Remember the humble home phone? Attached to the wall on a short curly wire? If it rang, and no-one was home, no-one knew. It was a little like if a tree falls in the forest….
When our home phone rang, I would run from whichever corner in the house to answer it. It was so exciting to discover someone, anyone, on the other end. Then, instead of the phone standing on the table, unable to move, long cords appeared. It was so hollywood, speaking on the phone, actually walking around. Heaven.
The answering service, so highly technical at the time. Setting it up with the message, pressing the button to hear the captured voices hopeful for a return call.
Now? No home phone, or answering service in most homes. Now we have the mighty mobile. Ever present. Ever in one’s hand, in one’s bag, running out of battery at times when if it does, you’re fucked up a stream without a paddle. Travelling in the country, no reception for miles. Standing on a hill, phone raised above ones head, waving to the sky, hoping a helping hand will magically send a signal. Driving back to civilisation, only to find your phone going crazy, beep, beep, beep, beep. People have left messages. No credit to retrieve them. Fuck.
I have friends who get terribly upset if you do not answer their call. They think that if they ring and you are not available, you’re ignoring them. It’s frustrating. You might be on a call. You may have your phone on silent cause you’re doing yoga, taking a bath, reading a book, actually talking to people face to face. Having lunch. Doing an audition. In a job interview. At work ( not me, well not often anyway). One may be on a long walk, sans phone. God forbid one actually leaves their mobile phone at home. No, it’s meant to be permanently glued to your hand and your ear, ever present for all and sundry. God forbid if you have actually taken a call and the mobile goes to message. Now one has to apologise for being on ones phone.
One friend spends the first five minutes on my call back grilling me as to why I didn’t answer. There’s paranoia in her voice. She infers, you must have known it was me, and ignored the call. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I was on the fucking phone, or I was trying to drown myself in the bath and decided to leave the phone behind for my child to sell or to use.
I refuse to be one of those people that answer their phones at a table and then sit there yelling into the receiver, making all those at the table listen to a one way conversation. So rude and so very boring. Get up, leave the table, have your extra interesting conversation ( cause you’re so fucking important), elsewhere, while those at the table, not on their phones, can continue their conversations in real time.
I got into trouble the other day because , ‘You never answer your phone.’ Yes I do. I do answer my phone. However I do not answer my phone when driving, bathing, having a nervous breakdown,in a meeting, at a table ( unless it’s my daughter,agent or lover), sleeping, swimming ( I haven’t taken it with me),in the middle of the bush, making love ( it’s been a while, so not really valid), on a crowded bus, or train, or in a car, at the movies, in the theatre, talking with friends who actually need my attention, grabbing time with my daughter, standing on my head hoping for inspiration, doing a university assignment, writing. In fact I now turn my phone off when I’m working ( at home you understand ), because I have one friend who can tell when I’m actually on a roll,and without fail she calls and the magic is gone. I have another friend who calls to tell me her problems with lovers. It’s endless, and always the same conversation, different men maybe, but always , always the same problem. Got to admit, even if I’m free I sometimes don’t answer, just need my own energy rather than allowing it to be drained into a bottomless black well. I have another very lonely friend who calls and says exactly the same thing endlessly, while I feel my blood drain from my face, my blood pressure rising, sweat breaking out on my forehead.
Sometimes, in this case, I feel like I’m incarcerated, even though I’m only on the phone, but getting to hang up is almost impossible. So no, now I do not answer her calls, I need to preserve what little energy I have left.
So just to recap. Mobile phones are convenient. They are not our masters. Lets try and remember life before them. We called, no-one was there. We had to wait. Then the answering service. We left messages and waited. Now we call and it goes to message. That just means the person is busy. They are not ignoring YOU. They are busy. Busy breaking apart. Busy breathing air. Busy fucking, cooking, reading, working, driving, or indeed dying. Leave a message. They’ll get back to you. Or better yet, don’t leave a message. They’ll see missed call and call you back.
The other day standing smoking on the street ( soon to be outlawed no doubt), every person I watched had their mobiles to their ears. It looked stupid. Are we all that important we can’t wait? I am considering taking mine swimming with me. That should do the trick.