We have a landline telephone in our home, Emma and I.

We both insisted on having one, for many reasons. One of the reasons is that while we have excellent cell phone reception in one particular room in the house, we get almost no signal in the rest of the house. So we depend on the landline if people want to reach us at home. Plus, Emma pays for it so that makes it even easier for me to like having it, especially when I want to call internationally, which is at least three times a week if not more. All of this is all to explain in a way that will not startle you when you come across references to that ageing technology.

I also will mention that the phone I myself use is a rotary dial phone, and I use that rotary dial phone for specific reasons. So as to not enumerate the reasons, they ultimately are an act of careful intention. The intention is to call my own attention, every time that phone rings its mechanical bell, to the odd fact that in our modern technology-drenched world, we attempt to define who we are in a symbolic language that involves displaying artifacts made by other people. It's an attempt at a very complicated situational irony and as a symbol of past technological achievements and how they radically altered human relationships.

Now that I feel confident that your immediate questions about the following will have been pre-answered, I will begin.

The rotary dial phone on my desk rang.
I had forgotten to turn off the ringer. (Turning off the ringer during certain hours is essential to sanity, so we turn the phone on when we consider ourselves to no longer be in 'away/busy' status.) So I just let it ring for awhile as I studied Emma's chart. After five rings I considered turning off the ringer without answering. Then it stopped ringing so I just returned to studying Emma's chart.
Thirty seconds later it began to ring again (because once again I had forgotten to turn off the ringer! Sigh.) so this time I just picked up the phone.
It was Emma.
"Charlie?" she said.
"Emma? Did you get diverted to Dublin or something?"
"Satellite phone. I'm in flight to New York," she replied.

"OK, and hey by the way, are you going to Crystal City after that? I'm confused because you said you were going to Queens to visit your brother, but--" I said, but she immediately interrupted me.

"Charlie. I need you to listen to me very closely and this is important. I can tell from what you just said that I'm already too late. But I was calling you to tell you I gave you the wrong file, and to please NOT READ A WORD of the file I sent you. I also knew that the chances that I would catch you in time are pretty low. And frankly, I also knew that the chance was pretty high that you would not secretly just look anyway. Anyway, now that I've given you a tour of my reasoning . . ."

Emma could be so verbose sometimes when she was speaking about something important. It would have preamble-type declarations explaining the origins of the thought she had yet to express, the interesting events that transpired to reaching her insight or idea or decision, or whatever she was about to so eagerly share with you once she finally got done with her narrative framing. It was as if her thought-to-speech engine went into a special mode, giving it all the RAM, all the power it needed to achieve its highest throughput of idea-to-spoken word. While I do thoroughly appreciate studying the origins and inspirations of ideas, I like to do that part after the idea itself has presented to me, which Emma's had not yet done. But it sounded like she was about to begin the important part so I held in the loud sighs of annoyance I would have wanted to emit, for now.

Turns out that yes, what she was about to say would indeed be interesting. Finally!

I don't mean to put Emma down or anything. I mean, I do the same thing too sometimes, having a really important point I want to make, but getting lost along the way on a mentally-hyperlinked tour of my own cognitive map. It's insightful to do, but it is really more appropriate for writing than for conversations. In a conversation, people don't want to wait long to find out what you're about to say, but readers don't have to do that. Readers know what happens next because they have the whole text. But in a conversation, you genuinely have to either hang in there or gently (or eventually maybe sternly) interrupt to ask them to get to the point, in some sensitive phrasing or other.

"It's just that I'm in a really bad emotional place right now, Charlie, and that's why I gave you the wrong link. But that's not the point. Sorry, I'm babbling inside a missile that serves snacks. Technology, right? So Charlie look this is important. That file that I DID send you . . ." and now she hushes her tone somewhat as if people on the plane might give a shit about her diary, which made me smile to myself because I like it when people take their work seriously, "DO NOT SHARE THAT WITH ANYONE. And don't peruse other files on that drive either. As I'm sure you discovered, they all have the same password."

I had not known that but now I knew what I would be doing for the rest of the afternoon!

"Emma, I don't want to be rude, but it sounds like you're having trouble with succinct communication right now, and I think this call is costing you about $8 a minute or something--" I said as she interrupted with;

"I don't care about money, Charlie, I already have all the moneys," she said, which shot down my real message which was that she should get to the point, not because I was terribly busy or something, but rather because I was starting feel a great deal of anticipation wondering about the reason for her call.

"Emma, then please, for the sake of my great anxiety at the reason you felt compelled to call from 30,000 feet. Is everything okay?"

"Is everything ok??!" she shouted. I heard her seatmate shush-ing her and I heard her use her special 'dumb blond girl' voice to project a crippling blow to his anger by apologizing. Then, switching back to her normal voice she said, "What kind of question is that, Charlie? No, remember I specifically decided to go to Queens to isolate at my brother's empty apartment in Queens, in New York, several thousand miles away. Everything is NOT okay," she said.

"Emma, what is the reason for your call today, Friend?" I asked, summoning as much politeness as I could muster in the face of anticipatory anxiety that was building by the second now. I was beginning to worry that she might not even reach her introductory message before some airline attendant might terminate the SAT phone connection due to customer complaints about her noisiness.

"Well like I said, I'm not OK. I'm on my way to Queens. And I needed you to know that was not the document I meant to send you. It's a novel I'm working on, and I knew you would freak out if you saw our names in it. I just wanted you to know I wouldn't have published it using the name 'Charlie' without asking you first, and letting you read it first when it was done," said Emma.

"Fair enough," I said, "but where IS the file you intended to send me?"

No answer. Silence. More silence as I repeated my question. Then, dial tone.

I could not believe it. The line got disconnected before I got my answer. It was almost as if the universe was toying with me, wanting me to ask questions to which the answers would not come simply, nor expeditiously. It was only by faith and imagination that I should hope that answers would ever come at all.

I assumed that Emma would just call me back when the SAT phone came back online. Unless the reason it was disconnected in the first place is that the Captain or Flight attendant or whoever, turned off the in-seat phone connections. Nonetheless, here I was for the second time today waiting for access to a document that I was becoming increasingly anxious to see.

So I would just have to wait and see if she called back.

Now, at long last, I could focus on my own project, which was just as interesting as whatever Emma was in the middle of right now.