Jewish World Review June 27, 2003 / 27 Sivan, 5763

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Emergency a matter of definition | There seems to be some confusion regarding use of the family cell phone that we bought to use for emergencies. Clearly, the monthly billings that exceed our allotted 3,000 minutes a month are my fault for not properly defining the word emergency.

Silly me; I thought it was obvious. I thought everyone knew an emergency consisted of spurting blood, broken bones or smoke pouring from beneath the hood of the car. I thought everyone knew an emergency consisted of an abrupt change in plans that would necessitate a call home so that a couple of geezer parents did not worry themselves sick to the point of severe headaches, chest pains and sudden weight gain caused by the sort of stress that prompts one to eat an entire half gallon of Breyer's vanilla bean ice cream.

Maybe, since we're having such difficulty pinning down what an emergency is, we should start by pinning down what an emergency is not.

Placing calls to four friends to notify them that you are moving from lane 7 to lane 12 at the bowling alley is not an emergency.

Calling from the driveway because it's sprinkling and you'd like someone to open the garage door so you don't have to walk through the rain and get your hair wet is not an emergency.

Placing a call to anyone, anywhere, at any time, to ask if they are wearing jeans or khakis is not an emergency.

Calling the mother from anywhere within the house to ask if dinner is ready is not an emergency.

Calling home from the mall at ten-minute intervals to see if Debbie, Leigh, Stephanie, Nadia, Jamie, Jessica, Drew, Gabe, John, Tom or Mr. Anderson called is not an emergency.

Using the cell phone, while seated at the computer, to talk to friends because the home phone line is busy because you are on the internet instant messaging friends is not an emergency.

Trust me. I checked with 9-1-1 and in every case the dispatcher agreed with me 100 percent. Emergencies generally involve fire, danger, sirens, loud explosions and life-threatening situations. Rarely do emergencies involve lengthy phone conversations that relay what he said she said he said. That is not an emergency. Not ever.

And don't think we haven't noticed a palpable reluctance when we insist one of our beloved offspring take the cell phone along so we can stay in touch with them, as opposed to them using the cell phone to stay in touch with 5,000 of their closest friends.

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Our oldest child will take the cell phone when prompted, but enjoys seeing the look on our faces when he says his backpacking trip will put him so far from civilization he's sure to be out of the coverage area. Then again, should he make it to the summit in one piece, there's always a chance he can pick up a signal from a satellite dish somewhere.

When the middle child is nudged to take the cell phone, the response is often: "I don't do electronics."

When the youngest child is told to take the cell phone, she must be reminded to turn it on.

"Remember, the cell phone doesn't work when it's turned off," I tell her. "And the people who pay for the cell phone may want to call you."

"Why would Sprint want to call me?" she asks.

"Not Sprint!" I say. "Your parents. Keep it on in for an emergency."

"But I'm not having an emergency," she says.

"Well, we might," I say. She looks at me, shakes her head and says, "Then why don't you get a cell phone?"

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman