On Facebook recently, I put in my status, “It used to be that only seniors took several rings to answer the phone because they had to get to it. Now, with call display, it takes time for everybody to pick up the phone while they decide if you're call worthy at that moment!”
It seems to be that as technology advances, we become more insular. In urban settings gone are the days when you would sit on the stoop, talk to the passers-by, gather the gossip of the neighbourhood and sometimes even receive strangers at your door.
Nowadays we don’t want strangers showing up. When was the last time you opened the door to find a salesman peddling his wares? Not even Girl Guides venture through the neighbourhood with cookies and the Avon lady is seen less frequently than Bigfoot.
Even I’m guilty of this. If you ring my doorbell unannounced and I look out the window and don’t see a mail vehicle, UPS truck or a six foot Publisher’s Clearinghouse cheque, it’s a pretty safe bet that you could die of natural causes on my porch before I emerge from the cocoon that I call my home.
Yet ironically, the Internet has allowed us to become “friends” with virtually anybody on the planet. If you let them into your life, people will tweet you, poke you, IM you, like or unlike you, and insist you watch yet another video of a cat playing the piano (God I hate poking and Lord, I hate cats)! I have several thousand friends on Facebook, hundreds of followers on Twitter, yet I probably couldn’t pick any of my neighbours out of a police line up.
In our busy world technology has managed to bring us all together globally yet separate us more regionally, which brings me back to the telephone.
I’m not old enough to have lived through the heyday of the party line, when telephones were the audio version of Facebook and everybody in your area would be part of your conversation. However, I am old enough to remember the days when our phones were only indoors. To use the rotary structure you had to be tethered to the base unit, which itself was tethered to the wall (assuming you didn’t have a unit that was already on the wall).
And if it rang, you usually made an effort to get to it quickly. You didn’t have only a few rings before the call vanished into some magical device that collected the information in a chronological order. If the caller was persistent, they could let your phone ring until the cows came home.
Today, we have call-display, call-waiting, call-answering and a plethora of other services that allow us to determine if a caller at any given time is worthy of getting to the next level of importance on your personal relationship hierarchy. Meanwhile, you sit on the other end wondering if you’re going to get an answering machine at two rings, four rings or five rings, all the while mentally auditioning the message you might leave as you wait for the beep, like a nervous track runner who’s afraid of the sound of a starter’s pistol.
And speaking of auditioning, for some there is even another hoop to jump through. Not only will some folks read their call display before they answer the phone. There are those who will let you start your message, determine the quality of your call and jump in to pick up the phone before you finish. Yes, the dreaded answering machine screeners, technology’s answer to the burning question, “gee, I’m too poor to have an actual underling gatekeeper, but I’m still important enough to need one.”
While there is no need to pounce on the phone when it rings like a potential prom date waiting to be asked out, I do see a need to perhaps pick up the pace a little bit. Because, as our population ages and you become the senior citizen who has to take a lot of time to get to the phone, if you add to that the time for your aged eyes to focus on the call display, eons will have gone by. And, if the person calling you is also getting up there in years, perhaps by the time you answer, they might have forgotten who you are and why they called.
That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.