October 17, 2008

First Person:

Cell Phone Spits Salsa

Al Carlos Hernandez

We have call waiting at the house. My wife and I have an ongoing dialogue about it. She always clicks. I am a devout non-clicker. The grown up scion all have their own cell phones, walk around with ear pieces, and holler at their homies because we have phat family time, anytime minutes.

I’ve been issued a cell phone and have had it for several years now. It has become indispensable in my life. I can’t imagine how I ever lived without it. It would be even handier if I had new people to talk to. I have no idea how the minutes, the roaming, the free time works. One of my sons hooked up my ringer to sound like The Fania All Stars and this puts me in a good mood when I answer the Cell-Fizzy.

There was an embarrassing situation last week. The band kicked in when I was waiting for my car in a snobby high end car dealership. A rich woman there was frightened by the Timable solo. I quickly got up, slipped out the door, then smiled and raised my eyebrows at her. She looked away quickly, knowing that if I was single I would be driving her S class that afternoon.

My philosophy on call waiting is simple: if I am talking to someone, it is rude to take an incoming call with the hopes that the interrupter is someone more interesting to talk to. I let the phone beep, check the incoming number, and make them leave a message. Then I forget to call them back.

If someone beeps in on the cell, I’m stumped. It’s like when the teacher used to ask me questions in algebra class. My traditional answer being, “Your question is racially bias therefore irrelevant to my lifestyle.”

The wife’s philosophy is: What if it’s an emergency and one of the kids needs to get a hold of us? I figure that’s why we both have personal cell phones, a land line house phone, and an answering machine.

The whole thing can be quite Shakespearean in its interpersonal ramifications. To click over, or not to click over? That is the question. Whether it is nobler to stay interested in the conversation at hand, or dump the dork your jawing with, in the hopes of scoring a conversation of material value. Or then, take arms against your spouse. A no win, low tech, domestically uncomfortable situation.

Ok, it is personal too. I hate it when I’m talking to somebody and they put me on hold because they have an incoming call. If they spend more than a few seconds talking to the other party, I get heated for two reasons:

One, I am almost sure that someone more interesting is calling in, and Two, I forget what I was talking about…

There is another problem. I confess that I have earnestly tried to click over on several occasions. Unfortunately most of the time we receive a call, I don’t have my reading glasses on hand. I have hung up, cut off, and left “on hold” several hundred people.

Once I clicked and it was my brother who was calling. I was talking to a telemarketer who promised to send us to Disneyland or Denmark if we bought some magazines. My brother, who is a really interesting guy, and I talked for about 45 minutes. About 35 minutes into the conversation I heard a click noise on the line.

Apparently, the telemarketer hung on for 35 minutes waiting for me to click back.

We laughed hard about it, as only siblings can. We try to call each other during peak telemarketing times, especially when the Feds lower the interest rate, and re-fi mania hits a fever pitch.

Other attempts in clicking over has caused me to speed dial order pizzas, Chinese food, and calling my wife at work. Now I have to force myself to come up with a reason for the call, masking my inability to click over successfully. This has cost me several hundred dollars in impromptu dinner dates, just so I didn’t have to admit that I tried to click over without my glasses on again.

We live in a world where everybody seems to have their own phone number. We are always talking but nothing of substance is really said. Real communication is eye to eye, person to person. Not speakerphone to headset.

If you can’t look into their eyes, you don’t know if they are lying .

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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