Skirting conversing with cellular convenience

Blackberry or a black brick bearing the “Nokia,” we never leave home without them.

Kelsey Kudak

You take a small device out of your pocket and open its face. Noting the time, you begin punching a few numbers into it and then a little green button called “send.” Your intention buzzes along imaginary lines and through the air and you begin to hear a certain purring in your ear.

Then, generally after thirty seconds or so a chirpy, female voice enlightens you with this information: “You have reached 6 (pause) ñ 5 (pause) ñ 1 (pause)Ö” and so on. Either this or the automation tells you, “The voice mailbox of the person you were trying to reach is full. Please call back later and try again.” Chances are, an hour later when you decide to call back, your pal’s voicemail will still be full because he or she has hasn’t bothered to empty it.

The other option one has, of course, is to listen to your friend’s singing telegram of “Banana Pancakes” or professional rendition of, “Name and number after the beep.” We hear these petitions nearly every time we use our cell phones. But need I remind you these devices were created for the convenience of communication?

Now, either I have friends who are avoiding me, or we’re rocking the same boat. I’d like to think it’s the latter of my two options. Even grandma is impossible to track down when she plays bridge three times a week, drives her olive Avalon to cousins’ piano recitals and spends the winter months traveling the country and Mexico. Mom and Dad seem to be the only reliable ones, and answer after a few rings if it’s past eight. They patiently listen to your daily woes because their landline doesn’t have a “silent” function or caller ID. Well, they probably love you, too. The fact is while we live in a place filled with the bells and whistles of convenient technology, we’re becoming poor communicators.

I realize we are frequently in class or at the office and it is rather discourteous to run outside and answer the vibrating cellular device in our pockets. But I also realize this is an exhausted tactic. After listening to a voicemail, how frequently do we decide to call when we have that extra hour to play catch-up with a friend who lives on another coast? But how often do we fill those “extra hours” without realizing we’ve done so until our friend calls the following morning and leaves a second voicemail? But, at this point we are already en route to our daily pursuits and it would do no good to call back. So we continue to play phone tag, generally with two or three people at a time.

The idea behind a cell phone is to make ourselves accessible at all times. If these devices are connected to our hips and we feel “naked” without them, why are we less available than we ever have been?

AT&T reported that 75 percent of business phone calls are not completed upon the first attempt. Microsoft now presents “10 Tips for Effective Voice-mail Messages,” providing the individual with methods to generate a faster response. We are no longer hearing how to present ourselves with a proper handshake, but how to dance within a two-minute time slot after a beep.

On the other end of the spectrum, we are forced to rely upon e-mail and text messages, subjecting ourselves to a world of typed print and awful smiley faces created from colons and parentheses. Our conversations, instead, appear on glowing screens and eliminate the need to involve the human voice at all. We simply read our messages and take minimal seconds deciding whether its importance deserves a timely response. The clicking of our cell’s keyboard and its jingled reply replace laughter and voice inflection. Considering this, it makes me wonder what would happen if our automated secretaries were eliminated entirely.

This is an obviously outlandish request. But consider the change that would emerge without our convenient voicemail systems picking up our slack. Our attention would be more apt to consider the individual who is causing, “The Final Countdown” to play little too loudly in your physics class. While I’m not promoting this interruption take you into the hall to hear from Mom, I think we can all play a little less tag.

Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected]