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.