Thursday, January 19, 2012


Oh oh Telephone Line, give me some time, I'm living in twilight
-ELO, "Telephone Line"

I don't really care for the telephone. Its a strange device which transcends all usual rules of politeness. Normally if someone walks in and stops you from whatever you're doing and demands your attention, they're either your child or terribly rude. If someone calls, interrupting what you are doing, you are rude if you don't want to talk, somehow. When someone goes on and on talking on the phone and you'd rather do something else, then you're rude for wanting to end the call and go on with your life. And if you didn't initiate the call, it's deemed rude to end the call.

When that phone rings we all jump to it to answer like some sort of Pavlovian response or a whipped slave. Ring=answer. And the old telephone ring was so jarring and obnoxious you'd answer just to shut it up. I think that's why all those odd ringtones on cell phones are so popular; just to get away from that bone-chilling claxon.

And I've already written about how annoyingly small phones have become over the years. That's fine for a cell phone but your home phone needs to be big enough you can comfortably cradle it, instead of some thing the size of a postage stamp.

But think about your average phone call. If its someone you don't care about or a conversation that isn't interesting you're usually just sitting and talking. But if the conversation is interesting, really annoying, or passionate, if you are like me, you get up and walk around. Back before you could walk around the house with a telephone, teenagers used to sit in a chair and talk, rotating around and getting into weird positions, like upside down on the chair. I suspect that still happens.

There's something about a conversation that's truly interesting that gets you wanting to move around. I never really thought about it until a few years back, but every time a call gets interesting I get up and walk from room to room. I noticed other people do that too. I wonder why that is, exactly? Is the energy so built up and passion so great you have to burn off the adrenaline or hormones somehow with motion? Is just sitting still insufficient to express your words, so you have to move?

When people are talking in person they don't get up and walk around usually, only on the telephone. Although most people gesture when they in an animated conversation, perhaps that's what you're making up for; hard to gesture while you're holding the phone.

Telephones are such an integral part of our lives, and have been for nearly a hundred years. Its difficult for me to imagine their lack in my life, even though I've regularly gone places without one. I have no cell phone, I don't even want one. When someone hands me a phone to use I have to ask how to operate the thing. So any time I travel somewhere I'm phone-less, which is how I like it. And I used to camp every so often for days at a time in the mountains were you couldn't even get a signal with your phone.

So the concept of not having a telephone around isn't completely alien to me, I just always knew I could get back to a place where there was one. For most of human existence that wasn't the case; you couldn't even mail something to others. That's just a different way of living that would take some adjustment. I know for some people, doing without a cellphone is simply inconceivable.

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