Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, May 08, 2005

But I Did Leave a Message

Hey, I’m getting old, but I think my distancing from anything approaching success has enabled me to maintain a fairly progressive mindset, and I hate to sound like your typical grousing those-were-the-days middle aged fart with the old-days-were-better diatribe…

But here goes.

Cell phones are cool enough. Handy when you’re out on the road, lost or broken down or just a bit bored. I never put much stock in the phone conversation as any meaningful type of exchange, but there are certain productivity related advantages to such availability that even I will employ, when I remember to turn the damn thing on anyway.

The X’ers and the Millenium generation, they have these things growing out of their ears. Wending one’s way through traffic is all the more difficult as housewives in 3 ton Suburban Assault Vehicles have their already limited field of vision reduced by the side they hold the phone up to. Being in public means listening to one inane walkie-talkie conversation after another. Standing in line gets a little more frustrating as the server tries to decipher the pantomime of the person ahead you, who’s describing to someone, somewhere the intricacies of some no doubt critical to the survival of humanity task that needs to be carried out by some other.

All these things are part of the price we are to pay for such connectivity and productivity, and there is little one can do about such incidental rudeness. This is the final blow to sociability, as our garage door opener society has a procedure now for members to insulate themselves in what was the last sphere of personal contact, the marketplace.

That’s progress an aging boomer is expected to accept, but new procedure in the “connected” world leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion. Consider this example.

Yesterday I’m running a little late for an appointment. I will always call to inform the potential customer of my tardiness. This can go a long, long way in distinguishing one’s self among one’s competitors, especially in the traditionally flaky and independent ranks of home improvement contractors. In fact, I’ve been known to sit around the corner of a particularly important appointment, reading the paper while calling in my lateness, naughty me.

Anyway, so I go to call this one. I have his and her cell numbers and the home number and a work number and a fax number because ours is a society of connections, eh? I try the home number:

beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep
beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep
beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep
beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…..eeeeeep

Click. That last part was me hanging up. We have an appointment, like, now. What’s the point of leaving a message that I’m running late if you’re not home anyway? So I try one of the cell numbers:

beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep
beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep
beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep
beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…..eeeeeep

Click. Wait.

riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing

I answer, “Hello?”

“Er, you called this phone? Why didn’t you leave a message?”

In my fantasy I reply, “Why didn’t you answer the fucking phone! Who the hell did you think was calling your house and your cell phone at precisely the time someone was winding their way through traffic and a busy schedule to meet with you?”

This happens, I would say, 75% of the time. My mother screens her calls this way, and I don’t leave a message with her either. Let me restate that; I don’t leave messages with anyone anymore unless it is in my interest to do so. If someone wants to make me listen to their phone ring 4 or 5 or 6 times while they decide whether I’m important enough to be answered, they have wasted enough of my time and can bloody well call me back to find out why I called.

The “You-can-be-beautiful-and-successful-and-thin-and-a-gourmet-cook-and-a-mom-and-thin-and-cancer-free rags suggest to busy exec types that they set aside an hour a day or whatever to answer their voice mail, because there is a lot of stress in the workplace being caused by the cell phone raised crowd’s enthusiasm for reaching for the microphone.

There’s a one in eight chance this process could go on for days. It doesn’t seem very productive; I think the cell generation has a few bugs to work out.

In the meantime, my message is this:

2 Comments:

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Bullock said...

"I DON'T LEAVE MESSAGES ANYMORE UNLESS IT IS IN MY INTEREST TO DO SO." Didn't mean to leave the cap lock on, but, there it is in a nutshell."My interest" means different things to different people.
When Sony Walkman players were the rage, if you wanted to communicate with someone, you had to pantomine or physically touch the person to get their attention.Same thing with computer gaming.In the old days, it was the radio or TV that blocked communication.
We all have to put up with rude and self-serving people every day and, as long as their not in my face or ear, I tune 'em out.If they have the potential to provide me a paycheck, I will assimilate and accomodate them for a designated ration of bullshit. And, when that quota is fulfilled, I shut the "communication" process down. I live and work around 17 million people and you have to learn to do that.Tell people you do business with how you communicate up front and there is less hassle.
It's too easy to get angry and join the ranks of the disaffected.

 
At 1:05 PM, Blogger JD said...

(from the other end) My attitude is generally "If it isn't important enough to leave a message then it isn't important enough for me to call you back."

But that's more just an excuse to not call people back. If they get mad I can always say "oh, you called? Must have had my phone off."

The savvy amoung us know that if a phone is "off" or "out of range" than the line doesn't ring, it goes right to voice mail. If no message is left, there's no record of a call being made (called ID only works if the phone receives the call). Even if the person knows this, they usually have don't have enough assurdness in the technology to confront my lie.

Wow, a lot goes into that...

 

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