Tuesday, November 20, 2012

4G, 5G, 6G-Crunch...Smartphone Come and Me Wanna Go Home

I am far from being the master of my own technology. 

In fact, like techno-phobs before me, I watch my offspring master their devices, then when I feel ready, I ask them to teach me what they know (but in small bytes).

Frankly, I am unsure I will ever be ready for a 4G Smartphone or any type of  'tablet’ -- yet here I am, launching a blog.

When my kids were little, I wrote humor columns for several years. But just when blogging got popular, I became employed as an English teacher, so my writing was set aside.

Fortunately, after eleven years, the economy tanked and the charter schools I worked for struggled, so I have been gainfully unemployed for the last several months.  Here I am, asking my offspring to teach me to blog. 

Remarkably, it is at this juncture that I look with nostalgia at mankind’s earliest version of blogging:  the cordless telephone.  It was the first technology where ‘data’ was transmitted without the use of cords.

Oh, all right, it wasn’t.  There were other ‘wireless transmissions‘ like… oh, Aboriginal Drumming, or photography.  Maybe radio.  And television.  Likely, the walkie-talkie and the atomic bomb so let me rephrase: it was the first technology I personally used to transmit information to another person without being connected to a cord.

Today, I rarely use a traditional telephone in any historically-sanctioned way (ie: to talk to someone using my voice).  In fact, last month I got out my Fiskers shears and personally severed our landline, then cancelled the house account.

In the last ten years, I’ve communicated largely by upsetting folks with emoticon and context-free emails, and most recently, mis-texting.  I am the only person I know who labors over a text message at the rate of nine letters per minute until both thumb-calluses thump, only to receive instant and multiple phone calls with angry voices on the other end.

 “Mom, stop texting with made-up shorthand.  I mean, what does this even MEAN? Gt L rng-sx b/c 241’ ?”

“Honey, it means I got Leah running socks because the sale was two-for-one.”

All of this leads me, quite regularly, to just shut off my cellular phone.

This aberrant behavior caused me to ask myself, “Carolyn, where are your roots?” because back in my previous life, I was a proficient phone-a-holic.

I now wish to use as Oral History this blog to preserve my phoning culture:  I wish to document what it was like to use a cordless telephone, or what I consider ‘My First Real Blog.’

My First ‘Real Blog’

It was June of 1995 when my husband brought home our first cordless phone.  It was a Father’s Day gift to himself.  He was tired of getting strung up in phone cords stretched like tightrope through the house. And when someone hung up, the cord whirled back to the cradle from Recoil-Tension and smucked him in the face.

(Remember those ‘whip’ sounds you heard in Kung Fu movies when the protagonist spin-kicked the bad guy? That was a phone cord retracting.  Whooh-Whooh-Whooh, THWAP.)

I’d always insisted on a fifty-foot cord.  That way, I kept conversations going from any location AND lashed my family to shreds.

Tragically, phone cords weren’t very durable. After stretching 50 feet out to one hundred countless times per day, the receiver got choked to the cradle by a fist-sized knot.  Slinkies lived longer.
My husband added up how much money we’d spent on replacement cords.  He said it was enough to buy a bass boat.

It was actually enough to buy a cellular phone for my mini-van and a three-carat diamond waterfall ring with a concealed speaker-phone inside.

How I marveled at the hi-tech advances the telephone had made! Remember how Cro Magnon women had to speak into rocks with pinecones pressed to their ears?  I mean, why not give birth AWAKE?  Or make crust with rolling pins?

I guess the technology was pretty archaic when I was a child.  My very first telephone was a classic late 50s model, the Black Beauty 900: a sleek, formidable desk phone featuring resilient rotary dial-action and a thick, strapping shank of black cord.  You could use the receiver as a bludgeoning device and subdue cat burglars and whales.  No one needed home security systems as long as they owned a phone.

But how I loved that cordless!  Though I admit, it was disappointing when we couldn’t use it right away.  All six of us circled the phone every hour to watch the battery charge.

“Do you think it’s ready yet?” my teenager panted, flexing his dialing finger.

It took twelve hours to take a charge.  None of us slept that night.  The next morning was like Christmas Day.  I raced down the stairs to find the kids already awake, taking turns dialing Peru from the street.

“That’s MINE!” I shouted from the dining room window.  “Bring it here!”
“But we just reached the Embassy in Lima!”
“Hang UP.”

By 5:00 AM I had left a message on every answering machine I knew.

“Guess where I am?  I am standing on my DECK talking to you on a CORDLESS PHONE! Call me.”

“Hi! I am talking to you from my neighbor’s lawn tuned to frequency 8.  Pick up your phone!  You can hear Francine and Bart moaning over their baby monitor.”

After six weeks with my cordless, I received the Civilian Cord Free Phonist Award from AT&T.  This was a special honor. The level of proficiency required for the phoning arts is not widely recognized.  In fact, AT&T projected that my Cord-Free Phone Bill would reach five digits by 1996: a record for private citizens.

They also had my pushbutton dexterity studied by Swiss Geneticists. For instance, I was so adept at hitting mute, no one heard me snapping the kids with old phone cords when they made the cat ‘walk the plank’ to the pool.  Callers thought I lived alone.

And I was always the ‘fifth caller’ at WAAF, due to redial precision timing, about which the Blue Angels Stunt Jets fantasized.

And no one to this day can call-wait like I can.  I ‘click’ off one caller, speed-talk the intruder away, then return to the first call before they know I was gone.

“Yes, Mr. Hamburgh, our son required several stitches from the boulder located at the foot of your Wonder Burger slide that collided with his skull this morning.  He’s in pain, but there was no concu—“
-       b-e-e-p   -
      ‘—hi, hon – three stiches – get milk and eggs.’
“—ssion.  The Xray says he’s fine so our lawyer will not need to --  what do you MEAN your boulder is damaged?”

It was determined by the Geneticists that I possess a special chromosome.  It’s the same one that gives CPAs the power to mach-speed their fingers over adding machines without looking.  Gifted Dialists do this, too. (We’re also good with things like beer can tops.  And triggers.)

Unfortunately, we also possess an Amnesia-Gene that prevents us from knowing where we left the cordless phone.  This causes mild anxiety where we kick down doors and convulse from delirium tremens and get handcuffed and spirited by ambulance to a center for Phone Abuse.

In summer of ’95, Dr. Hattivan told me I was “in denial.”

“ADDICT!” I spat, wiping my nose with my sleeve. “I’m no addict.  I USE my phone, I’m not addicted.  Was Jane Goddall addicted to gorillas?  Was John Glenn addicted to space?  No, we are dedicated, committed professionals!  GET ME A PHONE SO I CAN … BE COMMITTED.  I want to call… for pizza.  Pick a number, any number, I want – just to touch a phone.  How about the jack?  Could you please show me a phone pole from my window bars?  Please?”

After 30 days of aversion-therapy, I hated telephones.  Each time my cordless rang, I went to answer the door.  When I finally reprogrammed myself to lift the receiver when the doorbell buzzed, most people stopped phoning completely.

And if they did phone, I was mystified by things they called to say.  “Hi!” they would say, “What are you doing?” they would say.

“Right now I am talking to you.  What do you want?”
“Nothing.  Just checkin in.  So, how ya been?”
“Fine.  Is there a reason for this call or do you like invading my privacy?”
“Uhh—oh!  I get it!  I’ve called at a ‘bad time.’ (muffled giggle)  Why don’t I just call b-a-c-k  
 “You live next door.  Why don’t you come over to visit?”
“Ummm…now?  …. Well.  Thanks anyway, but -- I’m just not that progressive.”

People changed during my rehabilitation.

Phew, you know, starting this blog with a Cordless Retrospective was therapeutic. It’s not that I’m tech-phobic because I am inept!  It is because I am in recovery!

As long as someone can jam these words onto my Pilot Blog for me, and also my daily blogs thereafter … I think I’m gonna like blogging.