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Demise of the Telephone, and Other Random Thoughts

Monday, March 21, 2011, 14:16 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

This New York Times article on declining telephone use (hat tip: Ann Althouse) caught my eye earlier today. I wouldn’t exactly say, as Althouse does, that “telephone is over,” but I saw myself and my friends more than once in that article:

[I]n today’s nearly door-free workplaces, unless everyone is on the phone, calls are disruptive and, in a tight warren of cubicles, distressingly public…

“You pretty much call people on the phone when you don’t understand their e-mail,” [executive Matthew Ballast] said…

Phone call appointments have become common in the workplace. Without them, there’s no guarantee your call will be returned…

Whereas people once received and made calls with friends on a regular basis, we now coordinate such events via e-mail or text…

For those in homes with stairs, the cellphone siren can send a person scrambling up and down flights of steps in desperate pursuit…

But here’s the part that really made me laugh:

“[A]lmost everyone e-mails first [before calling] and asks, ‘Is it O.K. if I call?’”

One person in particular with whom I used to talk regularly (he lives several hundred miles away) did this all the time. I used to tell him that he didn’t have to ask; he could just call. But on the rare occasion when he did just call, I invariably answered the phone not with a cordial “Hello” but with a panic-stricken “What’s wrong?!?”

Speaking of that individual who is several hundred miles away… We haven’t spoken in a few months, though we exchanged text messages since then. I wrote him, he wrote back. I didn’t reply to his. I wanted to, but I was overwhelmed (the same reaction he had to my message), as much by what he said as by what he didn’t say. Sometimes it’s best just to let it be. The trouble is that five weeks later, the urge to respond hasn’t abated.

My town is having a special election today to consider a debt exclusion from the Proposition 2½ property tax levy limit. At issue is construction of a new police headquarters and a major renovation to the fire department headquarters. From what I have found in my research, the planned facilities address the town’s current and anticipated future needs in a responsible way. Significant private donations will help defray the costs. Still, I see these things very differently now that I am a homeowner. I find myself weighing the projected tax increase with the benefit to the community and its impact on the value of my property. Does that make me selfish or just wise?

As the weather warms up, my little Toyota’s gas mileage improves. It also helps that my commute is now strictly by interstate highway. I got 35 mpg on my last tank of gas; coincidentally, my round-trip commute is 34 miles. So I expend about one gallon of gas each day to get to and from work. Depending on where I fill up, a gallon of gas costs somewhere around $3.50.

Now consider that there is a bus route that goes from downtown Worcester, Massachusetts, all the way to my little town on the Connecticut border, and that with a discounted 10-ride ticket, it would cost me a mere $2.60 round trip to take the bus to work. Sure, it’s a 55 minute ride each way, but that could be prime reading time, something of which I’ve had precious little lately. Besides, have you seen gasoline for anything close to $2.60 per gallon lately? Me neither.

My new house is shaping up nicely. I got my living room furniture over the weekend and am almost entirely unpacked, with just boxes of CDs and videos left to put on the shelves. I also have several boxes of books and photos to go through, but I can do that while I watch TV. Once I hang things on the walls and get a few area rugs, I will consider myself moved in. Then the rest of the work begins: refinishing the hardwood floors, painting a room at a time with the colors of my choice, and chipping away at the million little things on my to-do list, like swapping out old electrical outlets with grounded outlets (the grounded wire is already there). Does the fun never end?

I don’t think I mentioned that it snowed here this morning. The grass is covered, but the pavement, being warm enough to melt snow on contact, is bare. Thank goodness for small favors.

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