Sunday, October 5, 2008

Is Nothing Sacred?

They fired the Time Lady! She was always there for me, through the good times and the hard times. Well mainly the hard times. She was always there for me in those lonely moments when you need a friend. The other woman. I know the rules didn't allow her to converse and I think her integrity, always following the rules, is one of the things that made her so easy to confide in. Day after day she sat there doing what must have been a boring job, reciting the hour, minute and ten second intervals and pushing the beep button while people pour their hearts out to her; keeping rigidly on her game while a tidal wave of lonliness and despair poured into her ears. I know there was more than one Time Lady; there must have been hundreds. They raised families, paid their bills, lived, died and went through sorrows and troubled times of their own but like Real Americans they did their jobs and never complained.

But now Big Telephone is taking the meat-axe to some more of its helpless and always loyal employees. You would have expected that they would have replaced the Time Lady with an outsourced Indian Time Lady who could be hired at a fraction of the cost. I could take my time info with some exoticly-accented babe from the steamy subcontinent and add a little Massala to my midnight depression but NO! The Capitalists have decided that their quarterly bonuses are more important than my petty concerns and dramas and have ended the service entirely. They have hired some GUY! A DUDE who rudely informs me that I should 'redial' and check if this is the right number. The right number? Do you think i'd forget HER number? EVER? Its as though the Time Lady has gotten a jealous boyfriend who now begrudges her Time to her legions of admirers and confidants. I hate his smug self-satisfied voice, as though she was laying there glowing with contentment urging him to come back to bed.

I guess I should have seen this coming. I've become more and more intimidated by the whole nature of telephones as time has gone by. It started in the old days, when the single family telephone was at the end of a two-foot cord and strategically placed in the living room so that you had to shout over 'Victory At Sea' or 'Rawhide', sharing your business with your hated family and drawing shouts of "keep it down!". Then came plastic phones and extensions with long cords so you could call up actual girls and have embarrassing conversations with them that your brothers couldn't hear and participate in. I didn't mind when the familiar dial became a keypad of buttons and that wonderful clicking noise as the dial returned to its start position became a thing of the past.

Then the phone started to attack! Phone solicitors would call. They didn't have to stick to a time script but in fact treated any attempt to become friends with contempt and hang-ups. Gee, you called me fella. How come we only get to talk about the things you want to talk about?
I mean, c'mon, you don't really expect me to actually do business with somebody who won't give me their phone number or address? So since we both know that you're working for a bunch of crooks lets comisserate and... click. What a cold and heartless world. I dropped what I was doing and ran to the phone hoping that at last the world had realized its mistake and was going to shower love and acceptance on me and it turns out that its just some jerk who gets mad when I refuse to be ripped off.

Then it got worse. I was handed a cell-phone and a thick book explaining to me how to use it. I don't know who wrote that book, probably the same guy who wrote the ones I got with my leaf-blower and my digital camera, the styles are similar but I'll tell you there was certainly a whole lot of passion and emotion lacking in the bare, stark lists of instructions that it seems I'm now obliged to memorize for some reason or be forced to the thin edges of society, never texting or e-mailing photographs that I just took with my phone to all and sundry. This punk didn't want to lure you into the joys of modern phoning; he was just some frustrated Prussian drillmaster-type beating the correct sequences of steps into the ignorant clods who are desperately trying to understand the mysteries of modern telephony and stay relevant. Plenty of 'how' but not a word about 'why'.

To those of us who have courted alienation and reveled in our isolation this new spy in our pockets is a constant threat. You have to be ready every time the little aluminum colored cockroach decides to buzz. I have a stick shift. I cant drive and talk at the same time, its physically impossible. Anyway, nine out of ten times I dont want to talk to anybody but my neurotic obsession that the call that will change my life is about to be made forces me to answer.

But she'll never call. I'll never hear every ten seconds how much she loves me. I'll never get to explain my hopes and longings to her metallic but loving tones any more. The world is a little bit less livable and I know who to blame...George W Bush. He Lied.

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