It happened right in the middle of a phone call. The phone just died. Well, honesty it had been sick for some time, but its departure was somewhat unexpected. This is a landline we’re talking about. Yes, I have an iPhone but I seldom use it. Especially for phone calls outside the family. I don’t want people calling me on what I consider a private number. That’s what the landline is for. Now, I had a call scheduled for later in the afternoon and I had to postpone it (via email—does anyone else see how strange all of this is?) until I could get a phone. Since it was the work week the soonest I could get out was Saturday—I often have evening obligations after work. So I ordered one online instead.
I was in a bit of a hurry, I’ll confess. I don’t need a lot of features. As long as it works for talking to others across a distance, I’m happy. When it arrived I realized it didn’t have an answering machine. Hadn’t thought of that. The number of people who actually call me is quite small. But if they are actual people I do like them to leave a message if I can’t get to the phone. Then I remembered that answering machines used to be sold separately. You didn’t need to have everything in one device. Our modern way of living encourages that—keep everything together. The phone in your pocket is a camera and computer and GPS all in one. And more. I’m more of a component guy.
Back when records were still a thing, my stereo was a component system. Ostensibly because some components performed better for certain functions than others did, but really because some were on sale at Lechmere’s. Nevertheless, the concept stuck. I’ll admit that the all-in-one functionality is convenient, but I also think it becomes problematic when we have to buy more than we need just to keep up with the Joneses. People are so reachable (with the exception, it seems, of many academics and contractors)—that we’re spoiled for choice. In fact, it seems that the only polite thing to do is ask others how they’d prefer to be reached. The telephone, of course, reaches into one’s private world in a way that email doesn’t. I suppose that’s why many people are careful not to give out their numbers. And if they do, we expect to be able to leave a message if they’re not home.