Looking At Her Phone in the Dark

“I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
—- Albert Einstein

There is something special about standing around in the middle of the night and talking with a bunch of your best friends. To stand around with them in front of a beautiful art museum is extra special.

So special, in fact, that it is something that you would have to text to a bunch of people… people that aren’t there.

“This is the whole point of technology. It creates an appetite for immortality on the one hand. It threatens universal extinction on the other. Technology is lust removed from nature. – Murray (WN 285)”
—- Don DeLillo, White Noise Critical: Text and Criticism

A group of friends in front of the Dallas Museum of Art, night, long exposure

A group of friends in front of the Dallas Museum of Art, night, long exposure

“This was before voice mail, recorded phone messages you can’t escape. Life was easier then. You just didn’t pick up the phone.”
― Joyce Carol Oates, Beasts

I used to work a little closer to where I lived. Sometimes, I would go home for lunch… but not very often. One day, while I was home, the phone rang. This was before caller ID – back in the days when people would actually answer their phones. It was, however, after the invention and installation of the answering machine….

…do you remember when these had little tapes in them? Once, I left for a long business trip and when I returned I had a large collection of very interesting phone messages left from a number of my friends and even a couple of cool ones from strangers. I liked these so much I replaced the tape with a fresh one and carried the old one around with me for a year or so. Sometimes I’d listen to it for fun. I know that sounds stupid – but I wish I had that tape now, thirty years later. I’d love to hear it again.

…at any rate, back to the story. I was home, the phone rang, I picked it up. It was a friend. She said, “Oh, I didn’t think anyone would be home. I called to leave a message.”

“I’m home making a sandwich. But it’s ok,” I said. “I’ll hang up and you can call back and leave a message.”

So I did. And she did.

When the phone rang my hand quivered over the receiver. I was torn on whether I should pick it up (as a joke, you know) or to let it ring and let her leave her message. I decided the joke was too stupid (strange, I know – I don’t usually pass up an opportunity for a stupid joke). As the machine picked up, I walked out the door, left for work, and let her leave her message in private.

I never listened to it.

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