish to answer the phone, and thankfully, technology has advanced to the point where caller ID and voice mail ensure that I get the thrust of what information needed to be shared and can then judge whether or not to return the call.

I suppose that is one of the things I like about living in this modern era. We have technology that keeps us informed, keeps us apprised of situations and puts us in the position of being instantly alerted to any problem, potential or real. It enables us at a glance or a quick listen to formulate a plan of action. Then we may charge forth, boldly knowing that we have analyzed the entire spectrum of available information and chosen wisely a course of action that will quickly and decisively restore both order and calm.

I'd have to say the most useful phone feature is caller ID. At a glance I can see who is calling and usually divine the reason for their call. I can determine the need for immediately calling back, or delaying it, or -- as you probably already know -- even answering the call right then and there.

Therefore, it was with some degree of interest that the last time my phone rang at an unexpected moment on a quiet and surprisingly cool Sunday morning that I noted with some fusion of delight and disillusionment that the caller ID said simply "Withheld." There really isn't a moment's hesitation when that happens -- the call is ignored. If they won't bother to tell me who they are, why should I be bothered to answer the call?

A message is left, and after a decent interval -- in this case an hour -- the message is checked.

A sobbing Debra explains to Matt -- who is not me and does not ever answer my phone -- that a person about whom she obviously cares a great deal has been missing for a couple of days. She begs Matt that if he hears anything that he let her know as quickly as possible. She is crying and worried. With her caller ID blocked, I cannot return her call to let her know that Matt has not received her message.

The more technology advances to make life easier, the less secure I feel in this world. Matt, call Debra if you hear anything.

Bowman is a former submarine weapons specialist who lives in Modesto. E-mail him at