Monday, December 28, 2009

Phoning It In

"Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you."
**attributed to Alexander Graham Bell as the first phone call in 1876.

"There's an app for that."
**attributed in some circles to Alexander Graham Bell (the twentieth) as the first call on the iphone.

HANK: Love-hate. Approach-avoidance. That's my relationship with my cell phone. It's--complicated. (I have a regular flip-phone. Usually the batteries are charged.) Jonathan wanted to get me an iphone for Christmas. "Yes! Wonderful!" I said. All enthusiastic about access and connections and all the general cool stuff I could do.

Then three minutes later, I changed my mind.

As much as I want a cool phone, I don't want one. I was on the elevator the other day, and the other person in the 'vator with me was on her iphone. Completely, totally focused on her phone. She didn't even flicker a look at me. The doors opened, and in walked another person, focused on HER little screen. The phone-people didn't look at each other, didn't acknowledge me. They were in phone world.

At booksignings recently, I've seen people walk into stores, oblivious. Focused
on their phones. They're not even where they are--they're in phone world. Their only reality is on the small screen.

I vote: no. Probably because I know my own weaknesses. I'd easily be right there in total phone world. And I don't wanna go. You?

ROBERTA: I did go for the iphone and I love it when I travel--no need to lug the heavy computer unless of course, I'm planning to do some writing:). My hub and I are addicted to the maps application--after that first doozy of a fight when I didn't get how to use it and we drove past our turn-off at least three times. John uses his like an ipod too, listening to podcasts and Spanish lessons while he exercises.

But I'm not a phone addict. I don't have it with me half the time and I don't feel obligated to answer every time it rings. I think that phone world thing can happen no matter what kind of instrument you use. Don't you think?

HALLIE: Is it the people or the phones? Especially I see the rudeness at the checkout counter, where the customer is doing the phone thing and not even bothering to thank or make eye contact with the clerk.

HANK: Hmm, you may have a great point there...

HALLIE: Still, if someone GAVE me one I wouldn't return it. I love being able to search for a great restaurant NEAR the street corner I'm standing on. But the value of most of the apps would escape me.

RO: I'm not a phone person so my having an Iphone would be a little like someone who hated to drive having a Maserati. I rarely call anyone and when my phone rings it's usually because my husband's phone has accidentally gone off in his backpack. I did need to replace my phone this year and it took me months to it because I don't enjoy buying new electronics.

I did own an Iphone for about 7 hours. It never left the Apple store though because it took 7 hours for the "geniuses" to erase all the mail on my minicomputer and then try to retrieve it from the "cloud" or wherever they'd sent it. (They never did, so if anyone emailed me last April and I didn't respond, it wasn't my fault.)I was there so long I saw the employee shift change. They saw a change in me too. I started out nice enough but by the time I left I'd turned into Cruella DeVil. I have a feeling some of the employees are still undergoing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Eventually I bought a Blackberry which I long as I remember to charge it and take it with me.

JAN: Well, I almost got an I-Phone for Christmas, but the AT&T store in Manhattan screwed up so badly, changing the price at the last minute, Bill walked out. ATT shut off my service, by mistake, and it took four days to get my service AND internet access on my L-G phone back The moral of this story:

Cell phones don't always make life easier. They actually take quite a bit of work in the buying and maintaining (of course I maintain FOUR of them for the family. )

Bottom line?? I got a MAC instead. And I'm totally psyched!! But I agree with Hallie, it's not the phone its the phone USER. I really hate getting calls on my cell. I always find it startling and inconvenient, so I don't encourage people to call. And its also really rude when people are texting someone else when they are with you. But sometimes texting is the most well behaved way to communicate. (ie. I tell my kids if they AREN'T coming home, to text me instead of calling. This way, IF I WAKE up to worry, I can see they are all right, but they don't wake me to let me know they are all right.)

And Hank, from one email addict to another -- I was worried I'd be checking email all the time on my cell phone -- but on the LG at least, it's okay to read, but a pain to reply, so I tend not to get into it It's strictly as NEEDED.

RHYS: I have the most basic cell phone and only use it to call John and tell him my flight just landed or I'm in hotel room number 309. He only uses his to ask if we're out of Brussels sprouts and did I pick up a newspaper.
There is one great benefit of cellphones. I have always driven around in my car to work through a scene I'm writing. I like to talk my way through it, dialog and all. In the past people would look at me as if I was crazy, driving along, talking, animated. Not any longer. They just assume I'm on the Bluetooth.
But don't you find it worrying when people walk toward you talking to themselves? I never know whether they are crazy or just on their cell phone.

HANK: Or, you try to talk to them and they can't hear you because their ears are plugged up.

RHYS: But I must confess--I have an ipod touch.

(HANK: Oops.)

RHYS: It does all the cool things that the iphone does (without the ATT involvement) I can check email, Google Maps, weather, stocks, find restaurants. The only problem is that I need the wifi hotstop. I only wanted it to play my music so I haven't yet invested in any apps, games or cool stuff. But I may download Scrabble and even virtual tennis.
HANK: Virtual tennis. Sigh.
BREAKING NEWS: Hallie's smashing best-seller NEVER TELL A LIE is now out in paperback! Cue the marching bands and majorettes...! And it's an INDIEBOUND feature.
HANK: And now--how about you all? Are you going to order Hallie's book on your iphone? Or where do you stand in the communication wars?
(Coming up this week: Toni LP Kelner! (And free books) Brad Parks! (And free books.) Thursday, something special. And Friday--looking ahead to--gulp--2010.)


  1. All these new phones scare me. If you want to be paranoid, you can imagine Big Brother watching your every move. If you want to be ridiculous, you can picture Dick Tracy and his wrist phone (anybody remember Dick Tracy? Never mind...).

    I love technology, and I wish I had invested in Google a million years ago. But I still don't know how to get pictures off my cell phone. Heck, I have trouble answering the thing, mostly because it takes me at least five rings to realize that it's a phone that's ringing (which is now an outdated term), and then that it's my phone.

  2. Yeah, when my phone is on, and it rings, I'm completely freaked out. I think that means I'm old. Whatever.

  3. A couple of months ago my cell phone died--to be exact the battery died. When I went to the electronics store I was quickly surrounded by a crowd of young male staff members who had never seen such an old phone. (I kid you not!) It was eleven years old but to them it was a dinosaur.

    It reminded me of taking my mother-in-law's orange rotary phone back to the phone company when she died. Four techs came out to look at it like it was some artifact I'd dug out of the back yard.

  4. I've just gone over to the dark side. Son saved up and got himself an Ipod Touch. Husband ordered his new mountain bike. I was feeling toy-deprived. So...NOT an Iphone, but I just ordered my first smart phone. I'm going to be traveling more this year, and I admit it--I want to be able to tweet/Facebook from a phone. Just absolute silliness, but I'm there! The coolest thing, though, is that it will have turn-by-turn voice GPS navigation--which I will NEED! Hallie, I promise NOT to use it in the checkout line--I'm with you on that. How rude/insulting is that to the check-out person.

  5. I guess I'm like Rhys and Ro. I hate the phone. I really do. I don't hate the people on the other end; I just hate being on the phone. So, I have a very low-end thing that makes calls and sends texts.

    I'm also a bit on the cheap side and don't want the bills for accessing the net from my phone! ;)

  6. I laugh at this phone stuff because I love the features, hate the disengagement with what's going around in front of the fancy biz apps, use the most minutes during my kids' soccer season ("Can you pick B up at field 15?"). And likewise, just upgraded an antique. The very nice child staffer at Radio Shack had great manners, though, in spite of having access to SMS all his life. ;)

  7. I would have an iPhone if I could get the touch screen to detect my existence. I am an iPhone ghost, no amount of touching, tapping or thumping will get one to acknowledge I exist.

  8. Valdary, that's fascinating. Um, are you a...yeeks. I don't want to say it. But can you see yourself in the mirror?

  9. Im sorry--my "secret word" thing to put in a comment is "couga"

    And I'm not gonna use that word!

  10. Too funny..I'm like a lot of you! Darlene, I hung on to my old Palm as long as I could and it still worked, it just wouldn't talk to Outlook or ACT or anything else I had on my computer so i had to replace. The Palm website referred to it as a Legendary model..and it was four years old! Yikes, I wonder what they'd call my television.
    I still have one ancient deskphone and I love it. It's the only one that still works when the power goes out.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. I only got a 'smart phone' because as a writer, I wanted to be able to take pictures so I could remember what I'd seen, and never remembered a camera. There are probably 6 people on the planet who have my cell number. Then again, 95% of the time, I'm at my desk with a perfectly good land line. Cell phone is for long-distance because it's "free".

    I worked convention registration and was flabbergasted at how many people felt their phone conversations were more important than making sure everything was in order with their registration--which often was up there in the several hundreds of dollars realm. I wouldn't turn over the forms until the person actually looked at me and what he was signing.

  13. I've had an iPhone for a couple of years now, and I *love* it. Blessed thing has really set me free from email, rather than enslaving me to it. Because it shows the first lines of emails, it is very, very easy to delete what I don't need to see -- bing,bing,bing, bing -- keep what I want, answer in brief, and go on. Because I don't have to "log on" to various accounts, the process of dealing with email gets much, much faster.

    I love the apps -- I've got one that provides bird songs and pictures, so in strange parts of the country I can identify what I'm seeing or hearing.

    Same thing with an astronomy app that lets me hold my cell phone up to the sky and then tells me what stars and constellations I'm seeing. I'm addicted to that one.

    And I enjoy the internal iPod function -- but I don't walk around plugged into music and ignoring life. I tend to listen to music on it only when I'm writing.

    The phone function I may use the very least. I don't live on my phone. I'm not crazy about talking on it, and I have a rule about cell phones: if I'm talking to a real human person face-to-face and my cell phone rings -- it can keep on ringing. I'll never allow the phone to take priority over a real individual standing right in front of me, if we're already in conversation. Who died and made cell phones boss?

    But this isn't a cell phone phenomenon, either. When I used to work retail, I wouldn't dash away from a live customer to answer the phone. Who says callers get to jump ahead for service?

    The only time the cell phone gets priority is if the search page goes off. The sound of *that* has been known to make me levitate straight out of the bubble bath I just sank into.

  14. Susannah, susannah. You're convincing me..that sounds wonderful.
    I never thought about a phone as a not-phone.

  15. Now, I really really really want the astronomy app.

  16. Scott Deitche and I (Mark Silverman) have written a book called Marked Card: Power Play In The New England Mafia. It's due out February 24th. It's been selling very well on the internet. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Tower and every other book distributor has access to the pre-orders. Most people who've ordered it via the internet have already received their copy and the reviews have been very good.

  17. Made guy, double agent and womanizer Mark Silverman takes the phrase “sleeping with the enemy” to a whole new level in Marked Card: Power Play in the New England Mafia. Consummate researcher, Scott Deitche, sets the scene during the New England mob wars of the 1990s. Silverman spares no details describing how he worked for both a renegade faction of La Cosa Nostra and the Mafia while screwing their women. Throw in corrupt cops with an axe to grind and you have a mobbed-up bomb ready to blow sky high. Along the way, Silverman dispels the myth of an honor-bound society. Honor be damned. They only kill their own? Not really. With most of the mob war’s fallout dead or in prison, Medford guy Silverman feels lucky to be alive, his self respect intact. Only one question remains: Who will play Silverman in the blockbuster movie version?

    Cherie Rohn