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Rated: E · Essay · Opinion · #1288929
Just because it occurred to me.
by D. R. Prescott

Don't you just love the way we use one of those great human inventions, the telephone?

It started out simple enough. The phone rang; you answered it or did not. Or, you rang up someone; they answered or did not. Those were the good old days. Unfortunately, I fear that those blissful days are gone forever, replaced by technologically-induced mutations of human beings into communibots, a new word just invented here.

Watch where a lot of people gather and I’ll bet that very few minutes go by before someone walks past appearing to be talking to themselves with a space-age device in their ear or snuggling a cell phone. Within a few more minutes, you might see someone feverishly punching buttons on their telephone in an unbridled choreography of texting madness. The forlorn looks are the most depressing, most likely their batteries died or, worse, they forgot or lost their cell phones. While we have been an energy-dependent society for some time, it is relatively recently that we have added telephone-dependency to the growing list of our crutches needed to get through daily life.

Don’t you just hate people who hide behind answering devices and insidious menus obviously designed to create extreme tension, even hysteria? These systems claim to be user-friendly, even more efficient. I suggest that they are neither, especially from a customer's point of view. Customer service over the telephone is not for the faint-hearted.

Here are a few specific downsides to telephone usage that may strike a nerve or two:

1. Don't tell me that “my call is important!” If it were, you'd answer the blasted phone in the first place.

2. Here's one I love to hate. You are asked to make a selection from a menu. You know that pressing zero sometimes gets you a live person on the other end. That is increasingly less likely as systems become more sophisticated, more de-humanized. Chances are that you’ll face multiple menus and dizzying numbers of selections to discover that talking to a real person is only possible if you are willing to remain on hold another 20, 30 minutes or longer.

3. People who always screen their calls are irksome, especially when you know they are available to answer. They ought to let specific people know that they don't want to talk to them. The *82 systems are a bit more honest but they too are borderline insulting.

4. "Let me transfer you...” That sends a shiver up any unsuspecting spinal column. Before you can stop them, another line is ringing. The odds are that (and you might want to place money on this) you'll get an answering machine, voice mail, no answer, be put on hold, transferred to a pager or face a another complicated menu intended to drive you absolutely crazy. Don't tease me and shove me off into telephone never-never land.

5. There are always the automated telemarketing messages to light up your life. Live telemarketers are bad enough but, at least, you can tell them to go pound sand and request to be put on their "don't call" list, for whatever good that does. Automated messages should be completely outlawed, particularly from politicians!

6. Here's one that drives me crazy. A live body answers and instantly says, "May I put you on hold?" or "Can you hold?” and, without waiting for my permission, sends me into hold limbo. When the word 'can' is used in place of “may”, they are not asking permission; they know they can; so, they do. Hang up and fix them! (Wait… would that be self-flagellation? I called them, right?) I wonder if there is a medal or world record for the fastest "on hold" person alive? The winner surely causes the most cardiac arrests in the least amount of time.

7. Have you ever noticed how many people raise their voices several octaves, apparently to make cell phones work better, especially in restaurants? Obviously, their brains and vocal chords are affected by too much RF. We need a device that you could point and send a piercing, eye-popping screech through their cell phone after which you finish your meal in peace as the offender runs screaming from the restaurant.

8. What is happening to the language as a result of texting? It might be argued that texting may increase eye-hand coordination but are we becoming monosyllabic? Are abbreviations like LOL, BTW, U R and the like improving or destroying our ability to use language? Hey, does using these short forms give us the ability to think faster, then again, probably too much to hope.

9. Obvious signs of cell phone addiction surround us. Glassy-eyed people talking, gaming, shopping or texting stumble around apparently oblivious of their surroundings. The odds are that lost addicts take their cell phones into the bathroom and to bed with them.

10. After passing laws to ban hands-on cell phone usage while driving, you still see people with cell phones smashed against their ears, missing turns, hesitating at streetlights, crossing over lines and generally becoming nuisances or, worse, hazards. Glassy-eyed drivers operating several thousand pounds of plastic and steel might not be a good combination.

All is fair in ‘telephone tackle!’ There are no hard and fast rules but remember to avoid bodily injury in spite of fist-clenching anger, frustration and unwanted physiological responses. The telephone has truly transformed our society. Yet, a powerful influence like this might lead us to places we don’t want to go. There are people who suggest that, without the telephone, we would not be where we are today. On the other hand, where will this growing, unremitting need (apparently equivalent to this generations’ thumb and blanket) taking us?

Are we destined to commune electronically 27/7? Is the next step a surgical implant at birth, completing our transition to communibots? Can you picture a generation of people working as professional Hold Analysts, Telephone Etiquette Consultants, Dropped-call Therapists, or Cellular Implant Surgeons? Wonder what a Star-82 Technician might make? Would there be cool uniforms and benefits?

Excuse me; I have a call to make.
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