August 1, 2017

I have a true confession about my communication challenges. It’s a little embarrassing, but here it is: I still own and use a flip phone! Not only is it a flip phone, but the Puerto Rican in me moved me to customize it. I put J-B weld where there once was a display that showed the time and date and I filled in the camera lens.

I do own an “eye” phone but it damn near got me and someone else killed when it went off when I was driving. It is now stored in my vehicle and is never removed. I tried to use my “eye” phone due to peer pressure (really KA leadership pressure). Too many times it just became a source of frustration so I stopped using it. It would ring or vibrate when there wasn’t a real person calling. I began to find myself playing with it and spending less time just thinking or looking around at all of God’s creations! I received all sorts of junk that was a waste of time and energy. (I read that the average executive spends about ninety minutes per day messing with their email.) I looked around me and routinely saw people sitting at dinner tables in restaurants looking at their phones and not talking to each other. I believe that the “eye” phones have become adult, teenager and even young children’s modern day pacifiers! I am of a generation that when I hear “on line” I get flashbacks of a clothes line and spring loaded clothes pins!

I also confess that I don’t text or e-mail. I often ask people if they have heard from someone. People often respond by saying they “got a text.” When I ask simple questions like “How are they doing?” the answer often is “I don’t know; they didn’t say.” To me, this is not communicating. With my flip phone I can hear the person I am speaking with and can hear in their voice how they are doing. I can answer their questions as they answer mine. I can tell them what I am thinking and it doesn’t get lost in the translation from English to text. Often I hear people say, “I sent him a text and he has not answered.” I also hear people say, “I sent you an email,” meaning, “I tried to contact you, I covered my ass and there is a record of it and it’s your fault you didn’t respond.”

The only “voice male” you will get when you call my flip phone is a true “voice male” — me. My flip phone does not have “voice mail.” If you call me and I don’t answer, it is only because I am in the shower or talking to someone else. Your call will show up on my old screen with your number and I will call you back within minutes.

Another blessing about my flip phone is that when I call someone it shows up on their phone as “unidentified caller.” This feature gives me a 50-50 chance that people will take my call! I am sure that there are some people who wouldn’t take my call if they knew it was me. There are also those who refuse to answer calls if they don’t know who is calling. This caller feature gives me insight into some of those that I call.

I once had a young lady who I mentor answer her phone in a deep voice. When she found out it was me, she spoke in her normal, friendly voice. Some people I call are rude because they don’t know it’s me. I understand one can be annoyed with robo calls and sales people. However, having once worked in a phone bank boiler room as a telemarketer, I know how it works and remind myself that the telemarketer is trying to earn a living and is someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, or daughter who has bills to pay and I try to be polite.

So why do I use a flip phone? It’s simple. I use it to avoid distractions, because it’s different and it’s just like me: old, reliable and it works!

When my flip phone rings I always strive to maintain a servant leader’s heart as if the caller just might be someone calling me who needs help. When it rings after 8:00 PM, which is often my bedtime, it’s seldom good news. Over the years, as I sat in my ranch chapel waiting for the phone to ring, I have received calls on my flip phone regarding government contract awards, from callers who had just been in accidents, aviators who needed advice or people sharing with me all sorts of good and not so good news. Through that old device I have been blessed to have helped counsel a wide range of God’s children, both young and old, of all races and social and economic backgrounds. My flip phone does not discriminate as it has been used to help mentors and advisors counsel me. There has been lots of good news, but for some reason, I often think about the painful calls. I remind myself that I must be available to those who call me. I try to listen and support the callers with hope and understanding as my boss up above would expect of me. I know I could do a better job some of the time.

For this to be a complete “True Communications Confession” I will tell you about the one time that my flip phone did not support me! A couple of years ago, I was determined to visit some of our employees in a hostile part of the world. To visit through government channels would have taken weeks. I didn’t want to wait so the creative, get it done, half Puerto Rican, entrepreneur in me decided to buy a commercial airline ticket and go when I wanted to go. Before I departed on this journey to check on our people and find out what they were thinking, I was given an iPhone to carry with me that had a couple of telephone numbers loaded in it for emergency use. When I arrived at the location, the people that were supposed to pick me up and take me to see our people were not there. They could not get to me because they had guns pointed at them. I was alone and on my own in a bad place. I wondered if I would even make it home, but calmly maintained my faith. Sitting on a curb in a strange place in the hot sun on the other side of the world, with no one around, I pulled out that weird looking “eye” phone. I could not get it to work! By the grace of God, I did eventually figure out how to call the only number that I could remember — my home back in Dallas. It was the middle of the night in Dallas and my wife answered. I shared my situation with her. Looking back, I don’t know if calling home was a good decision! To make a long story short, the iPhone worked in a part of the world where my flip phone would not and I made it home. And yes, I would go back if I needed to meet with our KING AEROSPACE family members.

The reliability of my flip phone makes me available to people. Did I confess that I don’t text or use email? I do write lots of handwritten notes. My approach eliminates the electronic clutter that I hear so many people complain about. I know there are good things about these alternative communication styles, but it’s not for me and this is my true confession! While I am confessing about communication I might as well throw in that more than once in my life some people have said that I can “talk like a sailor.” So, to live up to this perception, I’m starting to use words like “ahoy,” “port,” “starboard,” “bow” and “full steam ahead!”

The bottom line is that my flip phone is my lifeline to be present for people and offer them hope and assure them that all will be well, with God’s support.

Written by KING AEROSPACE Founder, Jerry Allan King-Echevarria.