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Call My Cell, Let’s do Lunch…

SANTA ROSA de COPAN — The late afternoon sun enters the open windows of Casa Arias making the red table cloths glow. A family of six sits at the table to my right. The little girl, maybe five or six is wearing a party dress of pale peach with satin ribbons wobven in and throughout. She has matching shoes with silver buckles and those lacy little socks that I remember being as mysterious to me when I was her age as stockings and garters and high heels are to me now. Around her neck is another pretty ribbon and suspended from that is a pretty silver cell phone — a real one, not a toy. I wonder what a six-year-old needs a phone for but hell, she’s the best dressed of the group she is with. Maybe she called that meeting…
Back in the States I don’t have a cell phone (although I did once and being a gadget guy a few of the new models have me thinking about it). A few days ago, however, I got one down here. There is the practical side of it–my parents could call me, I can make plans the modern way (instead of having to collect firewood to send smoke signals or carry around a large drum) but maybe, all in all, it is part of my ongoing project of making myself slightly more normal…Protective camoflage, if you will, to appear a bit more like others. It is in the same spirit that I started wearing jeans every now and then as well as shirts with some colors, bought a comfortable couch for my house and at least considered a television. That, and, well, Katy was getting a phone and pretty women can drive a man to do some pretty strange things.
Of course one other thing that has prevented me from getting a cell phone in the past is the maddening complexity of the avaricious plans. The “plan” here, if you can call it that, is easily understood. I hope it is, anyway, because it was all explained in rapid fire Spanish to two gringos with an imperfect command of the idiom.
As we understood it, anyway, we buy the phones–I a little black Motorola and Katy a nice silver Nokia–for 1,000 Lempiras each (a little over 60 dollars, these being the cheapest available). What is called a SIM chip is installed along with a free 20 minutes. When more time is needed a calling card can be purchased almost anywhere for about $5.00 per 20 minutes and added to the chip.
At least we think that’s what they said. We did have to sign some papers so maybe it also cost us first born children, immortal souls or US citizenship. But probably not.
The real reason I don’t have a cell is that, frankly, I usually don’t like being called. Sudden noises make me jumpy and half the fun of going weird places is being out-of-touch, of cutting off the ties of the regular world and being both unavailable and beyond the reach of help.
Unless one says that one will answer one’s phone at a certain time I believe there is no obligation to do so. There is no obligation to even have the damn thing turned on.
Likewise, It is the height of rudeness to go out with someone and then relegate them to second-friend status when someone calls. I am perfectly capable of entertaining myself but the reason I am out is that I didn’t feel like it that night. In the same spirit, when I have a friend over to my house I rarely answer the phone if it rings. I had made a date to spend time and conversation with them. Not with whomever decided to invade my space with their unnanounced vocalizations.
So please leave a message. Thank you. I shall get back to you. Or not.