Something there is, in me at least, that doesn’t love a despot. Sometimes I feel as though I’m in a constant state of revolt–against government overreaching, against church traditions, against societal expectations, and authority of all kinds. Technology is normally my stalwart ally in my quest to understand life on my own terms. I shudder to think back on those dark ages before the internet did come forth to share the glory of Wikipedia and Lolcats with an ignorant and barbaric people. But as The Twilight Zone, Frankenstein, and numerous other works of science fiction have pointed out, technology is not always benevolent or even benign. While it doesn’t make much sense to say that anything lacking a soul can be evil, inanimate objects can be burdensome or even–dare I say–downright importunate. Case in point: the telephone.
She smiles because she does not yet understand.
Now I realize that my antipathy for Mr. Bell’s invention probably puts me in a class of crazy all my own. I am unbothered, for my grievance is righteous. I don’t deny that telephones can be useful and, at times, very necessary tools for communication. However, is there not something a bit presumptuous about a telephone call? Perhaps for some people the ringing of the phone represents the affection of a far-off loved one or the tidings of eagerly awaited news. But for me, an introvert with the soul of a true curmudgeon, that dastardly ring hails the demands of a person who would have me pause the very special episode of Boy Meets World that I happen to be watching so that I can be enthralled by his/her dulcet tones. You see, implicit in the use of the telephone as a means of conversing is the assumption on the caller’s part that what (s)he has to say is more important than whatever it is I am presently doing. Sometimes this is true, but those times are rare. Few people trump the magic of Corey and Topanga.
Voicemail really does little to address the injustice. For one, I’ve probably already missed crucial bits of dialogue between Eric and Mr. Feeney while being first distracted by the ringing of the phone and then further distracted by my intense annoyance at being distracted by the ringing of the phone. While yes, I can rewind (I have a dvr; I don’t live in a cave), it totally breaks the flow of the narrative. For two, voicemail puts me in the uncomfortable position of having to become that most imperious of creatures–a telephone-call-initiator. It seems when people call you and leave a message they often expect for you to call them back. But I’m a Christian, and I rarely repay evil for evil unless the villains super deserve it, so often the calls go unanswered–for the sake of principle, doncha know. Surprisingly, my status as a conscientious objector to telephone calling does not shield me from charges of rudeness and psychosis. It’s almost too much to be borne. This must be what people mean when they talk about oppression.
What can you do about this? You can do as all civilized people should–use email. It’s elegant and egalitarian. The sender writes at a time that is convenient for him and the receiver reads the message and answers when it is convenient for her. (Do you see the excellence of this invention?–Gimli, the Indiana Jones ride) Email is the great equalizer. In addition, the written word could also prove quite helpful for people who get terribly bored listening to others talk (if only there were a way to aurally skim in real time…) or for those who tend to curse rather inappropriately at random intervals in conversation, which can cause great consternation among grandmothers and republicans alike. To the doubters: foot-in-mouth disease is a real thing, and it is very sad. So for the attention span-deprived, the inarticulate, the lazy, the verbally spastic, the misanthropic, for the outcasts that God loves even if you do not, please remember that email is your friend. And that the telephone should be used solely for life-and-death emergencies and also sometimes for Fruit Ninja.