b Papa Dog's Blog: Cellular Telephony

Papa Dog's Blog

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Friday, March 11, 2005

Cellular Telephony

For reasons I’m sure I was carefully briefed on but which escape me now, we recently got new cell phones. I suppose what it came down to was either that Nokia sucked or T-Mobile rocked, or perhaps some subtle combination of the two, but the upshot is that I now have a whole new cell phone manual to keep in my briefcase and intend to look at someday. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but when I was a youngster, telephones were a lot less involved. Did you know that “dialling” a number was once meant literally? Also, they used to inhabit a fixed and defined space, the result of design that harboured a presumption of permanence. The living room phone would have a very short cord anchored to a little box in the moulding; the kitchen phone would have a cradle built right into the wall. If you wanted to wander idly from room to room while you talked, you had to get really long extension cords and expose the entire house to tripping, choking, and whiplash hazards as the cord tangled around in your wake. I remember when I first moved to Berkeley in 1985, the three-story house where I lived had a phone on the middle floor with an absurdly long spiral cord. If a person on the second floor answered and the call was for someone on the ground floor, they’d just dangle the handset down the stairwell. The cord was always clumped and tangled and made me deeply unhappy, but I just stayed quiet and seethed about it because I had problems with confrontation in those days.

But – what? – oh, yeah, the cell phones. Almost forgot what I was talking about. Our old phones were purchased a couplefew years ago now and were modest and unassuming models at the time because, frankly, I didn’t want to have one in the first place. I resisted all upselling because I planned to use it only when absolutely necessary. I said as much to the Nokia salesman and he smirked and said, “That’s what they all say. You’re gonna use it all the time.” I know now what I should have said; I should have said, “Yeah? Well a couplefew years from now, I’m doing to ditch this for a T-Mobile thing! So there!” Instead, I stayed silent and seethed, not because I have a problem with confrontation, but because I just wanted to buy a cheap phone and get out of there. I’m happy to report that I have in the interim only used the phone when I absolutely had to. The only person who’s ever had the number is Mama Dog.* My outgoing voicemail message said, “Hi, (Mama Dog), please leave a message. If you’re not (Mama Dog), then you’ve got the wrong number, so please don’t leave a message.” People calling the wrong number still left messages. Drove me nuts. One guy kept leaving long detailed messages for his son, always prefacing and/or epiloguing with “I’m not sure if this is you’re number, Sean, but…” I finally changed the outgoing message to say: “If you’re the guy who keeps calling for Sean, for god’s sake, get a clue – this is not his number! Please stop leaving messages here!” That did the trick.

Anyway, the T-Mobile phones, which arrived in the post a few days ago and which we’ve spent the last day or two slowly figuring out how to use, are a good deal more complicated than the Nokiae. For one thing, Mama Dog got me a phone that has a digital camera. Why did she do that? No idea. I never asked for one, and have to admit that I’m a little baffled by the whole phone-with-a-camera concept. Whose idea was that? Why do we want to take pictures with telephones? What’s wrong with taking pictures with cameras and making phone calls on telephones? Why isn’t anybody developing a camera with a phone in it? Do you suppose that when he was first conceiving of the telephone in bucolic Brantford Ontario, noted Scots-Canadian Alexander Graham Bell paused in his imaginings to observe, “Och, transmittin soond tae hyne awa areas by means o electrical seegnals is ah pretty guid idea, but ye ken whit wad mak it really guid? Picturs! Aye, an mebbe Solitaire!”** No, I don’t think so either, but I have to admit these stupid modern day doodads have helped me keep in touch with my family through the longass work day in a way I could scarcely have imagined back when I was dangling phone cords down stairwells. Mama Dog has had a digital camera at home for a while now, so she doesn’t need a telephone to send me pictures of Baby Dog, but today I was able to send home a shot of myself at my desk and remind them that I exist. At lunch time, I took a very silly but carefully arranged picture of my lunchtime tableau—Stauffer’s Grilled chicken with pasta, a coke, and my book held open to its current page with a Cody’s bookmark. It’s idiotic, I know, and I’m inching perilously close to that smug Nokia salesman’s prediction, but for a few minutes it made it seem I was just a little closer to home.
*And Gran, when she was up at the time of Baby Dog’s birth. Emergency necessity.

**Translate here if you can’t follow that.


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