Here's what happens when I'm on the phone with my mother. First, since she's multi-tasking, cooking and talking (one chicken breast, boiled), then eating and talking, then coughing and talking, she drops the phone repeatedly. When this happens, this is what I hear: first a horrible clunking sound as the phone slips out of her hand and hits the ground, and then her voice from far away, yelling at the phone - as if I'm inside of it - where it now lays on the floor, "Linda! I dropped the phone! Are you okay? I'm coming!"
This happens several times. It happens so many times that I finally start yelling back from my position inside the dropped phone, "Are you there, Ma? Pick me up!"
Our conversations are interrupted by these drops. Or the coughing - my mother only coughs and hacks into the receiver, never around it. I have caught colds from her coughing on me through the phone.
Now there's a new horror that's been introduced to interrupt our regular calls: my mother's cell phone. She actually only got the cell phone so she could go up to her summer home in Flagstaff and have phone service. Normally once she gets back to Phoenix, she turns it off permanently. To her a phone is still something attached to a house and once she's back in her house, that's it, she doesn't need a cell.
But this year, everything has changed. She has her cell phone on all the time. She even remembers to charge it and has it sitting right next to her house phone. My mother is finally experiencing true bliss - she can get calls simultaneously from two people at the same time all through the day and night. A perfect situation!
So I'm on the house phone with her when I hear her cell phone ring with a ring tone of "Lara," the theme from Doctor Zhivago, her favorite song ever. It's like calling a teenager, the fact that she knows how to program a ring tone. I hear her answer.
I get to listen.
"Hello?" There's a little delay. Then, "Wendy!"
It's my cousin Wendy from Chicago.
My mom comes back on with me. "Linda, it's Wendy from Chicago!"
Right. I heard her because I'm actually inside the telephone sitting in her hand. Anyway, the minute I hear my cousin's name, I know it's the end of my phone call. Local daughter versus out-of-state orphaned niece - I don't stand a chance.
Then my mom says, "You want to ask Wendy if she's coming here in December?"
I have to actually think about this for a second. How exactly would I do this? We're on my mother's two different phones. What does my mom think, that she's a switchboard operator? Is she planning to smash the cell phone on top of the house phone and tell us to yell to each other really loudly?
"You ask, Ma. I don't think she'll be able to hear me."
"Okay, I'll call you back."
She drops the phone as she's hanging it up. As I hang mine up I hear her yelling, "Sorry."