Ah, how the modern world has morphed into blitzland, with everything so fast that a sentence isn’t even finished before the “listener” focuses on something else. Consider cell phones, those gadgets that deliver and receive often barely audible calls at four times the cost of Alex Bell’s nearly perfected instrument, the one tethered to a solid wall.
Once, we need not suffer the angst of wondering whether anyone wanted to talk to us. We simply waited until we got home, and the person rung us up when we were in. Later, we bought answering machines because (1) they were invented and (2) life had speeded up enough to add anxiousness to curiosity. Then we bought cordless phones that we could carry with us into the bathroom, the garage, even on a very short walk up the street. Couldn’t miss that call, you see, as if we were going to be told we won $65 million in an East Anglia lottery.
Today, cell phones are almost sewn under our skin as are heart pacemakers, and we constantly check to see if they are still there. We flip open the gadgets for messages as regularly as heartbeats, perhaps hoping that though we goofed up on the job and lost the company much money last fall, this autumn all is forgiven and we can expect a call giving us the amount of a bonus payment from the national stimulus.
Or perhaps we just have to know someone wants to speak to us, or sell us something or e-phone us a photo of their dog doing cartwheels or text us a message in e-phone/mail shorthand. We just have to know.
Well, to each his/her own, but as for me, don’t include my ears in the calling circle. I don’t want to overhear a loud conversation in aisle three of a store, nor do I want to be held up on a checkout line as someone talks and fumbles with a credit card while ignoring, quite rudely, the cashier, who is there to communicate as well as to check one out.
I don’t want to know about love gone wrong, weird ailments, lost pets, unruly children, money and job woes and really personal stuff, all of which I have picked up in public phone conversations.
Years ago, when Ma Bell offered wonderful, clean, odor-free mahogany booths inside lobbies from which to make a telephone call for a dime, we all closed the folding door for privacy. Then on the cheap, she took the booths away and gave us shelves and a small wall panel to hide behind. But our calls could be overheard. Maybe it was then that the woman who had raised us on good manners in making and receiving telephone calls became a modern parent and indulged our self-centeredness. She gave us cell phones, and now we can be publicly discourteous to the max, if we should so choose.
Yet it’s too modern, too, to blame mother alone. She cut the umbilical cord. We still have ours plugged in, to the cell phone on our belts, in our hands, on our ears, in our purses.