Sorry for the interruption, but it doesn’t happen often

Many years ago, my feature manager and I were called into the project leader's office for some reason or other, I forget exactly what.

We were about five minutes into the meeting when the project leader's mobile phone rang. This was back in the days when mobile phones were not commonplace, and having one was a way of showing off your status.

The project leader answered the call, but instead of saying, "I'm in a meeting, can I call you back?" he proceeded to carry on a conversation with the caller as if we weren't there, while we sat there and waited.

I got up and left his office.

I went downstairs to the lobby and read whatever newspaper happened to be sitting there for visitors to read while they waited. I think it was The Wall Street Journal, but it could have been The New York Times.

After finishing a section of the paper, I came back upstairs to the project leader's office. By that time, the project leader had finished his call, whatever it was.

As I sat down, the project leader said, "Sorry, I don't get calls on this phone often."

I immediately replied, "That's okay, I don't read The Wall Street Journal often either."

Comments (22)
  1. anonymouscommenter says:

    This story sounds rather familiar……/9257840.aspx

  2. anonymouscommenter says:

    Nice anecdote :)

    A few years ago my wife and I binge watched all of the Seinfeld episodes.  It's amazing how many of the story lines couldn't hold up today simply because mobile phones are now ubiquitous.  I guess the (almost literally) "brick" phones were available at the time.

  3. anonymouscommenter says:

    I can sympathize.  I have been in conversations with people who keep looking at their cell phone.  Once, I finally told a friend "I will come back when you have time to give me your attention".

    I am one of those rare programmers who keeps up with cutting-edge technology, but thankfully, my job doesn't require me to carry a cell phone.  And I don't WANT to carry a cell phone, so I don't own one.  If people want to talk to me, they can call me at home or at work.  If I'm not there, leave a message.  If I'm elsewhere, nothing is urgent enough to bug me about.

    (An almost-joke:  Someone once said "What if someone you love is rushed to the hospital?"  I was tempted to answer "Well, I'm not a doctor, so I can't help."  As I said, it was almost a joke.  We got along for centuries without being tethered to cell phones.)

  4. anonymouscommenter says:

    @Smithers: Good memory.  The only other time I can recall Raymond repeating his stories are…/10070943.aspx (the bonus chatter) and…/6157507.aspx .

  5. anonymouscommenter says:

    @Adam Rosenfield


    But it doesn't happen often.

  6. anonymouscommenter says:

    Interesting to see how the story-telling style has developed over the years.

  7. anonymouscommenter says:

    I'm sure it was on this blog that I saw this tip that if someone is overrunning in a meeting room that you've booked for your meeting:  Rush in sit down and say "sorry I'm late", which may give them a gentle hint that they shouldn't be there any more.  

  8. Antonio 'Grijan' says:

    It's a wonder that, after writing this blog *daily* for *twelve* years, Raymond has only repeated stories and topics *twice*. *Twice* in over 3000 articles. Wow. I know I wouldn't be able to do that.

  9. anonymouscommenter says:

    I read most of the story with a slight, barely perceptible sense of deja vu.  Then I got to the last sentence and knew I'd read this before.  (And then I saw the first comment.)

  10. anonymouscommenter says:

    @MC: Yep, that was on here :)…/9162407.aspx

  11. T. West says:

    Unrelated, but I saw Tomorrowland yesterday.  Halfway through the movie, an audience member's phone rang several times, although softly as it was in her purse.

    About two minutes later, the phone rang *again*.  The entire audience (which was pretty small), swiveled to look at the woman who was starting to paw though her purse again.

    And then a character in the movie answered his mobile phone.

    The entire audience broke out laughing.  The danger of using default phone rings…

  12. cheong00 says:

    That's why sometimes I think having conference room in area that has poor phone signal strength is nice idea.

    I've been in a company that has conference room at location that the signal strength is barely enough to allow that phone ring, but you'll neither be able to listen or answer the call clear enough. So you'll either ignore the call or excuse yourself out the meeting to take it.

  13. anonymouscommenter says:

    Some rude executives/managers will even motion you to sit back down and continue waiting if you try to leave their office.  On the plus side of rude behavior —  it can sometimes be very informative to listen to their one-sided conversations.

    And when I was in a service industry where clients were billed for our time on an hourly basis I never hesitated to charge my unproductive sit and wait time to the client of the partners who got their jollies by taking phone calls while subordinates were in their office.  That way I didn't have to report idle hours on my timesheet and it was the rude partner's problem to try to collect the time.

  14. anonymouscommenter says:


    That's the first time I see the argument for same-sex marriage applied to cell phones…

  15. anonymouscommenter says:

    @DWalker: we also got along centuries without being tethered to landlines, telegraph, snailmail. If you don't want to be available for calls (and I can fully understand that – I always prefer text and email), it's easy enough to block them. Settings/Do Not Disturb. Why would anyone go back to reading only one book, only one magazine or only one newspaper during a commute? Or not being able to call a taxi from anywhere? Or not being able to visit a random city, pick a direction and walk wherever, without later having to pull out a paper map, figure out what street you're in and the best direction back to the hotel?

  16. anonymouscommenter says:


    While text and email have their uses I find they are poor substitutes for face to face conversation or a phone call.  What could be resolved in a quick chat often takes multiple messages back and forth and the context of communication between two human beings is lost.  Just my 2 cents.

  17. anonymouscommenter says:

    @Eric: on the other hand, face-to-face conversations and phone calls don't result in an automatic transcript. In terms of software design, I find them useful in case of emergencies or particularily thorny issues, where a number of questions need to be answered in short order.

  18. anonymouscommenter says:

    @Boris:  If I have a cell phone and set it to Do Not Disturb, then why have it?  :-)  I almost never need to call a taxi from anywhere.  I have a car.  I drive during my 10-minute daily commute, and it's not fun to read and drive at the same time.  YMMV.

    Tethered to landlines?  I want to be free, not tethered to anything.  (That sounds new age-y.)

    I do bring an e-book reader on trips, and that is a nice thing to have.  I wouldn't want to read a book on a cell-phone-sized screen.  Yes, many of the technological advances are nice, but I prefer not to be tethered to a cell phone, its contracts, and I don't have to worry about its charging state, etc.

  19. anonymouscommenter says:

    @Boris:  I agree that email and texting have a place where memorializing an exchange for business purposes is important.  OTOH, I find their use much less compelling for personal communication.

  20. anonymouscommenter says:

    @DWalker: Ok, the public transportation where I live is so good that I don't need a car and the associated maintenance, and I don't really mind my commute of an hour there and back mainly because I have an iPhone 6 Plus (even the smaller ones are large enough to read books, since Kindle reformats the text to fit regardless of font size; screen size is a problem only with things like pictures).

    Why have it? For me, primarily, so I can access the internet from most places without carrying a tablet-sized device. So I don't need to carry a separate GPS device in order to figure out where I need to walk or which combination of public transport to use. Perhaps I'd want to take a photo of something unimportant instead of writing it down, or a photo and/or a video of a sight I run into. So I can access my bank account from most places and make payments by scanning QR codes. There are tons of use cases aside from mere phone calls, many of which I wasn't aware before switching from my Nokia 6230 in 2010.

  21. anonymouscommenter says:

    @Boris:  (Sorry for the digression from the main subject.)  Swiping a credit card, especially when you don't need to sign, is likely faster than turning on your phone, entering your phone password, starting the QR app, entering a password if necessary, and letting the store scan your QR code.  :-)  If you are smart, though, you'll be ready and the "prep" steps are already done.  Pulling a plastic card out of my wallet probably takes less time (2 seconds total) than the prep to get a QR code showing on your phone.  

    I don't want to live in a place with an hour commute.  I have done that and I'm over it.  But I know there are advantages to living in larger cities, as long as they have good public transportation like you say.

  22. anonymouscommenter says:

    @DWalker: what I meant was that I get my electronic bills (phone, TV, internet) with QR codes printed on them, which can be phone-camera-scanned order to input payment data into the mobile banking app. In absence of Apple Pay where I live, I do swipe/insert/use in contactless mode a separate credit card for other kinds of payments.

    Anyway, it's not really off-topic if you consider that these days at least, in Raymond's situation, I would've probably pulled out my iPhone while the other guy was talking. Back then, I might've brought in my laptop if I had one.

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