Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Pox on You and Your Damnable Invention - Alexander Graham Bell

Well, no, not really.  The telephone as Bell invented it was a marvelous, wondrous is what it has morphed into that I must rant against and I'll tell you why.

I remember the days when the telephone was considered a miraculous, blessed , mind boggling gift, and, by God,  when it rang you answered it!  Of course, there was only one such instrument in the house and it was always located where you weren't.   If you were upstairs in the bathroom brushing your teeth when it rang, you dropped the toothbrush in the sink and clattered down the stairway, mouth foaming with toothpaste and grabbed the receiver frantically from it's location near the kitchen (or in the hall)  before the calling party hung up.  If you were in the basement doing laundry and the phone rang upstairs you dropped the washboard and everything back into the tub and rushed madly up the steps dripping suds and water all the way and if you were out in the yard weeding or gathering Japanese beetles from your rose bushes you galloped inside wiping your muddy hands on the back of your pants in order to snatch up the receiver and find out who was  calling.

Missing a call was tantamount to spending hours in the first circle of hell wondering who it was and what they might have wanted to say.........  Oh, the misery and the mystery of the missed phone call.  Agony.
But, my recollection is that most of the time somebody answered  when you called them and obviously vice versa. It was a very satisfactory arrangement.  And there were no area codes.....GRAnite 4226 was all you needed to remember and to dial.  Life was good.

Fast forward 75 or so years to early this morning when I needed to call my visiting Florida cousins to cancel an appointment I had made with them to visit me.  There were at least three adults in the house I was calling and at least 4 different phone land line (which I knew in advance that no one ever fact they had the ringer shut off so that it didn't wake the baby so, in effect, it was useless as a contact vehicle except for them) and three cell phones, 2 of which had Florida prefixes and one of which had a West LA prefix rather than a SF Valley one making all of them long distance for me.  Well, what the hell......I can aford it.

But, who can remember all those damned 11 digit numbers......a few, yes, but not all by any means.  So first I have to schlepp out of bed (via the inconvenient left side because my kitty, Gussie, is sound asleep glued to my right flank) and lurch around to the right side to get my cane off the door knob because in the mornings my limbs have forgotten that they are supposed to hold me upright and transport me from here to there ......and thence to the dining room where my phone book lives and subsequently back to bed  because I am performing this phone business way before my normal arising time in order to enable my cousins to make other plans if they want to.  Next I must find my glasses by the bedside, find the switch of  the reading light and find the proper phone numbers.   Tenks gott they are all under "K".   

I call the first one, it rings endlessly until the bright, cheery mesage voice chirps the usual crap that Oh yes, they do want to talk to me and etc., etc., etc.  So, I search out the 2nd number and call it with the identical results.  I am down to my last chance so I call the 3rd number belonging to the resident....the daughter whom the Florida cousins are visiting......dammit, she should be up and should have her cell phone turned on, wouldn't ya' think?   Sure, when pigs fly.  So I leave three messages and go back to sleep whereupon, of course, the phone rings and I, who was raised to answer phones if at all possible, pick up and speak to my cousin and the situation is taken care of.  And I am too pissed off to go back to sleep again.  Not at my cousins whom I love dearly, but at the bastardization of a perfectly wonderful system.

This marvelous invention intended to facilitate communication has turned into an instrument of torture and frustration.   On the one hand there is half the world's population (those you have no wish whatsoever to EVER  talk to) who spend what must be 23 hours of every day with their cell phones turned on, glued to their ears and in constant use, talking into same at the top of their lungs regardless of where they happen to be at the moment....on street corners, in elevators, in doctors' waiting rooms, in supermarket lines and particularly at the table next to you in restaurants.......deluging your ears with their inane chatter and forcing you to hear the disgusting details of their innermost boring lives.  Urk and Faugh..

As upsetting as this may be, the other side of the coin is worse.....involving the other half of the population to whom you MAY possibly want or desperately need to speak.  They of course, to a man, have their cell phones turned off and are totally unreachable until they damned well feel like it.....usually after you have gone to bed, or after the business day is concluded or perhaps several days later in the week if they feel so inclined.  Meanwhile, you have the privilege of listening to their goddam recorded answering messages and, if you feel so inclined, of hitting your head against the nearest wall in quiet desperation.

Can this  be what dear old A.G. Bell had in mind for his brilliant invention?   I think NOT!

And if you are going to ask me what I suggest to solve this wretched state of affairs, all I can say is call me tomorrow and if I don't answer leave a message.  I may or may not get back to you.   I will be in the corner playing with my precious old rotary dial phone saying things like, "Hello, Central, give me a line....."and thanking heaven that Mabel, the operator, is a live person who doesn't chirp or tell me to leave a message.


  1. They all text nowadays because people don't want to have to get caught up in actually talking to another person. I'm afraid I've been guilty of that myself because I'd thought myself too busy or whatever to answer the dang phone.

  2. I'm with you Lo. What in the hell is so important to be connected every moment? Furthermore, whenever I call a cell number - and I mean everytime - no one ever picks up the phone. What the heck?!

    Since you've tackled Mr. Bell's invention, how about discussing Mr. Edison's light bulb and the fact that politicians are ruling over something that has worked pretty good for so long?

  3. G'day. That was one of the best blogs I have read in a while. How true are your words. Usually when I am answering the call of nature, you can bet the phone will ring.Or if I am in the shower, I can hear the jolly thing in the kitchen ringing itself silly.So we bought a portable phone and I always forget to keep it with me. If I do remember and take it outside when gardening, you can bet that I always forget where I left it and of course it never rings then when I need it to.!!Take care. Liz...

  4. Oh, what a topic.
    I have a mobile phone in my bag and there is stays 99% of the time because I just can't be bothered to work the darn thing out.
    The house phone gets turned off regularly when I want some peace, like when we have our afternoon nap or we are feeling like the world is the most hideous place to live in and don't want to talk to anyone.
    We've only given my husbands mobile number to our children and this is always turned on for emergencies, but we know that nobody else will be ringing it.
    What do we sound like? miserable grumps?
    No, we're not, just can't cope with all this communication stuff, just want some peace in
    our lives that's all.

  5. Our society manages to mangle the "intent" of a technological improvement with unforseen "expectations".

    I, for one, will never feel like I should always be on beck and call of my cellphone (but will always expect the other party to answer)... Ut oh... I must have that same dreaded illness...

    You writing, as always, is inspired. :)

  6. Oh, Lordy, I know what you mean! Aaaargh! And, of course, you left out the sub-sub-sub-sub-menus when DO get through to some companies that actually hang up when you've gone through the list and you've yet to speak to anyone!
    My gentleman caller is the type who never turns on his phone unless he wants to use it. He was surprised to find out that he wasn't my emergency number. So, I told him I could bleed to death waiting for him to decide he would like to make a call or see if he's had any and that just wasn't good enough for me. And, he could at least turn on his phone when we are meeting for dinner, so he would know I'm not going to be there or will be late. It's a non-stop issue and I don't know how to fix it. So far as the non-stop talkers, I've never seen such a dependent generation of people terrified of making a move without someone else's permission. Like little serfs. Anyone wanting that much connection to me is too controlling and I don't tolerate it. You'll have to check out my cell phone blog from a few years ago.

  7. Before she moved, my mother had, as her answering machine message this:
    You have reached Ruth. Please leave a message. Or...hang up.
    I am sure it was not intended to be funny or rude but it was hysterical.

  8. Don't get me started on people who MUST have their cels glued to there ears at all times...


  9. How can I get in touch with Mabel?

    I can't imagine the sheer bliss of speaking with a real human being instead of a bland-voiced automaton that assures me that my call is vitally important and that their automated system is "for my convenience". In what way is it convenient for me to travel endless loops of incomprehensible menus, only to be told, after 20 minutes of increasingly rabid button-pushing, that their office is now closed for the day (it was still within business hours when I called).

    Oh, Mabel, I miss you!

  10. In our house growing up, we only answered the phone if dad, the doctor, was "on call". Everyone else used the private line or called the doctor's exchange.

    Yes, it can be very frustrating to call a house full of different phone numbers and not one of them will answer, and you really do need to ask them or tell them to do something.

  11. Hello Lo
    Oh this is a subject dear to my heart - just don't get me started on it. We visited A G Bell's place in Baddeck Cape Breton one year and it was hysterical listening to people remarking on the monster he had created.
    Now I will run to answer our house phone yet if I don't answer within a couple of rings people hang up so I'm guilty of turning the machine on and letting it answer instead till I get there to pick it up.
    To keep them happy the cordless goes outside with me - also gets left out there on a regular basis - have to page it to find out which bush its lurking in - and do you know it gets touchy and doesn't work if it gets wet lol
    And as one of the children remarked - 'yeah welcome to the real world Mum' when they really got antsy and bought me a mobile. Not quite sure what button does what but all I have to do is open it up to answer - if I can dig it out of the bottom of my bag in time
    Take care
    ps Magoo is a dear isn't he. I love making his paw move and have been known to 'play' with him myself. And as for that purr - heavenly

  12. The main reason I turn off my phone - especially during meals - are the people you didn't mention. The damned telemarketers. I'm on the "do not call" list, and still get calls and people trying to sell me crap.

  13. My daughter's phone is never answered except by a message that says, "Friends and family are invited to leave a text message."

    In order to do that, I have to find my glasses, punch a bunch of wrong things in and erase them, switch back and forth between keyboard designations if I want to use a number or make someone's name capitalized anywhere other than the beginning of a sentence.....fuhgeddaboutit.

  14. Hi Lo, I've been enjoying the comments to this post as well as the post itself. I think you have really hit on something. I nearly lost my sim card on Sunday from my phone and it made me realise how dependant I am on it holding my appointments, phone numbers etc. I can hardly remember my own number let alone everyone elses.

    I would have loved to have been able to speak to Mabel at the telephone exchange. I love watching black and white films where that happens. Great post, thanks. x