June 2, 2013

For Whom the Cell Tolls

It's one of the worst places your cell phone can ring -- church. Though I don't recall ever committing such an offense (introverts are extra careful NOT to draw attention to themselves), I've witnessed it often enough to notice some common traits among the offenders. And I'll always remember the one priest who used to say, "That better be God calling!"

Did you know that there are only five types of people whose phones ring in church? As a public service, I will provide you with a handy list of the different classifications. So the next time someone's phone rings during Mass (or anywhere else this shouldn't happen), you can easily identify them.

Is the person a Lunger, a Concealer, a Bailer, a Bumbler or an Innocent Victim?

Lunger: This is the most common type you will see. As soon as the phone rings in chuch, the lunger will immediately panic and visibly (and not quietly) lunge for wherever his or her phone is. It may be in a pocket, a purse, a diaper bag or sitting right there on the pew. But this person immediately realizes the offense and practically dives for the phone to stop the ringing as quickly as possible.

Concealer: If my phone ever rang during Mass (and trust me, I will never let that happen), I would be a concealer. That's because concealers try not to draw any additional attention to themselves. They realize their offense but very calmly and discreetly slide their hand down to their phone and shut it off. While the lunger attracts additional attention by moving abruptly, the concealer treats it like a clandestine operation so that perhaps nobody other than those sitting immediately nearby will know whose phone was ringing.

Bailer: The bailer is an interesting breed. As soon as the phone rings, this person will immediately jump up in the middle of Mass and high-tail it for the door. Apparently, bailing out is quicker than reaching down and shutting it off. Perhaps the bailer doesn't know how to turn off the ringer or is expecting an important call. Or maybe the phone is buried so deeply in a bag or pocket that it would take longer to dig it out. To me, bailing out seems even more disruptive and it pretty much draws everyone's attention. But I'm sure the bailers have their reasons.

Bumbler: This is an unfortunate bunch. Their phone rings, but when they pull it out, they bumble around with it because they aren't sure how to stop the rining. So it ends up ringing a couple of more times right in the middle of church. I guess it makes sense that if you don't know how to silence your phone before walking into the church, then you are even less likely to be able to silence it urgently when it rings in the middle of the service.

Innocent Victim: I feel the most sorry for the innocent victims, and I have some (unnecessary) anxiety that this may happen to me one day. These are the folks who are sitting next to a friend, relative or even a stranger in Mass, and for whatever reason, that other person steps away for a moment (bathroom break, etc.). Unbeknownst to you, the person left his or her cell phone in the pew and suddenly it starts to ring. You are the innocent victim and have to turn off the phone yourself. Of course, everyone around you thinks that you are the offender.

Some of these classifications can be combined. For example, I went to daily Mass on Saturday morning and witnessed a rare Innocent Victim-Bumbler combo. During communion, a man made it back to the pew before his wife. As he was about to sit down, her cell phone started to ring inside her purse. That qualifies him as an innocent victim. She got there a few seconds later and couldn't figure out how to silence it, so it rang several times. Yes, that makes her a bumbler.

But that wasn't the end of it. Now I need to add a sixth classification, the Repeat Offender. A few minutes later, her phone rang again. So she was never able to silence it after the first call. At this point, if you are a bumbler and a repeat offender, then it's time to be a bailer!



  1. I'm an introvert too and was mortified when my phone rang in church. Luckily, Mass had not started yet and only one ring got out! Yep, I was definitely mortified. Do you think that counts as a Friday penance? ;-)

  2. Ha! Maybe you should get a free pass on this one since it happened before Mass started.