Last week’s Wall Street Journal featured a story about over-sharing — asking, “What triggers people to reveal too much?”
The story described people’s penchant for making public what should remain private — blurting out embarrassing things in wildly inappropriate ways. This struck me as odd. Because whatever trend this represents in contemporary culture, it is not one that the Keenans, well, share. Certainly not our college sons. They ditched Facebook long ago and, roughly the same time, calls to home.
And we have no problem with it. No news, generally speaking with college sons, is good news.
But along the way, of course, you want some contact, some assurance that all remains on the up and up. And there has been one piece of data that has helped us fill in the information chasm. The pocket dial. The inadvertent phone dial. Those late night misdials — sometimes with speaker phone activated — where the chatter is captured for later deconstructing. Sometimes they go to your cell phone. Other times they end up in more troublesome places — like the 911 operator. One news report said that last year there had been 100 million “illegitimate 911 calls.”
Other times the pocket dial can lead to mistaken conclusions, like what happened in February when a mother called the police because her daughter’s phone rang home and the mother heard screams in the background. Turns out that the daughter was at a horror movie — “and all she could hear on the other end of the line was screaming and yelling. It sounded like a very big struggle going on,” the officer was quoted as saying.
When these calls go to my phone, they promptly get deleted. When they go to Lori’s — well, that’s a different story. The content, to most ears, is white noise and represent late night eavesdropping that is impossible to decipher — other than to conclude that someone is having a good time with good company. But like the 1974 classic Francis Ford Coppola movie, “The Conversation” — moms have a unique ability to listen and piece together the story.
Like this: “I hear our son talking, laughing. I hear music. The call came in at 2 am. So we know it’s not study hour. Obviously it’s a party, maybe a bar. Who is that girl laughing? Let see, it’s a Thursday. It could be the Boom Boom room. He still has battery power. Usually his phone is dead by midnight. Hmmmm. Given the audio quality the phone can’t be in his jeans. Sounds like it’s in his coat pocket. It better not be that suede jacket he got for Christmas. And if that phone drops out and gets wet, we have a problem. We just canceled the phone insurance.”
Ten minutes later she has connected all the dots, as only moms can do. And so the next time college boy calls — when he means to call — she pauses and delivers the message: “Please don’t stay out late, wearing your new coat and being careless with your phone. But if you do go out, be sure it’s fully charged so it’s ready if you need it. And be careful. There is too much bad news these days.” She pauses, waiting for some kind of acknowledgment, proof of message delivered. Cue the crickets.
Life, for the moment, is back to normal.