The community engagement coordinator for the Westerville City School District tried to reach me by e-mail the afternoon of April 21 when phones would not work.


“Hi, Cathy,” said Lynne Maslowski.



The community engagement coordinator for the Westerville City School District tried to reach me by e-mail the afternoon of April 21 when phones would not work.



“It’s Monday afternoon and I just got a very broken up voicemail from you,” she said. “All I heard was that you are in southern Ohio, then a bunch of static, then you are asking me to ‘please have them give me a call.’ Unfortunately, I don’t know who I’m supposed to be rounding up. I would like to help if I could.”



The comment was followed up by a rather pathetic “Ésorry!”



Lynne had no idea what I was enduring roughly 100 miles away.



As a potential witness in a court case, I was in southern Ohio early Monday morning.



“Hurry up, we are going to be late for court,” I said, rushing everyone around.



We had to drive half an hour to the county seat from my farm. Arriving at the courthouse early, we waited and waited and waited.



Nothing.



There was a brief discussion with the attorney and then we waited and waited and waited.



Nothing.



At about 11 a.m., a break was taken and we were told to come back at 1 p.m.



“We have to come back?” I asked, astonished. “I have interviews I need to conduct and I can’t get a signal on either of my phones. I thought I would be in Zanesville by now. Is there a pay phone around here?”



I was directed to a public phone down the street.



Pulling up beside the phone, I wondered if the AT&T card still worked. It had not been used since 2000.



Hitting the trunk latch, I jumped out of the car to retrieve my purse from the rear. As semi trucks and dump trucks rolled by on the noisy thoroughfare, I hung my head in defeat. Even if the card worked, I would not be able to hear anyone on the other end of the line.



Settling myself behind the steering wheel, I glanced at the clock. I could make it to the farm and use a phone. The car’s engine whirred as I headed southeast.



Once home, I borrowed my brother and sister-in-law’s phone, but it was dead.



About that time, my mother, who arrived home for lunch, told us the electricity was out. Apparently a motorist had hit a transformer.



“Here,” Cecilia said, “try my cell phone. It won’t work here, but go up on the hill.”



I would have laughed if I hadn’t been so close to tears.



“Will I be able to get a signal there?” I asked.



She shrugged. “If not, drive up the road.”



The joys of modern technology.



I flipped open the phone and realized it was quite different from mine.



“A.J., do you know how to use this phone?” I asked my third nephew.



He nodded, a quizzical expression crossing his face as he wondered why I could not.



“Come with me,” I said, dragging him to the car and racing up the hill.



“Are you getting a signal?” I asked.



His lips tightened and I thought I saw a nearly imperceptible shake of the head.



“Only one bar,” he said. “We better go to the gas pump.”



We drive a quarter of a mile before he urged me to stop.



“I think the trees are going to block the signal,” I said.



“You’re right,” he said. “Drive to the end of the lane.”



I drove another quarter of a mile and stopped, but he shook his head.



“Go up to the turn in the road,” he said, referring to an intersection with a state highway. I pulled into the turn and cut the wheels so we were not blocking traffic and aimed the car downhill in the hopes of gaining a signal.



Nothing.



“Go to the gate,” he said, motioning to where my property is divided from a neighbor’s.



Once again, I spun the car around and we made for the next destination.



“Two bars!” A.J. said triumphantly. “Don’t move your head or it drops to one bar.”



I glared at the object in his hand.



“Dial the number,” I said.



He did as commanded and a secretary answered.



“Hi, this is Cathy Wogan calling from ThisWeek newspaper,” I said. “I should let you know that I am calling from a cell phone, I have two bars and if I move I will lose the signal. Please pass me through.”



Ever so politely, she put me on hold.



The next thing I knew, I heard a recorded message from Lynne, then explained I was calling for Christopher Wanner, Mark Hershiser and Greg Viebranz.



Static came through and I told A.J. I must have moved my head.



“Let’s go to Randy’s,” A.J. said of our neighbor.



“You think I can get out on that hill?” I asked as I was met with a shrug.



We turned around in the road and headed about a quarter of a mile away.



From the hilltop above our neighbor’s farm, I called again. By turning my head south, I made a connection. When Greg came on the line, I explained I was maneuvering around hills and he laughed.



“Chris and Mark went down to the fairgrounds to take a look at where we are holding graduation this year,” he said. “They should be back in half an hour.”



I risked a movement of my head to look at the clock.



“Well, I’ve got to go back to court, but I may be able to get a signal with my sister-in-law’s phone once I get to town,” I said. “If I can’t, I will head to Zanesville as soon as court is over.”



We drove half an hour back to town and as we pulled up in front of the courthouse, A.J. assured me I had all four bars and would be able to talk to anyone, if they were in the office, which they weren’t.



I continued to sit in the courthouse with nothing to do but stare at the telephone bars.



Finally, we were released for the day.



We were on the edge of town headed back to no man’s land when the phone rang.



I swung into a parking lot, turned my head east and took the call.



“You have no idea how happy you are that you called when you did,” I said to Christopher Wanner.



A.J. held my notebook as I took down the information while facing east the entire time. It gave us something to laugh about later, but at the time, I was far from amused. We take technology for granted until it is no longer available.



“Can you hear me now?”



Cathy Wogan is a staff writer for ThisWeek.