“Once in a while….. the telephone can be a wonderful thing.” – Ivan Doig, Bucking the Sun
OK, this will not be the usual old person’s rant about how that blasted younger generation can’t do a single thing without being attached to their i-Phone or i-Pad or whatever mobile device they are addicted to.
No, I would never do that, because I have an i-Pod Touch. I have as much fun at the App Store as anyone, and love playing with all its bells and whistles. I dislike being separated from my e-mail and the internet. Google is one of my favorite newfangled inventions ever, second only to air conditioning. (this being written on a 95 plus day with comparable humidity)
I look back in horror at the days when to find some random snippet of information you’d have to manhandle some overlarge and musty reference book, and chances are you couldn’t even find what you were looking for. And you’d actually have to move your body to do it.
Don’t misunderstand me – I am a book lover and will never stop reading real physical books, even though I am quite fond of my Kindle. But Google allows me to look up the answers to all the niggling little questions that come up AS I read – places, names, words, whatever I fancy. Of course, sometimes it takes me a little longer to get through my books due to the constant side trips. It’s a small price to pay to instantly scratch that inquisitive itch. So I’m as addicted to technology as my younger friends, but with a major difference.
My problem is with the telephone part of these modern devices. I don’t like the telephone, and I refuse to embrace the concept that a person should be available to answer the phone 24/7.
Let me return to that quoted “once in a while” when the telephone was a wonderful thing. My youth, which from my current perspective was a wonderful thing all by itself. In those days of the 50’s and early 60’s, most households had one lonesome “land line” with the family’s phone number, and if you were lucky, an extension or two. The day I got my very own extension for my bedroom, the “Princess” phone coveted by every prepubescent female in America, was a banner day for me. Like most teenage girls, I loved the phone. And talking endlessly with other teenage girls on their own Princess extensions.
Mine, all mine! Except that I had to share everything about it other that that nauseating pink object with the funny cord.
And the lessons I learned! Patience – because sometimes someone else was using the phone when I wanted it. Consideration – don’t call too late or at an inconvenient time lest you bother the caller or her family.
Accommodation – don’t talk too long lest you tie up the line when someone else might need it. And most of all, stealth and deviousness – picking up the receiver oh, so silently and listening in to someone else’s juicy conversation while holding your breath so you don’t give yourself away. There are some joys and life lessons the younger generation will simply never experience.
As I reached adulthood, the telephone became much less of a joy. My first jobs were in an office; all day long the phone calls were a constant interruption and required me to drop whatever I was doing and deal with the request of the caller. I began to notice that the telephone and its users were getting a little too big for their Bakelite (look it up, kids) britches, so to speak. Have you ever waited in line somewhere, only to be thwarted once you make it to the front of the line because the phone rings and it must be answered? Immediately. Or you’re talking with someone only to be trumped by the ringing phone and the conversationalist’s urgent need to “take this call.” Oh, wait. That still happens. Moving on….
And then they invented telemarketers.
Fortunately, at about the same time they invented telemarketers they also invented the answering machine, which took a lot of the pressure off. People were sometimes uncomfortable with the idea of wholesale call-screening, but I thought it was a fine idea. Listen for a minute and ascertain whether the caller is selling something or is Aunt Susie calling with the latest family gossip. Then you can quickly pick up and start chatting with Aunt Susie. Or not.
And finally I come to the 3rd best invention ever, after Google and air-conditioning. Caller ID. Now you don’t even have to wait for the machine to make the fateful decision to speak or to ignore. It hasn’t stopped the telemarketers, who are incredibly devious and often have 5 or 5 or 6 different identifications on the caller id for each unsolicited business opportunity. But I’ve got it covered. I will answer and give the caller precisely 1.5 seconds to speak.
The telemarketers working their phone banks invariably hesitate, and when they do, I hang up.
Now, I know telemarketers are just hard working people trying to make a living, but if they ignore our polite (e.g. the do-not-call list) requests to not call this number, and even some not-so-polite ones occasionally involving 4 letter words, then I will resort to my hang-up technique.
Sometimes, though, I fall back on my old standby telemarketer response, from pre-caller ID and call screening days. Vegetables. Just vegetables. As soon as the telemarketer begins his or her spiel, I just start saying vegetables. Tomatoes. Rutabaga. Zucchini. Swiss chard. Arugula. Radishes. Turnip. Broccoli. After a while, and a few fruitless attempts to stem the veggie onslaught, the telemarketer will give up and go away.
I know it’s wrong, but sometimes I just can’t help it. “Once in a while….the telephone is a wonderful thing.”