Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Flubs and Phone Phobias

"It is my heart-warmed and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage (every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth), may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss, except the inventor of the telephone."
                                   -- Mark Twain's Christmas greeting for 1890 (that is him in that year you see on the left).

I sort of share his feelings

I have always hated the telephone, except for a few years very early on when I had not yet grasped what the confounded machine was. When I was born, the telephone wasn't all that old, just 65, which was less an age than I am now. It was even newer when Mr. Clemens gave his greeting in 1890, since Bell had, much to my chagrin, invented the auditory torture device in 1876. In fact, Alexander Graham Bell had only been in his grave 19 years when I departed my mother's womb. 

You know the telephone wasn't so universal when I was born. In 1937 only 32% of America households even had one. I couldn't find the statistic for 1941, but venture to guess it was still in the minority. We were members of that minority of unfortunate souls; that is, the proud possessors of a phone. (Nowadays I feel people do not so much possess a phone as it possesses them.)

The phone was a different animal when I was a child.  The number wasn't hard to remember,
because it was only three digits long. You could only dial a limited number of others, those who shared your party line. The party line was an interesting, if ofttimes, annoying convenience. It was a shared thing, but not always as fun as a party. You might want to make a call, but find the line tied up by another, whose conversation you could hear, by the way. The whole idea hinged on the trust system that you would not eavesdrop upn your neighbor, quite the test of human nature. Each party had their own ring, because any call rang the line, so you had to know when to pick up. Users were requested to keep their calls short. 

If you wanted to call somebody beyond your own party line you first called up a Telephone Operator, pretty exclusively a woman, and ask for the person you wished to connect with. The Operator sat at a switch board and by plugging this wire in one hole or other could get you on line with whom you wished, if the party you wish had a phone. These Operators plugged away at the Telephone Exchange, which was located on Green Street in Downingtown. From what I remember it was a square white building that looked pretty much like a house. (I believe the left photo is that same white building on Green as it looks today.)

Sometime in the mid-'fifties, as the direct dialing system was developed, we got a new number with an exchange name. This was more to memorize and was made up of two letters and five numbers. The two letters were an abbreviation of an exchange name. Remember the old movie BUtterfield 8? That would have been written as BU 8. I don't remember our first such number in Downingtown, but I do remember what it was when I was a teenager in Bucktown -- HO 9-6862. The HO stood for Homestead. Later of course, they dropped the letters all together and it became 469-6862 and finally they added Area Codes, so it was 215 469-4862. (For Pete's sake don't go calling that number. I don't know if it is still in service, but if it is, it isn't my number and I have no idea whose it would be, but I know they don't want to hear from you!) There were still telephone operators and they were still operating out of that Telephone Exchange on Green Street even when you could dial direct to people here, there and everywhere. You could call on them now to obtain a number or for help in connections.

All the history aside, I simply have always hated talking on the telephone. If you want to
contact me use email or Facebook, but don't expect me to spend a lot of time chatting with you on the phone. I don't even answer the phone if I don't recognize the name or if the Caller ID says Unavailable, Unknown or Number Only. I figure if it is someone who really needs to speak to me they will leave a voice message and I will call back, unless they are selling something, begging for money or a politician. There may be some irony here given that the mother of the woman I married was a long time employee and Supervisor for Bell Telephone. The picture on the right is my mother-in-law with her Switchboard crew taken in 1952. She is the lady standing on the far left.

Now if I disliked the wired-in land-line telephone, I really hated the Cell Phone. There are a group of people (almost all men, but not completely) that I call the destroyers of modern civilization, which might be the subject of a future post. One of the foremost of these devils is Marty Cooper, invented of the Cell Phone. I don't know why any sane person wants to be connected to the world at all times and every place. I have no use for this tether on my freedom.

I lie. I have one use, emergencies. That is the right good purpose of this device. I do have a Cell Phone, as does my wife. She carries hers in her purse and I don't think she has ever used it. I keep mine in the car. I have used it on occasion, like calling AAA because I got a dead battery or the power company when we have no electric nor land-line. I don't wander about in the supermarket with it to my ear asking what brand of cream cheese the wife wants me to pick up while running down other shoppers with my cart.

I have a perfectly fine Nokia Flip Phone for my purposes.

And just recently I had a purpose and this is where the flubs come in to our conversation.

My friend, Ronald Tipton (pictured here nearby about to depart, took a 10 day vacation trip to Los Angeles and he asked me to take him to and from the airport and his home. I drove him up from Southern Delaware to the Philadelphia Airport on the Monday he left with no instances.

I had a few concerns about picking him up, though. His return flight was scheduled to land at PHL 6:03 AM on January 21. There was a blizzard also flying across country, but it wasn't schedule to begin putting down until Friday evening, so my concerns weren't with the weather.

One concern was oversleeping. I am an early riser so I probably should have been all right, but still, I had to be up by at least 5:00 AM in order to do the necessary morning chores and then leave by 5:45. Depending on traffic, it takes normally 20 to 30 minutes to drive up I-95 from here to the airport. Of course if there is road construction or an accident it can take much longer, even hours. But there wasn't any road construction, a small miracle in itself, and although there was more traffic than justified so early, it was not all that heavy. And by this last comment you can assume I did not oversleep.

I had told Ronald I would try to be there around 6:15 so as to give him time to get from the plane to the pickup area. He had told me to pick him up at the outside pickup area of Terminal C. He had also told me to be sure I turned my Cell Phone on, since he knew I always kept it off.

I decided the night before I better check my phone, make sure the battery was charged and make sure it was the right number I had sent him.

That's right, I wasn't sure of my number. As stated somewhere in this treatise I told you I had a Cell Phone and my Wife had one, too. They were both Noika Flip-phones and looked exactly alike. I had put our numbers in my directory, but I had a suspicion I had somehow switched who had which phone. The numbers do not show up anywhere on our phones, and the service provider will not give out that information for security reasons. I know; I tried.

The battery was good.

I then called my land-line and that rang, so I knew the phone was working and I knew how to make a call. Now to check the number. I went on the Land-Line and called the number I had written down as mine. It rang once then a voice announced that the call could not be completed. I tried again, because obviously I am insane and thought doing the same thing over would have a different result. It didn't.

I then tried calling the number I had down as being my wife's. I assumed I had switched our phones. This time it rang a few times before voice mail picked up, but the phone in my hand did not ring. On top of that, the voice mail was a male voice. Oops, I must have misdialed. I tried again, naturally and the same result, of course.

I fiddled about trying each phone back and forth, confusing myself even more and getting nowhere. Finally I called the provider to ask, plead, beg for help, not only frantic that I be able to communicate with Ron the next day, but also that I had tried several times and gotten that poor joker's voice mail, on which I recorded a pathetic apology explaining my total inepitute. I thought this guy will think I'm stalking him.

The provider answered with that automated menu of push a one, etc. I selected help when it's number came up and then it told me how the representatives were busy with others and it could be 15 minutes of holding on and hearing lame music, but if I wished I could leave a number and they would return my call. I could even put in the time to call back, and so I did.

Then the solution I should have thought of to start with came to me. If I call my Land-Line the Caller ID will show my number. Well, I picked a phone and dialed the number for my wife and lo and behold, this time the Land-Line rang. The ID number matched what I had written for hers. Joy, of joy, one phone identified and I set it off to the side.

I then tried the other and once more got the message that it could not be completed. Huh? I looked at the Caller Id and bingo, I had written down the wrong number. I had copied down an 8 that should have been a 6 and when I tried it again with the 6, success. I knew my phone, problem solved.

And just then the provider called to help me. I apologized for taking up their time, but I did make a comment about getting this dude's voice mail when I had been dialing my wife's number earlier. He didn't ask if my wife perhaps had a secret, but he did ask if I was a recent customer. No, we have been customers for a good while. 

"Oh," he says, "did you change the message when you first got the phone."

Duh! Never crossed my mind. Whoever had the number before had set the voice mail message. I wasn't harassing anyone, except myself or my wife. That came as a relief actually, even though I felt stupid.

Anyway, I was now prepared to get Ron and the next morning having awaken on time I stepped out into the frosty air to leave when it dawned on me in was not dawn yet. It was dark out, very dark indeed, pitch black dark. I dislike driving in night anymore, I'm old you know, and I especially dislike it when driving somewhere in such anywhere I am not overly familiar with and the airport can be a bit daunting.

Exiting I-95 at the airport ramp I was careful to get in the Arrival Drive, but then I came to a Y in the road and saw no sign saying, "Passenger Pickup". I saw one saying "Garages" pointing right and thought the pickups were by the garages and so I went right. Terminal A garage, Treminal B garage; there came Terminal C garage, and there goes Terminal C garage. I passed every garage they had, but there were no passenger pickup spots and now I was leaving the airport wondering where I would be able to turn around and get back.

I turned left and this took me through the rental car lots and onto a ramp apparently headed back to I-95, but then another guiding light, "To Philadelphia International" and I was once more soon back on the Arrival Drive. This time at that Y I went left and yes there were pickup points.

I pulled in at the island at Terminal C and waited. Ironically, despite
trying to be later, I arrived at exactly 6:03. I got out of my car and paced the platform a bit, sometimes staring over to the Baggage Claim exits. No Ronald. I got back in the car and looked up at yet another sign. It read, "Loading and Unloading". It also said, "Handicap Only". Suddenly I recalled there was this blue line by my car. 


I had to move to another spot. 

I called Ron's iPhone number and who should answer...Voice Mail. Great. It is now about 20 minutes after and where is he.  I get out and paced a bit. I get back in and called and once again it was Voice Mail. "Yeah," I muttered in my mind, "he tells me to be sure to turn on my Cell Phone, but he didn't tell himself. Now what do I do?"

I did what I could, I sat there. My phone rings, but I don't hear at first and when I do it stops ringing.  I pull it from my pocket and flip it open. Yes, it is Ron's number listed as Missed Call. Fortunately, he calls me back and we do eventually hook up and all ends well and with that I will stop rambling on.

But I do hate the telephone.

1 comment:

Ron said...

You go the message on my cell phone because I was in the air and my cell phone was turned off as requested by the airline while we are in the air. We have to put in the "Airplane Mode" so it doesn't interfere with their communications.
I for one think the cell phone is one of the greatest and life saving inventions of mankind and I wouldn't be without mine. Anyone who doesn't have a cell phone with them when they are traveling is foolish, taking a chance of not being able to get in touch with someone in an emergency like I did when I fell and tore my left leg muscle. If I didn't have my cell phone to call 911 I probably would have died of hyperthermia during the night while waiting for someone from the hotel to arrive the next morning To ride or walk around with your cell phone off is just foolish, in my humble opinion. What are you proving? That you don't like the phones?

I don't like land lines but I keep one for, you guessed it, emergencies when the cell phone towers are down because of a disaster.

Thank you but no, I'll keep my cell phone even though when for the short time when I am in a plane I have the phone in Airplane Mode and temporarily inaccessible. Works for me.