816 Opinion

Matt Keenan: Whose cellphone is that ringing? I know not, Lord. And the cock crowed. (Repeat three times)


Funerals, happily, remain very much as they have through the years.

Burying the dead, at least for Catholics, is still a timeless tradition with inspirational Scripture readings and faith-filled conventions that bring familiarity to times of uncertainty.

Typically the night before the funeral includes a rosary and, if you are from Great Bend, Kan., generally you can find a couple of nuns present from the Dominican Convent in the mix. You might see an Irish priest or two joining the assembled.

Following the burial, the Altar Society puts on a luncheon at the parish hall.

Last week, I found myself once again at St. Patrick’s church in my hometown, paying respects to another Keenan. This time it was my cousin, Johnny. And the drill was proceeding according to plan.

But sometimes the old school runs headlong into new school. Like what happened just when Father Don invoked us to pray for those who went before us.

A cellphone began to ring.

The unmuted cellphone is a Top 10 social miscue. An inexcusable, inexplicable, inescapable event that ranks just behind the open zipper, spinach in teeth, dog breath and inquiring about delivery dates to mothers who are not pregnant. But it happens to all of us.

Not long ago people were scorned for answering a ringing phone where it was best to ignore it. Now the faux pas is not preventing it from ringing at all. But the social contempt is only brought to bear on one condition: You acknowledge it’s your phone. When in a crowd and the phone ownership is unclear, you have choices. Deny.

That’s what happened in aisle 22 at the church. I’m calling it the DIM phenomenon. Deny It’s Mine. And since it’s almost Easter, I’m going to say it’s akin to St. Peter and the cock crowing three times. Except no one gets, well, you know.

And, as part of the DIM routine, anyone who dares to look for the phone is presumed guilty. So no one does anything. Everyone freezes and pretends it’s not happening. And the phone rings. And rings. And rings. And as sometimes happens, but fortunately did not occur last week — the caller tries the number again. DIM redux.

This is a distinctly female thing. Men must acknowledge the obvious; their phones typically sit in their coat pocket and blast away. They have no choice but to respond quickly — resembling seizure-like actions while attempting to find the mute button.

Ladies, on the other hand, can employ DIM tactics. The phone is in the purse and the purse is tossed under the pew, under the table, some distance away. Woman know that even once they find their purse, they’ll need to find the phone, meaning it’s buried beneath hand sanitizer, a sewing kit, hair bands, Tylenol, a compact, loose change, parking ticket, sunglasses, Kleenex, nail file, wallet and chewing gum. Indiana Jones couldn’t find it in less than an hour. So DIM goes in overdrive.

I’ve seen this happen over and over. Black tie functions are classic — the event has a moment of silence and the phones start blasting away. No one moves.

I’m not forming judgment here, only making an observation. After all, denying responsibility for something embarrassing is part of the Keenan DNA. Like on road trips when the windows are tightly rolled up and things turn, well, you know. Or when the car alarm is blaring outside church and sounds vaguely familiar. Or when a toddler who shares my last name is having a meltdown in the Popsicle aisle at Price Chopper and I’ve suddenly found something to inspect in the magazine section.

Ringtones can be a dead giveaway. But last week the ring was coming from a more “adult” crowd, where the only Apple in the house was a Red Ruby being washed in the adjoining parish hall. This crowd was brimming with Jitterbugs and flip phones.

So consider yourself informed. And the next time you see a purse shoved underneath your seat at a funeral, I’d suggest moving.

Freelance columnist Matthew Keenan writes occasionally for 816. His book “Call Me Dad, Not Dude, the sequel” is sold at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Visit his blog at matthewkeenan.com or e-mail him at mattkeenan51@gmail.com.