Home » General » With apologies to Alexander Graham Bell

With apologies to Alexander Graham Bell

I’ve never much cared for the telephone. I’ve always found it rather intrusive and annoying, an interrupter of solitude. It has no consideration for whatever I might be in the middle of. I don’t usually look forward to calls, either making or receiving them. I will frequently let the answering machine or voice mail field a call if I am even mildly occupied, and will definitely never answer if I don’t recognize the number – salesman, ninety percent of the time.

Fact is, I usually consider talking on the phone a waste of time unless there is a particular purpose for the call. I don’t like chit-chat, it does nothing for me but bore me to death. Friends have grumbled at times that I don’t call them. I stopped having a landline several years ago, and reluctantly have a cell phone mainly for emergencies and other absolute necessities (it is hard to function in modern life without a phone number). I am not tethered to my cell phone like most people nowadays – you won’t catch me on it in a store, subjecting everyone around me to the one-sided blathering of my otherwise private conversation, and I would never use it while being cashed out. People don’t like it when clerks do this to them, so what makes them think clerks are any different? It’s rude, on either side of the transaction. It’s treating the other person like they’re not important enough to merit your brief attention.

Is phone-aversion an introvert thing? Do most people perk up at the sound of a ringing telephone, at the mysterious allure and potential of the unknown call? Judging by the smart-phone and texting addiction of  the younger generation, I’d have to say “yes,” absolutely. Constant contact is king.

I can understand extroverts loving the telephone, since they crave contact and being social.  I see people at work who spend their entire break talking on their cell phones, while I usually spend mine reading. These same people are on the phone the minute their shift is over, and they also usually arrive for work talking on the phone. They surreptitiously whip out their phones during work, checking Facebook or texting.

What did people do before cell phones, I often wonder, since it seems they can’t function or feel secure unless conversing with someone 24/7? Was it only a decade ago that people had to walk around – gasp! – totally disconnected? When they couldn’t call home from the store to recite every flavor of ice cream available to see which one they should buy? Oh, and do we need milk? How much of these conversations have any meaning? Does anyone care that your favorite song just came on the radio?

Granted, cell phones come in very handy at times (like the milk query), but some people take it way too far, providing their unseen cohort with a blow-by-blow accounting of their every move. I’ve noticed that people tend to share more on the phone with the other party than they likely would were they standing right next to them. It must be the fear of silence. Silence during a phone conversation is unacceptable, whereas it is perfectly alright in person.

Why is phone silence not allowed? Might there be an insecurity about whether the other person is still there? Is it because time is money on some calls? Is it because we feel stupid holding a phone and not saying anything? Whatever the reason, I suspect it has a large part to do with my dislike of the telephone – it abhors silence and demands non-stop talking, which is pretty much my idea of hell.

2 thoughts on “With apologies to Alexander Graham Bell

  1. I agree with a lot of what you said, but not all. I also knowing you, understand why you feel such adversity to “the phone”.
    I personally believe we as a culture have rushed forward with tremendous enthusiasum for the unbelievable technology of the cell phone/smart phone, and are raising an entire generation of youth that as you say is tethered to said equiptment. I think it is responsible something for us to thoughtfully explore the ramifications of, and more importantly, for us to teach manners for, just like any other behavior our youth or society as a whole my be exhibiting. I too find it obnoxious for someone who is being paid to work and who I am at the mercy of in a checking out in a line or some other venue to be talking or texting on their phone while I am waiting. I find it impolite (call me old fashion) to not look the person in the eye, greet them and give ones full attention to the transaction, cell phone or not. I feel the introduction of this form of communication has brought with it not only a new and wonderful platform for communication, but also a host of problems that need addressing. Any new introduction of this magnitude has always required us as a society to establish new written and unwritten laws for all to abide by in order for us to successfully intergrate the new item. We have turn signals on cars, we stop at stop signs and give right of way, we ring door bells or knock and wait for entrance to a place not our own, smoking is no longer allowed in public areas where non smoker gather, one generally writes a thank you note for a gift, one generally waits for another to finish talking before answering, most of us wait in line without cutting in, all established forms of protical for us to get along with one another. The use of the cell phone, to me, requires the the use of the same principles. We need some “polite” and exceptable guidelines for its use. Ringer on silence in a meeting, not using it (other than an emergency) at work, not chatting on it while sharing time with another, not allowing their use during school hours or studing, not speaking loudly on it in a crowd etc… That said, I find my iPhone/smart phone a tool of emence wonder. The things I am able to do, to look up, to find out, to discover are quite limitless. It’s resources are astounding! With societal guidlines for politeness we can all live in peace with our new found wonder and call to get that quart of milk from the grocery store!

  2. Hi Deirdre, thanks for your comments. I guess my concern is that many people probably know their cell-phone usage is rude or wrong (especially at work), but they can’t help themselves. It’s like a child who can’t resist playing with their new toy at the dinner table. I suppose it may be the newness of the technology. It’s quite possible that people will eventually find it all annoying, just like me!

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