We have now entered the golden age of communication. But it is an age in which, in addition to being able to communicate, we also have to deal with hurt feelings.

Here is how much it hurts. One day I told my secretary to call Al Groton to make a luncheon appointment. I'm trying to get him to buy a table for the Mental Health Life Achievement Depression Ball. The receptionist says Groton didn't answer his phone nor did his secretary. His secretary's voice-mail recording says she is not available to take calls for Groton, as she also is out of the office.

"If you want to leave your name and phone number, you might get lucky and someone will call you back."

I start having bad thoughts about Groton. He never wants to speak to me. The last time I called him it took a week for his secretary to get back to me.

In the meantime Winterboom is calling me. I tell my secretary to tell him I'm in a meeting. Winterboom is a pest. He is the principal of my children's school, and whatever it is he wants I know it has to do with someone's infraction.

I am prepared to tackle my junk mail when Margulies calls. He wants to know what I want. I say I don't know.

"Then," he asks, "why did you call me five days ago?"

"You mean you're calling after five days and you expect me to remember what my call was all about?"

"I'm very busy," Margulies says. "I don't have time to call you back when you forget why you called me."

"Forget I called you."

I hang up. Then I say to my secretary, "Any news from Groton?"

"No, and his secretary still isn't available, either."

"Get me Jefferson . . . Jefferson, I hate to bother you, but you're the only one who will take my calls."

"Well, you always take my calls so I feel you deserve the courtesy. What can I do for you?"

"How are things?"

"Fine, how are things with you?"

"Good. They could be better but I don't want to complain."

"Same here."

"Nice chatting with you. Give a buzz when you get a chance. I have to pick up on Line 2."

"This is Werttenbacker. I called you, and you never returned my call."

"Weren't you the person who was selling me insurance?"

"I was letting you in on a bargain. No examination, no age limit, a picture of Herbert Hoover for your wall."

"I told you I didn't want life insurance."

"You don't care about your loved ones. They don't mean anything to you."

"Look, how did you get my number?"

"Through Groton."

(C) 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate