CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Shh ... I'm holding for a call to be returned -- one of those you make and the person you called asks, "Could you please hold the phone for just a second ... or just a short time?"
The one I found the most interesting said, "Please hold for one minute." She sure must have had a bee in her bonnet, because she never returned.
Eventually, the operator will break in and say, "If you wish to make a call, please hang up and dial again."
Recently, with nothing better to do, I kept track of the time I was left to hold a second, or just a jiffy, or just a couple of minutes. At the end of that week, I had spent one-fourth of my phone time holding. I really had more recorded hold time than I did talk time.
But the ones that get under my skin the most of those who call me and then find the need to answer an incoming call right in the middle of their call. To those, I invariably say, "No, call me when you have time," and hang up.
At any rate, by week's end, I had enough time on my hands to be a grandfather clock.
In the olden days, when you called someone, a busy signal let you know their phone was in use; now it just keeps ringing as if the person was not available at that time. I am convinced that Ma Bell would not be pleased with all the changes that have been called "progress," but then changes happen anyway.
I found the cellphone to be of no great value until one of my granddaughters got lost in Paris when she was on a school trip. She remembered only one thing about her instruction for the trip: If you get lost, stay put until you are found.
She called home on her cellphone; her mom called someone in the school group, which had moved on, and they returned to Meg, and all was well. Except that Meg's mom had a bone to pick with the group leader (when she got through giving thanks for the cellphone).
I found sympathy for the leader because I had been through a similar experience on a school trip to Washington, D.C., during a march on Washington. Things were rather tense, and one child found it fun to hide from me time and again.
Finally, I got her by the arm and explained what would happen to her if she hid again. Today, I would be tossed in jail for what I promised to do. But it worked.
I am not sure what the kids got out of that trip, but I got a lot older in two days. And it was a long time before I chaperoned another school trip.
R. Hart Woods lives in Summersville.