Are you available?

Image: Flickr/Editor_B

My friend M is one of the smartest people I know.

She’s a doctor and a Mum to two beautiful little girls. She
reads, she has opinions, she’s thoughtful and a little bit neurotic, in the
good way. I like her a lot.

Last week,  we were chatting over a late lunch in M’s kitchen when
the phone rang.

And M didn’t answer it.

It says something about the company I keep that I was
amazed  – in my world, EVERYONE seems to
have some compulsion to answer their phones the moment they ring, bleep or beep
in case they miss a moment of knowing something world altering.

I'm guilty of it, too. I have a work mobile and a personal mobile, and a home phone. I'm pretty happy not to answer the phone if I'm busy, but I'm rarely more than 30 seconds away from being able to check email and voicemail messages.

M, in contrast, doesn’t answer her home phone EVER. She has
a mobile but only her husband and mother have the number. If she's home with her husband in the evening, they turn the home phone to silent. M's perspective is that people who call almost never have anything truly urgent to tell you, so why should you interrupt what you're doing at that moment to talk to them?

I’ve been thinking
about this and I think I should be a bit more like M.

I do have some rules about technology. I don't answer my home phone after 9pm. I never answer the phone if I'm speaking to someone else. If I’m in a restaurant, I put my phone on
silent and would always excuse myself to take a call outside, if necessary.

don't use my phone in the car – Flea provides a sterling answering service, in any case. I don't take my phone into the bedroom. I turn it off in the cinema and I think people who don't do that should be taken outside and shot, frankly. 

But still, I'm aware that I'm available far more than I'm unavailable. And I wonder – when does 'always available' turn into 'never fully present'?

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