Friday, December 28th, 2012

telephone dialI have a phone with a dial and it sits on a small table beside the recliner, just inside the front door of Our Humble O’Bode. At about two o’clock this morning I woke up because I could hear somebody dialing it. Whirrr. It sounded like a very short dial. Whirrr. As if somebody was dialing the number two over and over again. Whirrr. At first it was puzzling, then weird, and then a little scary. Whirrr. But after several minutes of whirrr-whirrr-whirrr I wanted to say out loud, “If you’re the axe murderer and you’re doing that to be extra-creepy, you’re doing it too long. Get in here and chop us to pieces already!”


Oh, come on, this is just nuts, I said to myself, and lifted my head from my pillow high enough to get a better view through the bedroom door. I could easily see the far corner of the living room, the recliner and the front door, and there was nobody standing there, maniacally dialing the same number over and over on the phone. With my head up and both ears uncovered, I could also tell that the noise was not coming from the living room. It was coming from My Darling B’s side of the bed, where she was very lightly snoring into her own pillow in such a way that she sounded exactly like the dial of a rotary phone.

If only I could learn to do that, I thought as I fell asleep again.

whirrr | 5:25 am CDT
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Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

image of textAbout six months ago my old cell phone went on the fritz and I’m so lazy that I didn’t get around to replacing it for a long time. So long, in fact, that my service provider, Virgin Mobile, closed my account and gave my phone number to somebody else. But it’s a pay as you go plan, so I didn’t get too torqued up about it.

When I got a new cell phone and a new phone number I didn’t tell any more than two or three people because, again, I’m lazy. I mostly call My Darling B and that’s it, so why would I want to tell anyone else, right?

But my brother, one of the three people who ever send me text messages, kept sending to my old phone number because, once again, and for the last time, I’m lazy and didn’t tell him that wasn’t my number. I probably should’ve told him. Because this is what happened.

biafra | 7:39 pm CDT
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Thursday, October 14th, 2010

image of Nataly singing Telephone

I’ve got a telephone that hates me. I don’t believe it’s a personal thing, I think it’s just that the AI designed for it loathes everyone, equally and indiscriminately. Her voice drips with contempt as she ticks off my options, but I realize it only seems to hate me in particular because I happen to be the guy trying to listen to his voice mail on it right now. Pure coincidence.

To get my voice mail I have to dial a phone number, then enter an eight-digit PIN, which seems redundant to me. I’m already punching in a number to listen to my voice mail, then I have to punch in another number. How secure does this have to be? I’m not trying to get gold out of Fort Knox, I only want to listen to the latest batch of messages from people asking me how they can renew their barber’s license. Keeping information like that safe using 64-bit encryption seems like overkill.

It’s even less important than that: Most of the time the voice mail on my telephone isn’t actually meant for me. I haven’t figured out yet how I’m the default for all the incoming calls, but until I do I have to transfer the messages to the person in the office who can answer the question about renewing a license to barber. After the voice message ends there’s a phone robot voice that tells me what my options are, so it doesn’t take a lot of brains to press the button that transfers the message, but then there’s the little matter of adding a comment.

I don’t want to add a comment. For two weeks, though, I wasn’t able to figure out how to transfer a message without adding a stupid useless comment, usually something like, “Uh, here’s a caller who wants to renew his barbering license,” as if the person who was going to get the message wouldn’t be able to figure that out. Saying something totally unrelated seemed counterproductive, though, so I kept on saying obvious shit even though I felt stupid doing it.

One of my coworkers told me how to send without a comment, but I couldn’t get it to work until one way when I accidentally hit the send button in a fit of angst while trying to think of something to say. A nervous tic gave me the key to figuring out the secret: Punch “send” a fraction of a second too soon or too late and the phone robot cries foul, but count one-Mississippi and you’re good to go. Again, do we really need that kind of precision in day-to-day office telephony? Hardly.

Transferring live calls was almost as hard to figure out, but mostly because the button I’m supposed to use to make the transfer is labeled “Flash.” Sure, that makes sense, because labeling it “Transfer” would only confuse people. Why would you even call it “flash?” Telephones aren’t supposed to flash. Why would anybody touch that button? Oh, to make transfers. Right.

Stop calling, stop calling | 6:17 am CDT
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Sunday, May 30th, 2010

image of telephone

I had a beer Friday after work with some of my coworkers. We gathered around a small table outside Genna’s and, while the conversation drifted from one topic to the next, I couldn’t help noticing that almost everyone was carrying on two conversations at a time: One with those of us sitting around the table, and one with whomever they were texting on their cell phones. Two of them were texting constantly, and two would check their messages every so often, replying occasionally. Not one of them acted as if this was rude in any way, or even unusual.

All of them were half my age, some of them probably a few years younger, not that their age would necessarily make them more or less likely to text while talking. I wouldn’t presume that people my age don’t do this. I know they talk on the cell phone while they drive, and probably even text behind the wheel, but I would guess that the younger generation would be more likely to do it and less likely to regard it as odd.

And I suppose on some level it isn’t all that odd. They were, after all, sharing the remarks of their texting friends with the rest of us in physical attendance, so it was like virtually doubling the number of people at the table. I had never seen this done before, though, so the culture shock made me unsure how to reply, or if I was meant to reply at all, to someone who wasn’t actually there.

One day this will not, I am sure of it, be as familiar to me as making a phone call. Or maybe it will, but I doubt it. My great-grandmother, I am told, was never very happy with dial telephones; to place a call, she wanted to pick up the receiver and talk with an operator. The change to using a dial to place a call yourself was not something she could get used to. I get the feeling that having someone joining a conversation by proxy will take a lot more getting used to than transitioning to a rotary phone, and I’m not sure I’m up to it, or will be some time hence.

double talk | 2:04 pm CDT
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