Why do you always have to answer the damn phone?

1967, Thanksgiving Eve; Flying from Seattle to Walla Walla, the fog is so thick that the plane cannot land. It eventually diverts to Moses Lake in Central Washington where it manages to touch down just moments before the airport closes down, and they turn off all the lights.  There is only one other person on this little communter flight — a young woman who was a former classmate of mine from Walla Walla High School. Her parents, alerted to the plane's diversion, made it to Moses Lake about an hour or so after our landing.  "Don't worry," she said, "We'll take you home."   

The car pulls up; she tells her dad  who I am, and that I need a lift.  Now, the way I was raised, if I were the driver, giving this fellow a ride home would be a "mitzvah" — a blessing, for which I would express gratitude for the opportunity to perform the deed.

No," says the dad. "We don't have enough room."   It is a four door behemoth that seats six. There are three people in it.  Even if it were a two door, you don't drive off and leave someone shivering in the cold, far from home.  You make room, and the mitzvah is probably even better.  

They left me there alone, deserted and shivering in the bleak foggy darkness.  I am still there. Not in body, but in my memory's heart of hearts.  How could he drive away, leaving me like that?  Easily. He didn't even slow down and reconsider. 

Experiencing the depressing blend of rejection, isolation and despair, I vowed that I would never, ever be so callous, selfish and cruel.   

2007.  The phone rang about 10pm. "Let it ring," said my girl friend at the time, "You don't have to answer the phone just because it rings."   I insisted on answering it, saying "What if it is someone who needs a ride?"  Yep.  Glenn Zorn calling to say his car broke down and he was stranded 

There are equivelent scenarios, but they need not involve fog, planes, flat tires, or car trouble.

Thanksgiving, a couple years ago.  I am alone, celebrating Thanksgiving with a tuna fish sandwich. The sandwich doesn't appreciate the significance of the occassion. I was invited somewhere for Thanksgiving dinner, but at the last minute I was univited because they didn't have enough room.  

When Jews ask each other "Where are you going for Passover," it is not simply to make conversation, it is to make sure that everyone is invited, everyone is included, and no one is left alone. There is always enough room.

Not enough room. Not enough time. Too much trouble.  In that climate of mitzvah denying and exclusion, the person who dares ask "Is there room for me?" is reprimanded. 

"Where there is love," said Abdul Baha, "nothing is too much trouble and there is always enough time." 

With that thought of love, compassion and service to others in mind, allow me to say with all contrition, humilty and respect, if you turn away, drive away and don't look back, the inevitable day will come when  you will walk alone onthe cold dark road of regret that stretches into eternity. 



5 Responses to “Why do you always have to answer the damn phone?”

  1. Mike Barer

    Friendly reminder, Moses Lake is in Central Washington. But a very poignant story.
    But I can see the confusion, both Moses Lake and Lewiston, Idaho have been common stop overs for commuters from Seattle to Walla Walla.

  2. molly rippenkroeger

    As in the book “Body Count”.
    please note that the word
    morale was not spelled right
    on pages 255 and 256. You
    show the word as moral.


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>