Disbelievable!

The suspension of disbelief, so Aristotle says, is that theatrical principle which allows the audience to accept fiction as reality and fully experience the moments. I’ve always thought it should be the suspension of belief because what’s so hard about not not believing. Fiction by definition is that which is not real (though not necessarily unreal, at least as of the mid-1960s), or as Lawrence Block so well put it, “telling lies for fun and profit.” But I guess if you’re willing to shell out the money to have someone lie to you, whether at a play or through a novel, you’ve already surrendered at least some of your beliefs. To give up disbelief is the willingness not to stand up in the middle of Act III shouting “Oh come on now!”

Of course the author has some responsibility to make it not absurdly unbelievable except perhaps in a good farce. I thought of this while watching television the other night. It was a new age television drama that is supposed to reflect life itself. But I’ve seen this particular problem is lesser dramas, comedies, and even movies of the theatrical release type. That is the vibrating cell phone.

I am willing to disbelieve when our hero shoots it out with 5 or 6 bad guys all outfitter with automatic weapons against his pistol compact enough to slip into his tuxedo breast pocket. I can disbelieve with the best of them that someday man will fly faster than the speed of light. It even doesn’t stretch my discredibility that a fresh faced girl from Kansas can move to New York and beat out the actresses who have trained since they were 4 for the lead in the new Broadway musical winning a recording contract, and a Tony, in the process.

CellPhoneBuzzingBut I cannot disbelieve close to enough that everybody on TV and in the movies can hear their phones on vibrate from 2 rooms away. Seriously.

Seriously, is it only the programs I watch and the movies I go to that even the actors take the notice when we are instructed to mute our pagers, phones, and other electronic devices?

Maybe in the movies I can see the director being paranoid that if he or she were to call for a real ringtone too many audience members would reach for their phones and miss whatever nuance is playing out in the screen as we watch the character carefully traverse the rooms to the buzzing handset. I guess on the television shows a ringing phone would distract us to the point of missing the next commercial. Although I might be tempted to go looking for my phone thinking a) nobody in the show has a phone on them and b) holy crap, where did my phone get to?!

So I’m willing to not disbelieve in ghosts that run roughshod over New York, to take on non-unfaith that mild mannered bartenders double as CIA operatives, and to really buy that a computer can inhabit the body and soul of a foreign exchange student. But…

If anybody out there is working on a screenplay, please keep in mind that the suspension of disbelief goes only so far. And it stops at the end of my cell phone.

Bzzzzz bzzzzz

 

 

 

Never Can Say Goodbye

As we get close to saying goodbye to 2016 I have discovered that we suck at saying goodbye.

In this last month of the year I spent a lot of time on the phone. I had to pick a new insurance and because it is a milestone change I used a broker. I have a car due for service and inspection. I was in the hospital, a couple of times, so I got a couple of “Hi! How are we doing?” calls, and I had to make a couple of rounds of followup doctor appointments. And it was the holidays so I had to check in with some folks to see how they were doing. So, when otherwise I might use my phone primarily as an alarm clock to not miss any of the several doctor appointments throughout the year, this month I used it as an actual communication device.

And thus discovered that we suck at  saying goodbye.

All the calls started out right. And calls with people who actually know my first name as opposed to those reading it from a computer screen were mostly able to successfully end a call. But the others. Oh, the others. It was like the final dress rehearsal for the bad movie scene in every bad movie where two people try to go through a doorway at the same time. After you. No. After you. No, no. After you.

It seems that those who have been trained to make appointments had training stopped somewhere before “Thank you for calling. Have a nice day. Good bye.”  Instead it goes more like this.

“You’re all set. Is there anything else I can do?”

“No, thank you. Good bye.”

“Well, thank you. And don’t forget to bring your insurance card.”

“Right. Good bye.”

“And please arrive 15 minutes early.

“Got it. Good bye.”

“Well then, you are all set. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No thanks. Good bye.”

Thank you for calling. If you need to cancel, change, or…”

–click–

See you next year. Probably 15 minutes early. Good bye.

That’s what I think. Really. How ’bout you?

 

 

 

Making a Connection

Have you seen that commercial where everybody does everything with their phones? Check bank balance, pick airline seat, buy donut, trade stock, start car. Do anything as long as you never ever don’t have your phone in your hand. That commercial. Or was that real life I saw that?

Yesterday I did something I hadn’t done for ages. I stopped at the bar yesterday. Not too long ago it would have been a rare day when I couldn’t say I stop at the bar yesterday. Nowadays it’s an event. I think it came from being in the hospital for 7 months. They don’t let you drink there and if there should ever be a place where drinking is mandatory it’s the hospital. Instead they turned me into someone who can say that now when I go to a bar it’s to pick up a sandwich that I ordered. And this place has killer sandwiches! But that’s a different story.

Anyway, I got there before my sandwich was ready so I sat and had a drink, joining the dozen or so people similarly spending their mid-afternoon. I noted that there were 14 other people there and 11 of them had phones in their hands. Eight were actively typing, tapping, or swiping. The other three were, I suppose, on standby.

You know how ubiquitous cell phones are but when you see it clustered in one spot it really hits you. Just a couple of years ago if there were 14 people sitting in a bar some afternoon there would have been a couple conversations, a few people checking out the TVs hanging from the corners, somebody at the jukebox, and perhaps a card game. Today I saw 8 people more connected with somebodies not there than there. And three on standby.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. Whether they were talking among themselves or conversing electronically I still would have been there just waiting for my sandwich. Still killer. Thank God some things don’t change.

That’s what I think. Really. How ‘bout you?

Life Needs a Soundtrack

Do you know a problem with real reality? There are no clues to what’s coming next. Life needs a soundtrack.

Watch any movie or television show, even the so-called “reality” shows, and you see that they all have musical accompaniment. It’s quite clear when someone or something is to be happy, sad, humorous, suspenseful, romantic, mysterious, thrilling, or chilling. Just about the only time the background is silent is when the director intends for extreme drama. Even commercials have background music. Everything from auto insurance to male erectile dysfunction therapy has an associated tune. Why can’t we.

It sounded like a good idea when it popped into my head. Heaven knows there’s enough music up there. I’m always mentally humming a tune, a jingle, a theme. How hard would it be for that to be amplified and spill out around me so I know for sure what mood I’m in – not to mention everyone else who might be in the area?

It’s hard enough to get through a day without being misunderstood. Think of all the relationships that could be saved if there was a full orchestra ready to turn despair to hope, hope to thought, and thought to action. Imagine the peace people could experience if daily routines were spiced up with a bluesy southern anthem or smoothed out by a soft jazz composition. Think of your daily commute to the tune of a driving chorus instead of the tune of blaring horns and mufflers in need of repair.

If you really want to explore this idea, can we consider making life a musical? On second thought, I don’t know if I can handle a sudden eruption of song and dance while standing in line at the deli counter. “You’re the ham that I want. Ooo, ooo, ooo honey,” doesn’t run trippingly off the tongue even if you are looking for that tasty lunchmeat. No, just a soft background perhaps of Dave Matthews Band’s Pig song.

Like I said, it sounded like a good idea when it popped into my head.

That’s what I think. Really. How ‘bout you?

Textiquette

These aren’t novel observations. In fact, She noted much of this several years ago when cell phone use just exploded. To make a long story short, we need more phone use etiquette, particularly when texting. To make a short story a blog post, read on.

What people weren’t listening to just a little while ago is now hitting morning radio, Internet sites, news fillers, and feature stories. Everybody has their own pet peeve that semms to have finally reached the last straw. Now that it is happening to them, they want somebody to do something.

Some of the annoyances people are tired of include:

People who don’t answer their phones but then text back a “what’s up?”
People who don’t answer their phone but will answer a text.
People who call and if you don’t answer leave a voice mail and then text the same message.
People who call to tell you that they just sent a text.
People who can’t end a text and/or have to get in the last word.
Texts so long they require scrolling.

They don’t seem like much but they are getting lots of ink as we used to say in the old days. But then, in the old days most of this would have been covered under the general heading of good manners.

Odd, nobody mentioned texting at the dinner table.

That’s what I think. Really, How ’bout you?
hbdLB

Feel free to ignore this greeting. Our menu options have not changed.

It seems to us that every time you call a bank, an insurance company, some retail store, the local ballet company, your drugstore, your spouse’s work, your work, anybody’s work, or even your kid’s school you are greeted with, “Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed.”  Really?  And when was that change anyway?  We’ve been calling the same numbers for years and they all connect to the same recording that starts every call with “Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed.

We don’t remember what the choices were from yesterday so how are we to know if they really did change today.  The only thing that we are sure of is that the option we really want – to speak with a human being – isn’t one of the options!  Never is.  We’re certain that it used to be.  We’re pretty sure the last choice was always, “Otherwise, please press zero or hold on for an operator.”  That one used to get you to a human.  It said so right in the description – hold on for an operator.  Now it’s code for “Press zero and we’ll hang up on you.”  And there used to be one that said, “If you are calling from a rotary phone, please hold on.”  That got you a real person also.  Did you ever hold on even though you were calling from a push button phone?  They couldn’t tell.  Could they?

We think we know what the problem is.  There are too many choices.  People are probably clogging up customer service lines with complaints about that company’s automated line saying there wasn’t a choice for their problem when there might have been.  But because there are menus within menus within still other menus, sometimes finding the right choice isn’t a reasonable option.  So we’re proposing our own universal auto-attendant menu that any company can use.

 

–Thank you for calling the First National Insurance Company of Discount Ticket Sellers and Drug Store

–If you want to check a balance, make a payment, transfer funds, request a quote, refill a prescription, get our mailing address, get our e-mail address, access your most recent statement, access older statements, buy a travel mug with our logo on it, order tickets for a sporting event, concert, live theater event, movie, ballet, upcoming auto, home, garden, flower, RV or boat show, commend an employee, or file a complaint, hang up and go to our web-site and take care of business there.  If you’re willing to do it by phone you’ll do fine with it on-line.  With the proliferation of tablets, mobile sites and apps, you don’t even need a real computer to take care of business on line.  You can stay put on your couch, access our site during the commercial, do whatever you want to do, and never miss any of your show.  If you don’t have a tablet you can use a smart phone but the screen is a little small.  Don’t complain to us if you hit a wrong virtual button on a cell phone screen.  Now really, we’re well into the twenty-first century and you don’t have a tablet?  Next you’ll claim to still have a rotary phone.

–All other callers please hold on and listen to our commercial for easy to use personal tablets.

 

There you have it.  It has only two choices and it even works with rotary phones.  And it’s guaranteed not to need changing.  Ever.  Or until somebody invents something more convenient than cell phones or personal tablets.

Now that’s what we think. Really. How ‘bout you.

Can you hear me…

The greatest invention of the nineteenth century might well have been the telephone.  From nothing when the first commercial line was strung in 1877 to 48,000 subscribers some ten years later, the telephone may have had the greatest initial impact on American households alongside the regular provision of electricity. 

Some one hundred years later the telephone really hadn’t changed much.  Commercial wireless handsets were becoming more popular in the home and telephone calls no longer meant being tied to the boxes with the dials or buttons where it hung on walls or perched on tables.  Freedom to walk around the house came with only the restriction not to wander too far from the base unit.  It could have be then that telephones started taking on a more positive role among our families.

The phone had always been more positive than negative.  It allowed us to speak with relatives who lived across town, state, and country.  It allowed us to check on our homework answers.  It allowed us to check on friends not feeling well and family who just added another member to the family.  But there were still specific reasons to use the telephone. 

Although relatively economical to maintain local service, local usually meant very local.  Long distance and metropolitan services could be quite expensive.  And phone calls were still often an intrusion into our lives.  They usually came while we were eating, watching TV, playing a board game with our parents and siblings, or out back tossing baseballs, footballs, falling off sleds or pulling weeds depending on the season.  Other than when we were pulling weeds, most of the time the calls came when we really didn’t want to be interrupted. 

Although it might have been more intrusion than necessity, the advances made in the telephone were remarkable.  The twentieth century saw direct dialing, multiple extensions at a single number rather than multiple households on a single line, picture phone, push buttons, memory dialing, built in answering machines, and the first truly portable communication devices – the mobile phone.  Yes, the greatest invention of the twentieth century might well have been the telephone.

Now another thirty years have gone by and we all have a phone attached to our hips or in special pockets in our purses.  We no longer look at the phone as a service or a utility as much as we look at it as an essential that we’d not leave the house without.  We’ve both done it.  Before we leave the house we do our ritual check – wallet, keys, watch, and phone.

We don’t just talk on our phones, we send messages by voice, text, e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook.  We play games on them and with them.  We watch short clip videos on YouTube and streaming videos of live sporting events.  We flip a switch and some satellite finds us and we get turn by turn directions from them.  We maintain our contacts so seamlessly that if someone asks for a phone number for someone we call or text many times a day, we have to look it up.  We don’t know it because we never “dial” it.  We speak the person’s name into the microphone or tap the person’s picture on the screen to be connected.  We no longer have to clip coupons or write shopping lists.  It’s literally at our fingertips.  We aren’t sure but it seems very much like Star Trek.  But if we aren’t sure it’s ok because we can search for and watch episodes of vintage television on our anything by vintage telephones.

Quite an accomplishment for an instrument that at the turn of the century was still fairly impressive to see and use.  When even as portable a phone as it was, it was really just a portable phone.  And in less than a decade it has become as ubiquitous as flies at a picnic.  And as diverse as being able to be the instrument used to look up insect repellant for back yards.  Even though we’re only a little more than a tenth of the way through, the greatest invention of the twenty-first century might well will be the telephone.

Now, that’s what we think.  Really.  How ‘bout you?