Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Saturday in the Park

I think it was the fourth of July...

It's definitely not the 4th of July, it's late March in Tejas, and a lovely, sunny, cool Saturday morning and I'm... Stuck in a damn cubicle farm workin' for Da Man.

Saturdays, I have to tell the gang to get on the phone and call as many people as they can, which I'm kinda torn in doing - Granted, these are our clients, and we do need to talk to them, but... It's Saturday, man! I know how I feel when somebody calls me with some business B.S. on the weekend - To quote the bad guy from Beverly Hills Cop, "I do not want to hear it."

Ah well, it's status quo these days, and personally, I believe that the root of this new evil is - The Cell Phone - And The Fax, The Internet, and The Email are following closely on The Cell Phone's heels.

No, I'm not nuts, I'm serious, y'all. Now, I'm not that old, but I'm old enough to remember dial telephones, (Don't laugh, there's a large slice of our population who don't get why we call it 'Dailing' the telephone). I also remember that exchanges had names, (I grew up at EMerson9-2781), and that you couldn't place any long distance call without an operator, and long distance meant 'Anything outside the town in which you live'. At the ranch, we were on a party line, which meant in addition to the basics of calling and answering, children had to be schooled in the fact that others could be and probably were listening to every word, so one always had to be very careful of what one said. There was no such thing as an answering machine.

So what? You ask - Things are much better now, communications are much enhanced! Bullshit, say I - The level of social decorum, common sense, and courtesy have been significantly eroded by the Information Age. Think about it - Nowadays, not only can anybody get hold of you anywhere and anytime, they expect to be able to do so, and if they can't they take it as a personal affront, a snub, a putdown, a slam... Here's the comparison - In the old days, you'd run into somebody and they'd say, "Hey, I called you the other day..." And you'd respond, "Oh, what was up?" "Nothing, just was gonna see if you wanted to go out." Nowadays, the same friend sidles up, and, first thing, right outta the chute says, "Hey man, I called you and left messages at home, at your office, on your cell, and your beeper, I emailed your blackberry, your home and your work, and, I sent a fax to home and your office - Are you freakin' ignorin' me, Dude - I was trying to get you hooked up with my NCAA pool, man?!" Option A or Option B - Which do you prefer?

I know, I know - I use all that stuff, and I like it. My cell phone takes pictures and movies, accesses the internet, and has solitaire on it, and I kinda like that. Hell, I wouldn't have a blog if it weren't for the 'net. Answering machines, call waiting, and caller ID are extrememly helpful in avoiding those people and institutions I don't want to talk to, but this expectation of instant contact is a major pain in the ass. I made the mistake in a couple of my professional pursuits of giving out my cell phone to customers and clients - Never again, I say now - In fact, I change my cell number once or twice a year - Right about the time that the first solicitation call comes through on it... It's the same with email - I download my Yahoo account to Outlook, and run several filters on it - I still get junk mail, but only 1 or 2 a day make it through all that - Last time I checked the online account, there were 500+ crap messages sitting there... Again though, I resent the implication and expectation of 24/7 instant access all this crap implies. Maybe that's because I talk on the phone all day long for a living, and have for many years now, or maybe it's just because I'm antisocial, who knows...

Do this simple yet terrifying test - Next time you're driving, count how many people around you are talking on the phone while they're driving, then work out the percentage. Here in the Dallas - Fort Worth Metroplex, according to my thorough scientific survey, it's about 65% - Two-thirds of the people driving where I am are on the phone: How many of those people drive amazingly badly? I want one of those stickers that reads, 'PLEASE HANG UP THE PHONE AND DRIVE'. I can't believe they haven't made it illegal yet, it's freakin' dangerous out there! Let's face it, the average driving American ain't the sharpest pencil in the box anyway, and when they're dividing their attention between a' talkin' and a' drivin', which of those pursuits do you think they're payin' more attention to? Obviously, their actions speak for themselves. The local P.D said that last year, talking on the phone was causal in 47% of the accidents - I think that percentage is low - I think a bunch of people need to stop lyin' about why they plowed into the rear end of the folks in front of 'em.

And don't even get me started on the new phenomenon of instant access communications, wherever you are in the world! What kind of mindless shitbird talks to people while sitting on the toilet in a public place?, (And my personal and heartfelt apology to you and yours, if you happen to be one of those mindless shitbirds...) I talk to people all day, and hear probably 2 or 3 unabashed flushes in the background each and every day... Do they think we can't hear that?! David Sedearis wrote an incredibly funny piece on this wherein his sister admitted to being on the crapper while talking to him, on a regular basis - She notes that when she really has to push, she pretends she's in the kitchen opening a jar with a particularly pesky lid, "aaaaaaaaallllmoooooost got it - Ahhh, there it goes..." Un-be-freakin'-leavable. And the folks who have the cool little wireless things in their ears, I think they call 'em Bluetooths, or Blueteeth or whatever? Those things are so expensive it's not even funny - And if they're so great, why are these assholes always yelling when they're having a conversation? I swear, two cans and a string would allow for a more discrete conversation... If I ever own a restaurant, bar, store, or any other commercial pursuit, cell phones are going to be outlawed, right along with smoking and uncontrolled children. Monica tells me of people who come in to her store, shop for half an hour, and talk on the phone the whole time: They come to the counter and check out still talking on the phone! They see something they like in the counter display and, still talking, jab an angry finger at the thing they want to see, as if to say, "What are you, stupid? I wanna see that! get it for me, now!" She ignores them until they say, "Just a sec, Gladys, this chick doesn't get it and I gotta deal with her." They pause their conversation and then tell her, annoyed, what they want to see. She smiles sweetly, glances over her shoulder in their direction and says, "What's that? Sorry, I was doing something else..." When they repeat their demand, really annoyed now, she adds, "Certainly, just as soon as you get off the damn phone and pay attention, I'll be happy to show it to you!" The ones that walk out after this she didn't want to sell to anyway.

Unbelievable, all around - This stuff has set an expectation of instant gratification and an erosion of common public courtesy that is shocking and sad to see...

I have a solution though. Now, I'm not gonna suggest antiquarian solutions like going back to a dial phone, no answering machine, etc - Like I said, I use that stuff to keep my private life private. No, what I'm thinking of is a simple little device, along the lines of the Universal TV Zapper that guy invented, so that you can shut off the Today Show on Volume 40 at the airport if you don't feel like hearing it. Only this little keychain device would deliver a mild yet powerful electric shock to any user of cell phones, Blackberries, pagers, or other annoying electronica that either, A. Tries to contact you when you don't want to hear it, or B. Is within say, 50 feet of your transmitter. That way, you can easily and seemlessly convert, "Good morning, is this the King of the castle?" to, "Good morning! is this the WHAAAAAAAAAA AGG AGGG AGGGG AGGG BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR, UHHHHHHHHHHhhhhh..."

Now, that sounds much more peaceful and harmonious, doesn't it"

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