Thursday, September 24, 2009

Can I Put You On Hold... Forever?

You would think that with all the methods of communication at our disposal, the task of communicating would be easier. I think it's gotten harder.

I can remember in the 1960s, when our phone was on a party line. If it was for us, we got a ring. But the person who had our line could get on and complain that we were tying up the phone. I remember this happening as late as 1970. "You kids shouldn't be on for more than fifteen minutes, you hear me?" Yes, ma'am.

We certainly didn't have second lines at home. Ever try to talk to someone who has call waiting? "Oh, excuse me, but I've just GOT to take this call." Why? It seems there's always someone in the world who's more important than you are.

I have call waiting. It came with the package, what can I tell ya? I get those kinds of calls too. Ninety-five percent of the time, I ignore them. You know why? Because I'm talking to someone else already, you big dummy! And you're going to have to wait like someone who wasn't raised in a damn barn. Only rarely do I interrupt, and that's for a genuine emergency. And by that, I mean matters of life or death. But for most of us, an "emergency" is when we're talking to Barbie, and Susie is on the other line, and we've been trying to reach her for a good ten or fifteen minutes about whether she's bringing potato salad or cole slaw to the PTA picnic. God knows it takes at least thirty minutes for her to call back. So Barbie's just going to have to wait to finish telling us why her husband just left her for his secretary for Cancun after cleaning out the bank account. Barbie's a big girl. She can stay right on that ledge and hold off on jumping ten stories until we can call back.

You can forget about continuing a friendship with someone across the country who has to act like they're in such demand. And they've ALWAYS got a perfectly good excuse. And you are a self-indulgent pig not to entertain their multi-tasking prowess.

We want more out of our ability to communicate, but our own minds cannot handle the deluge. We cut corners with our civility, and we make people feel worthless. Misunderstandings occur when we assume that talking on a phone, or the cryptic abbreviations known as text messaging, are the same as a real conversation. The more we try to take in for the sake of understanding, the more we miss. And we lose a piece of our humanity when we do.

All the means in the world to send a message means nothing, because our ability to listen didn't keep up with the technology. It all happened faster than we could find the next Emily Post to tell us what was okay or not okay. So we're on our own. How are we... hey, I've got another call. Gotta go.

No comments: