“You have reached — — —-. I am unable to come to the phone right now. Please leave your name, number, and a message, and I will return your call as soon as possible. Thank you for calling.”

If you phoned me at my office and I could not answer, you should have received this message.

For several months, I noticed I received phone call notifications on my office phone (a cell phone), but rarely a message. Sometimes I got unwanted messages from soliciters. I assumed some people had called and hung up when there was no welcoming greeting or a human being (me) answering.

Last week, two people who reached me by e mail told me that when they called the cell number listed on the internet for my phone, my phone rang and rang and rang – but there was no greeting. Persistent and frustrated, they found me at another site and connected with me through e mail.

Once upon a time, in the age of the Land Line, if you wanted to make a long distance telephone call you needed to call the Operator for help. The switchboard operator gradually disappeared – some of you might remember that she was immortalized by Lily Tomlin on the TV show, “Laugh In” (remember “one ringy-dingy, two ringy-digny”?) Later an advancement in technology allowed callers to dial their own number on a rotary phone. The rotary phone was shortly replaced by touch tone phones – giving rise to the Pink Princess.

Does anyone recall the phone booth?

In 1973, 10 years before a cell phone first was made public, a mobile phone call was made by a Motorola researcher and executive named Martin Cooper. Cooper’s phone was an early prototype of a cellular phone which cost approximately $3,900 when it appeared on the market . The hand held device is said to have been large and had about 30 minutes of battery life.

Fast forwarding to today, our sleek, responsive cell phones function not only as a 24 hour connection to other people but also to the world. In a way, it has become a close relative upon whom we depend. As I watch people casually walking down the street – or dining in a restaurant, often with others – more often than not they are connected to their cordless companion. Real human contact increasingly feels in jeopardy. E mails, internet, news, weather, Youtubes, Google, FaceBook, Navigation, music and much much more are made possible by a small rectangular hand held instrument that responds to every command. Quickly. Sometimes.

Why am I talking about cell phones? Well, for starters, I rely on mine. So much so that I gave up my old land line in my office and replaced it with a cell phone where people could contact me to make appointments and/or leave messages. When out of my office, I could carry this cell phone with me to check my messages. It was handy, lightweight, and portable. …..and I thought, dependable.

Somehow, people started calling and texting me on my other cell phone that I had used for my private contacts, but gradually this phone became the norm for all my messages . It was easier for me to send and receive messages from one source. So I decided to reduce my number of cell phones from two to one. Economical, fewer phones to keep charged, and lighter to carry around in my stuffed purse (that would probably be charged as overweight by an airline.) I changed my phone number on my website, business cards, and organizational memberships and consolidated everything to one phone number. However, just in case some people used the old number, I decided to hold on to it a while longer.

Over time, I realized that I was not getting any messages and voice mails on the old phone, so I called it to check. My so –called “smart phone” seemed to be unresponsive – or worse – no one was reaching me except telemarketers. I hope none of you who are reading this were affected – or felt rejected.

What was going on?

A trip to Verizon followed quickly on the heels upon my discovery about my lack of communication. I needed to find out why my old phone did not receive messages and to correct the situation immediately. I feared I would be told to buy a new phone when I was trying to get rid of the old one.

I will spare you details – but the tech could not figure out the problem. He instructed me to dial *611# to speak with a more experienced Verizon person. Determined not to leave until this problem was resolved, I sat in the store to begin my mission. The problem was not easily identifiable, and I wound up using both my cell phones simultaneously – one in each hand at each ear – calling one from the other and testing out the solutions dictated by the Verizon expert. This went on for two exhausting and mind-numbing hours.

After many trials and errors to “try this and try that” – and much frustration on my part and complete calm on the expert’s – he located the problem. Something, unexplainable, had been disconnected in my old phone which he fixed – and I became connected again to callers on both phones. I decided not to cancel my subscription on the old phone since that number was available on line. I also added how to reach me on the ‘other” phone” to my Greeting.

Why am I telling you this? It was incredibly frustrating to discover my phone had not been picking up calls. I hope none were missed unintentionally. I have no idea. And mostly, I want to alert you to the fact that NOTHING you put on Facebook (or is uploaded about you) will ever disappear or be erased – EVER!! My previous office addresses and phone number are etched into eternity.

Feeling wiped out after this ordeal, I stumbled into the Starbucks located directly next door to Verizon. A cheerful barista greeted me and realized – correctly – that I did not look too happy. I told her I had been at Verizon solving a phone problem for a very very very long time – adding that stress had turned into success. I wanted to celebrate with an iced tea. As I started to pay her, she smiled and said, “it’s been a tough day – put your money away – this one is on me”. I felt so moved and appreciative.

Thank you to the anonymous Starbucks barista and also the Verizon tech and expert. You are reminders that there are helpers and kind people are available during a crisis.

For the record, both phones are now working (although my old phone directs callers to my preferred phone number which is 734 645 8538. And if I get your call on my voice mail I can invite you to “please leave your name, number, and a message, and I will return your call as soon as possible. Thank you for calling.”

I also add one more message as I post this blog –

I hope your holidays are joyful and the coming year will be happy, healthy, and fulfilling for you and yours.