Beyond Bell’s Imagination

I called an out-of-town friend on the phone.  Although I had a matter of some importance to ask him, we had not had an opportunity to chat in nearly a year, so I thought some small talk to start with would be good.  After the usual cordial greeting exchanges, I followed with the old standby question: “How’s the weather?”

“Hold on a sec,” he replied.  I could hear some maneuvering of the phone and a few clicking sounds.  In a moment he’s back. “Where?”

“Where?” I repeated with a bit of astonishment.

“Yeah, the weather where?”

“Well, where you are, of course.”

“Okay…hold on.”

I began to wonder if my phone call had interrupted him from something of greater urgency.  I said I’d call him back if he were busy.  He assured me he was not doing much of anything that morning.  “Got it,” he stated with pride.  “Seventy-two degrees, cloudy, winds southeast at five to ten, sixty-percent chance of rain.”

What was that…Weather at 6?  He sure didn’t get that looking out the window.  He admitted he got that info from his phone.  That and radar blips of raindrops headed his way.  My phone is not smart.  It has no I nor G in its name.  His phone can tell him what time it is anywhere in the world.  My phone doesn’t know what day it is.

Where is this electronic age taking us?  Phones now give up real time prices for precious metal, stocks, grain, corn, beef and corned beef.  If you bought some pork bellies, there’s an app that rates counseling services.  There’s an app for everything.   I even saw one advertised to download a level.  Yeah, like 4 inches of flat side on your phone can accurately bubble an 8-foot beam.

Phones are so complex now.  Sue has a cellphone.  It has more icons on its 4-inch screen than I have on my 24-inch desktop monitor.  I tried to make a call from her phone the other day.  I touched an icon that looked like a keypad.  Wow, that calculator had log tables and I’m not talking about a rustic cabin.  I guess I’m too old for such complexity.  Give me simplicity.  Whatever happened to the party line?

Okay, so I don’t really want to bring back the party-line phone system.  Although, it was kinda fun sometimes to listen in.  It’s intriguing to me, though, how people used to object to a snoopy second party listening in on a conversation, yet now the norm is to talk on the phone in large crowds!  Of course, no one is listening in.  Everyone is talking on their own phones.  I went by a gal recently who was jumping up and down, waving and excitedly yelling into her phone.  “Hey, Jayne…I’m over here.”  Beats me why she didn’t just hang up and walk over to Jayne.

Anyway, back to the touch-screen, multi-tasking, widi wini wici-ipedia, telephone.  It’s hardly what Alexander Graham Bell patented.  He just figured a better way than two tin cans and a string.  His phone was an instant hit for the town gossips.  It was readily accepted as an efficient means of information sharing and personal conversations.

It was personal.  People went “in the other room” just to keep it private.  Now?  When a cell ring tones, some people don’t even excuse themselves from people around them.  They just quick-draw it from their belt holster and begin a much-too-public conversation.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve answered someone in the back seat of my car when they weren’t talking to me.  Hmmm, now that I think about it, there have been many times I’ve answered people talking on a cellphone who I knew weren’t talking to me.  Even strangers.  Okay, especially strangers.

As I have walked through the mall and a stranger’s cell is answered next to me, I’ve asked, “Is that for me?  I’m expecting a call.”  Or, “If that’s my wife, I’m not here.”  I get a lot of weird looks.  Actually,  it’s more like a glare than a weird glance.  But, who cares.  It’s one of my distorted delights that the cellphone era has provided me.

Ah, but distorted pleasures aside, I have concerns, too.  I’m not so sure all this technology is a good thing.  After all, when I call a friend and ask, “How are you?” I don’t want them to check their 8G horoscope.  Worse yet is what might be coming.  By the 10th Generation, they won’t be just SmartPhones — they will be BrainiacCells.  Imagine someone responding to an off-hand inquiry of their health by doing a sweeping body scan with their NthGenius then faxing you an MRI.

And, I am definitely not ready to call someone to say,  “Wish you were here,” and then hear them say,  “Beam me up, Scotty!”

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