That cell phone on your hip, in your hand or buried in your pocket or purse can be a lifeline in an emergency or just a means of staying in contact with friends and family (now there's plan).
But it can also keep you far too connected than you need to be. After all, anyone with your number in his or her phone can get ahold of you any time day or night, weekends or holidays.
And that's precisely the reason I am particularly careful whom I give my cell phone number to these days. You won't find it on my business cards. I'll write it in later if I think you need my number as a news source or as a friend.
Honestly, with ongoing scams coming from third-world countries, online dating services and Indiana prison facilities, a guy can't be too careful.
So the upshot of vigilantly guarding my number means about 95 percent of time when my cell phone rings, I know who's calling. The iPhone neatly displays their name from my contacts, and I happily answer.
Except for the other day.
I was out of town, staying near Chicago, when my phone rang. A quick peek at the screen showed it to be an unknown caller but someone or some place with a 653 prefix.
That seemed safe enough. Although I did not recognize the number, I figured it was probably someone I'd given it to on a news story who now had some information to share.
"This is Eric," I routinely answer, immediately realizing from the stunned silence that there is miscommunication here.
"Whoa, bro," a gruff male voice on the other end of the line responds. "Wrong number. Sorry, dude."
Funny, I don't remember ever giving my number to Rupert of "Survivor" or Keanu Reeves or even Jeff Spicoli.
Chuckling to myself at that odd reaction, I go on about my day. A few minutes later, I'm standing amid racks of men's shirts, pawing through sale items at the JC Penney store in Merrillville, when my phone rings again.
The screen shows a 317 area code, so I figure it's legit. After all, the wife is on the road again, calling on area hospitals, so I figure I'd better answer since she may be calling from a place she can't otherwise get cell service.
Again answering, "This is Eric," my new best friend on the other end of the line is quick to pick up on that and personalize things.
"Hey, Eric, this is John Hancock (not really, of course, but that will work here), it's been more than a year now since we did that new policy for you. I'm calling to see if it's working out for you ..."
This doesn't sound the least bit familiar, so I'm flabbergasted that he has called me by name and specifically addressed a policy he seems to know more about than I do.
While he continues to speak insurance, I'm racking my brain, trying to recall any new policy we may have taken out in 2011.
My caller begins to sense my confusion as I continue sorting through Penney's sale shirts (Hey look, a yellow Izod shirt lists its color as "butter." A guy can never have enough butter, especially for $5).
"This is the Snickelfritz residence (not the name he used), right?" he asks.
Laughing out loud, I say no, those were the people who had my phone number before me. Since I have had it for two years now, you'd think their calls would stop, but the casinos apparently still want to see them come back and lose some more money.
In this case, I'm even more confused on the supposed timing and how my number was involved if it were indeed only a year ago.
I'm tuning out my caller now, yet laughingly noting that at least that solves the policy mystery.
"OK, Eric, I'd still like to meet you some place, though, and shake your hand," he offers, quickly adding the kicker, "and see if there is anything we can do for you."
Again I am floored, and no longer so nice.
"No," I blurt out. "Seriously, I can't even believe you're trying to sell me insurance after calling a wrong number."
Not giving him even a second more of my time to explain, I say goodbye and hang up.
But you know what, I now have his number in my phone. So ...