Always Answer the Phone?

This advice comes from CBS newsman Bob Schieffer. In his book, This Just In, Schieffer recounts the day of President Kennedy’s assassination when he was working as a young newspaper reporter in Ft. Worth. While the other reporters were dispatched to Dallas to cover the shooting of the president, Bob Schieffer covered the desk where he received an unusual call from a woman asking that he give her a ride to Dallas. He reminded her that this was a news room, not a taxi service, and they were busy covering the story of the presidential shooting.

This is when the story takes a strange twist. The woman responded, yes, I know the president’s been shot and they’ve just arrested my son. Schieffer changed his mind about being a taxi service and picked up Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother and drove her to Dallas…quite a story.

photo 2

He says the lesson he learned from this call is to always answer the phone. Something I didn’t do last Wednesday. While eating lunch at Heart and Soul I received a call on my cell phone that I promptly silenced. When a second call from the same caller came in less than a minute later, I did the same and commented that someone needs to learn to use my voicemail. But, then when John’s phone rang with a call from the same number, his curiosity was peaked and he answered.

Well, our neighbor was calling to inform us the fire department had been called. The bushes behind our house were on fire.


As we gathered our things and started driving home, I thought of Bob Schieffer’s advice about answering the phone.

Despite the smoke visible from a block away and the fire truck and other vehicles parked in front of our house upon our arrival, the fire was quickly extinguished with no damage.

A portion of our tree fell and took out the power line sparking the fire. As soon as the power was disconnected, the fire went out. Fortunately, with all the rain, the fire lacked dry fuel needed to burn.

While the utility company worked to restore power to the neighborhood, I thought again about the advice to answer the phone, and I think that’s advice that should only apply when you’re at home or work. Bob Schieffer’s advice is based on an event from 1963 when all phones were land lines and no one had an answering machine or voicemail. It made sense to always answer the phone.

Today I think the rules are different. When we all carry our phones with us 24 hours a day, and the first question asked when you answer the phone, “where are you?” we need to ignore some calls.

My advice: answer the phone when it’s convenient.

  • Don’t worry about the phone when you’re driving.
  • Don’t interrupt a meal.
  • Don’t take personal calls at work.
  • Don’t stop to answer the phone when you’re with friends or family.
  • Don’t make the phone a priority instead of enjoying a game, or party, or other event.
  • Activate the function on your phone to silence all calls at night when you should be sleeping.
  • And I hope you don’t have your phone on at church or the movie or at a wedding.

After all, you have voicemail, a caller can leave a message.

However, if a someone calls twice in the course of a minute, you may want to answer the phone. Maybe the caller wants to let you know there are fire trucks in front of your house.

Always answer the phone? No, not always!