Sunday, October 3, 2010

137 years of subjugation coming to an end

In the 1870s, two inventors Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell both independently designed devices that could transmit speech electrically (the telephone). Both men rushed their respective designs to the patent office within hours of each other, Alexander Graham Bell patented his telephone first. Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell entered into a famous legal battle over the invention of the telephone, which Bell won.

Alexander Graham Bell's notebook entry of 10 March 1876 describes his successful experiment with the telephone. Speaking through the instrument to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, in the next room, Bell utters these famous first words, "Mr. Watson -- come here -- I want to see you."


This is a record of the first command issued through the telephone. The second command was "Pick up the damn phone!"

Since that time, approximately 137 years, humans have been enslaved by the telephone 'leash'. Think about it.

Employers expect to be able to contact their team at all times of the day and night.

Family gets angry if they can't get hold of you by telephone.

Boyfriends get angry if you don't answer your cell phone. "I think you're lying." they snarl when you insist the phone was left in the car.

People leave angry messages in your mailbox "Oh sure, on your message machine again! You never pick up the damn phone."

Pick up the damn phone. It's become idomatic. Pick up the damn phone.

Generations of teens sat glued to the telephone, the long curly cords running around the house down the hall and into their rooms.

Wives were leashed by their new cell phones, able to call hubby with any and all questions - "Shall it be red salsa or green?"

Ring Ring Ring. Aren't you going to answer that? Why no, darling. I'm going to let it ring. In fact, I'm going to unplug it. Horrors.

Advertisers love to call during dinner. You've won a cruise to the Bahamas! Of course, you have to fly down there to get it hahahaha. Bill collectors love to call during sex. Take this survey, win some steak knives - during your bath.

And to further suck your time into it's long black cord, the new message services - listening to Jenny (or Mable or Gertrude) patiently go through levels and levels of recorded messages before you can hear the one meant for you.

I lost a good boyfriend because of the telephone. He wanted to use it 11 times a day. I thought maybe once a day was enough. He thought my not answering the phone meant I was having lunch hour sex with the local Citizen of the Year. I explained I had simply left it in the car - but he said I was lying.

The night I disconnected my Telus answering service started like many others. I came home to find 10 messages - it took 20 minutes to go through the recorded menus and hear the messages. Half of them were angry - because I had not picked up the damn phone, because they had to leave a message.

Now, if I don't pick up the phone, it's because I'm not home. Or maybe I'm busy. Call back.

But the most wonderful thing is starting to happen. More and more people are texting (no bullying ringringring, just a polite "I need to say something, will you please read when you have time?" ) and emailing (and facebooking and twittering) - what does this all mean for me and you?

It means we can connect with each other on our own time, when we have time, to give each other the attention we deserve. It means we have a record of the conversation too which helps make sure we don't forget.

Here's to the end of the telephone. Hooray for connectivity.

So email me ok? I don't pick up the phone.

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