Not Answering the Phone


By J.P. Reynolds

Last Sunday I hung out with my eleven-year-old godson, Finn. The plan was to visit a wildlife animal refuge center that we go to every year at the start of summer vacation and then on to Target to find an early birthday gift and cap it off with some ice-cream at our favorite shop.

About five minutes into the visit, Finn whipped out his iPhone, which was in a penguin-faced protective case. Before I could say anything, his nimble fingers had switched on a game. I told him to put it away — this was a phone-free visit (I don’t take calls when I’m with him, except from his mother). He smiled sheepishly and said that he wanted to play a game while we drove to the animal center.

I said “No.” He’s a sweet boy and so he didn’t put up much of an argument, but in a deliberately annoyed voice he asked, “What am I supposed to do?”

“Talk,” I said, “How about we talk?”

“Talk about what?” he whined.

We played a guessing game for part of the drive and then switched over to that game children love to play where they repeat word for word everything the grown-up says and in the exact same tone, so that it produces a nonsensical conversation that drives the adult crazy and that every child, including Finn, finds wildly amusing. Ugh!

We had a grand time with the animals and on the drive to Target we discussed which our faves were. As picking out a birthday gift is serious business, there wasn’t much talk in the store.

When we got to the ice cream stand at The Grove he instinctively reached for the “penguin,” but put it away when he saw me arch my eyebrows.

It was a sweet, silly visit and the day flew by because we were in the moment — each moment.

I’d gotten several phone calls during the day but I let each go to voicemail. Why didn’t I take the calls? Because I wanted to be with Finn. I didn’t want our time interrupted by people whose needs could wait a few hours. Because I wanted to be in the moment without anyone or anything pulling Finn or me out of the fun of it all.

When’s the last time you were with someone and neither you nor that person answered the phone during your conversation? When’s the last time you were “in the moment” without any distractions?

I encourage you to try it — let your phone go to voicemail. Not every call has to be answered the second it’s received. Give your full attention to another person and you will create a quality experience.

If you have any communication questions or issues you’d like me to address, please send them to:

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