October 31, 2015 § Leave a comment
The telephone brought a new urgency into communications. More than anything: a telephone rings and it has to be silenced. This is traditionally done by answering it or waiting until the caller rings off. The ringing telephone has always had priority. Do most people feel that the caller may be about to communicate something exceptional to their advantage: shares which were thought to be worthless have increased a hundredfold in value; someone is inviting them on an expense-paid holiday to Florence; they have won the literary competition they entered (most unlikely of all). Experience tells us all that the caller will say none of those things. Yet all over the world people, even though they are in company of their friends, will answer the telephone, thus giving priority to the ‘unknown’ caller.
Etiquette is a long way behind our use of the telephone. You are talking to people and their mobile phone rings. They take the call, sometimes, mid your sentence and without a word of excuse. The mobile-phone-answerers do leave their interlocutors in an awkward position: the interlocutors have to slink away, rather than listen to the call that was more important than their conversation.
It is the same too in queues. You join a queue at a reception. The telephone rings and the receptionist picks up the receiver and deals with the query. The person who rings has jumped the queue. In South Africa (or Harare), I believe, the receptionist may well answer the telephone but will then put the caller on hold and deal with those people queuing first. This more equitable system has not made its way over to England.
However, there were limits to how intrusive the ‘fixed’ telephone was able to be. The mobile phone brought ‘noise pollution’. How often are we walking in a secluded area when our peace is shattered by someone talking on her mobile phone? We have come for peace and quiet and are not going to get it. Why can people never be separated from their phones? If they are walking in the countryside, can they not be content to do just that. Can they not be without talking for forty minutes? And all those babies and dogs that once went on walks with their parents or owners, how their lives too are changed! The very time when their parents or owners could be totally devoted to them is not to be. We have all seen the buggy pusher, coffee cup in one hand (or dog lead with dog attached), buggy in the other and phone sandwiched between ear and shoulder.
Do not those babies and dogs deserve something better? Their parents or owners to be really present to them.
One can only wonder at people’s desperate need to talk, first thing in the morning too. Is there not a need for a phone ‘fast’, a national day of silence of, save in emergencies, no phone use?
And for all this talk, it isn’t as if we are listening or communicating any better.