ColdFusion Muse

Ode to the Phone - the Digital Alpha Device

Mark Kruger January 20, 2006 7:39 PM Humor and Life Comments (2)

Ah... the telephone. These days folks think "rotary dial" is some kind of communal soap - but in the old days the phone was a true information revolution. It was a wonderful thing. If your house was on fire you could get there in time to see the roof cave in. Your empty nest parents could "reach out and touch you" at dinner time or in the movie theater. In college it was a life line to your dad's wallet. My how things have changed...

One thing hasn't changed but should - the phone still gets the same respect that it did when it was a luxury item. Tell me if you've had this experience. You are waiting in line at a local retail outlet trying to buy your new pair of plaid pants and the sales person is adding up your charges and folding your pants - being careful not to wrinkle the bell bottoms - when suddenly the phone rings. Now here you are a living, breathing customer right in front of him or her (if it's a "her" she's snickering about the pants, if it's "him" he's thinking "cool" unless he's just seen "Broke Back Mountain" - in which case he's thinking about shoes). Anyway, the salesperson picks up the phone, and pays attention to the caller.... "why yes, we have those in stock... no I don't think they come in sable orange... yes, the shoes are guaranteed for 2 hours... thanks..." Tell me, why does the guy on the phone get his attention when here you are right in his (or her) field of vision?

The phone is like the alpha device of cyber space. It demands attention. We MUST make it important!! Half the phone calls I get are from the phone company about my phone or my phone service.

Lady:     "Don't you want to save 12 cents a minute on long distance?"
Mark:    "What I want is to finish my egg salad"
Lady:    "You mean you would rather spend more money on long distance?"
Mark:     "Look ... I uh... I have a kitchen fire and the dog is eating poop again... I have to go...:

The phone companies seem to think that we all sit around examining our phone bill in sackcloth and ashes. Given the choice between talking on the phone to a sales person and getting my eye poked out with an ice pick - I am taking the ice pick.

Not that it is entirely the fault of the phone company. It seems like I have surrounded myself with so many infernal gadgets I'm never out of somebody’s reach! "Reach out and touch someone" has become a euphemism for huge umbilical cord that wraps from you to whoever needs you at the moment. And if it's not the phone it's the little "ding" sound that tells me I have email - actually I changed mine to a clip from Monty Python's "Search for the Holy Grail". Mine says "message for you sir". My office phone rings to my cell phone, my cell phone rings to my home phone which sometimes rings back to my office phone. This leads to the unfortunate situation of little electronic signals chasing me all over Omaha. I can just see the packets now - like a heard of charging water buffalo... "he's not here boys - back to the office!"

It is getting to where the ringing of the phone causes me to cringe. If you are a code junky like me you know that you need long blocks of concentrated hours to get anything serious done. Sometimes I just ignore the phone. When I do, the messages go to voice mail - which is emailed as a wave file to me ("message for you sir"). I feel like Balin in the mines of Moria - "...we cannot get out.... they are coming..."

Most phone conversations are like spam anyway - useless little sidetracks into the wasteland of my mind - phone-spam! Let's call it "spham". What I really need is a Bayesian filter for spham. I could train it using recordings of different tones of voice. Then it could cut people off if they were truly spham. Urgent messages from a customer about a server going down would get through, but a customer who is anxious about changing the font on his never-seen-by-human-eyes "about us" page would go to voice mail. Messages from my crafty son Aaron about the plugged toilet or broken garbage disposal would get through - while messages from him about how he broke his zipper in Science class while trying to discover the properties of denim would not.

Of course I would need a white list. All message from my lovely wife Ann would get through. Some of them are spham, but I'd hate to have to tell here that:) Messages from my mother would also need to get through - even though she repeatedly sends me the same jokes as my brother-in-law - who may not merit a white list - although he brings the drinks to our holiday parties.... so maybe... Whoops.. there's the phone, got to go..

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  • Phillip Senn's Gravatar
    Posted By
    Phillip Senn | 1/21/06 12:21 PM
    That's because the phone rings a loud obnoxious ring and demands attention. A time management expert once asked his audience to give him an example of an urgency. "The telephone" said a few people in unison.
    "Well, of course the telephone" he responded. "Give me something else."
    In the old days when we had only 1 phone for the entire house, whenever it would ring we would jump up and race for the phone. Can you imagine jumping out of your seat and racing for anything else?
    The advent of the answering machine has given us control of our lives once again. Now we can screen our callers (with caller ID as well) and decide who we want to talk to, when.
  • shane j montgomery's Gravatar
    Posted By
    shane j montgomery | 1/24/06 4:10 PM
    Hilarious post Mark. One thing I've noticed is how humans are regressing. First there was the telephone. Where I can talk to you instantly. Then there was online chat... ok cool, but still, the telephone is more efficient. And now, given our fingers fit, we text message. On tiny little screens we send messages to eachother to communicate. Wasn't the telephone the end all?

    I apoligize if the above made no sense. As an effort to curb caffeine for the 500th time I didn't drink any today.

    Good post as always Mark