For those of you too young to remember, comedian Lily Tomlin used to portray "Ernestine", an AT&T operator who, in a semi-orgasmic state, would remind callers that AT&T was the telephone monopoly and if they didn't like it, tough cookie. Then, the feds and the courts decided that Ma Bell had gotten a little too big for her britches and forced AT&T into the seven Bell Operating systems.
From those humble beginnings the telephone has now become the stone idol to which so many worship. We must now honk at drivers in front of us when the light turns green because the driver is texting or surfing the net or telling hubby what to pull out of the freezer for dinner. Teens can now tune out the teacher and text the latest dirt and exchange test answers to the pop quiz.
Through the magic of the cell phone our favorite rock stars and movie queens can now twitter and let us know where they are, what they are doing and, how they feel about a particular superficial issue.
My "phone-phobia" has left me a stranger in a strange land. I am certainly the only one in my Face Book circle that does not own a cell phone. Even my ancient land line becomes a fearful device as I measure the few pleasures of phoning against the disadvantages of owning one.
Last week I phoned in a medicine prescription to my pharmacy. Before I was able to get down to business I first had to listen to two full minutes of information I didn't need to hear; i.e. hours of operation, dispensing policies, the specific procedure for ordering, etc.
Still another pet peeve is calling customer service representatives for my various banking and commercial interests. Unfailingly, after plowing through my choice of language, account number, age of my children and sexual preferences, I am greeted by a customer service representative from India, China or Mexico and, compounded by a rapid decline in my hearing, I am unable to delve through a sing-song accent or rolling R's to understand a damn word their saying. I have occasionally thanked them and re-dialed the number, hoping I'll hit "three cherries" and achieve the occasional jackpot of talking to real live "A murkin".
Most disturbing of all is having to receive the telemarketing calls. The "gov", in their infinite wisdom in passing the "Do Not Call" law, provided exceptions to politicians campaigning for re-election, and charities.
I can tell you first hand that the "Do Not Call" program is not working; in this depressed economy businesses have decided to ignore the law, telemarket their product or service and worry about any fines later. When I tell the telemarketer that I'm on the "Do Not Call" list he or she is actually offended!
I said earlier that my "phone-phobia" actually compounds my problem with using the phone in the first place. For years now I have picked up the phone with the intent to call a friend or loved one, but just at that moment, I imagine they are just sitting down to dinner, captivated by an exciting episode of "Glee", or in the throes of making mad passionate love. I then place the phone back in the receiver and feel just a little angry that they are "too busy" to take my call. When I finally do call I end up getting the answering machine and am hurt that they wouldn't pick up the phone.
So I miss Ernestine a little bit. At least when AT&T controlled things it was too damned expensive to call anyone. And I miss not being able to pick up the phone, dial "O" and ask for the time, just to hear a human voice and have "no strings attached" aural contact.
Got to run now....my phone is ringing....probably the guy calling to offer me a great cell phone package!
(Note: Would love to hear your comments, good and bad; it's hard stumbling around in the dark, not knowing if your words are reverberating in the spheres of the blogosphere)