It was a scene likely repeated in dens and living rooms across America on Christmas morning.

Moments after gift opening, tons of discarded wrapping, ribbons and boxes are asunder. Had tiny tornados gained entry, they could have caused millions of dollars worth of improvement.

In one Texas home, a phone rang at dead center of the debris…

The family took a collective “time-out.” Members of five generations joined the search, all fuming, fumbling and floundering in their futile forage for the phone.

Ringing seemed endless and grew louder.

   A 10-year-old summed it up: “You’d think with so many great minds, someone would  invent a telephone that attaches to the wall, with a wire connected to the hand set.” And he was as serious as a funeral…

Children shrieked with delight about highly-technical toys and games that either had to “plug in” or were marked “batteries not included.”

A children’s stocking stuffer, lodged way in the toe of the sock, was a show-stopper.

The youngsters had never seen the tiny trick dogs, black and white Scotties, packaged in a tiny match box. Each glued to magnet bases, the dogs zigged, zagged and whirled about.

Grandparents, and “greats,” too, got misty-eyed, remembering their own delight when the novelty toys were major presents under Christmas trees upwards of a century ago. “Maybe next Christmas we can re-introduce hula-hoops,” one of the old-timers said…

I digress. The subject was phones a hundred or so words ago.

With cell phones now as common as wearing apparel for hundreds of millions of people, we are more talkative than any previous generation.

One fact is unchanging: Money talks…

Exhibit “A” is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

He received 50.6 percent of some 1.1 million votes cast, and his re-election campaign cost topped $110 million.

Now that kind of money buys a gargantuan phone bank…

Uncle Mort, my 96-year-old kin who lives down in the thicket, is the only person I know who’s spent much of his life saying “whoa” to most technological progress, including phones.

Oh, he sometimes borrows one, usually muttering that his phone’s “battery is down,” but it’s very much a once-in-a-while deal. He claims that one of his most embarrassing moments some 50 years ago involved a phone at a farm house down the road.

“The neighbors were cutting a watermelon, so when the phone rang, I answered it,” Mort explained. “The operator said, ‘long distance from Chicago.’ I agreed with her that it shore-nuff is, and hung up.”…

My friend Melinda, editor of the Albany News, can identify with Mort “back then” and cell phone users now who wind up red-faced. She will never forget when she fumbled what could have been a golden moment of spontaneity worthy of note in the newspaper.

Zoned in to hear a guest preacher, she heard his admission of envying some congregants who “heard the voice of God.” He said he’d never had such an experience, and that there had been long, dry periods in his life when he was uncertain of God’s direction for his life.

At that precise moment, Melinda’s cell phone rang.

She scrambled to turn it off, then immediately regretted doing so. “I so wish that I had handed the phone to the preacher, saying: ‘I think it’s for you.’”…

My uncle is predicting a big up-tick in church membership for 2010. If President Obama’s health care package is enacted, that is.

“It’s as plain as the nose on your face,” Mort said. “Lots of folks are pessimistic about the whole tangled mess,” he added. “They figure that chances of getting doctors’ appointments in the future may be ‘slim and none.’ Then, they’ll get on prayer lines to the Great Physician.”

Before you hang up on me, Happy New Year!…

Don Newbury is a speaker and author whose weekly column appears in 125 newspapers in six states. He welcomes comments and inquiries. Call him at (817) 447-3872, or send e-mail to  His Web site is www.