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When and why did the very idea of making a phone call
turn into something so intrusive?
When texting appeared, I suppose, but why?
This isn't an anti-texting thing;
a text is an excellent way to impart simple information
to which you don't need an answer,
especially to more than one person.
It reaches its beautiful apogee
when you need to convey to four people the message:
'We're in the upstairs bar.'
I don't even know how upstairs bars worked before texts.
But for anything more complicated than that,
especially anything requiring discussion,
the easiest way to sort something out
is still talking to someone directly,
and since we all own devices that allow us to do precisely that,
why have we suddenly got so shy about doing it?
The assumption is that everything is quicker and easier to sort out by text,
which it's just not.
Certainly not for those of us
who are constitutionally unable to write 'mon 24',
but have to write
'capital-M-Monday the twenty-fourth, T-H'.
But even for normal people,
as I expect you wrongly like to consider yourselves,
it's not that easy.
The texts I most hate are the ones
which say something as lethally open-ended as:
'Let's meet up - when are you free?'
Well, I'm free all sorts of times,
but with a variety of complications and preferences.
If we meet early, the 14th is best,
whereas the 16th is fine but I definitely can't be there until 8;
the 19th would be ideal;
and the 20th is probably ok,
but I won't know for sure till Monday, with a capital sodding M.
By the time I've pecked all that out with my text-hating
but capital-letter-observing thumbs,
it'll be at least the 28th,
and you'll have long since given me up for dead.
Whereas if I'd just rung you up,
we could have sorted all that out
using the mystical language of the mouth,
and we'd have made a plan by now.
And if you can't answer, that's fine, I'll leave a message.
Which I'd like you to listen to, by the way,
because in it, I'll have said the thing I was calling you up to say.
I really don't understand why people call you and say:
"oh, I saw I got a missed call from you but I didn't listen to the message, what was it?"
Well, the message was the thing I the message!
That is very much what message means!
When I get a call saying "I saw I got a message from you, I haven't listened to it"
it takes a great deal of will power to resist saying
"Well, I tell you what, ring off, and call me back when you have done."
After all, you wouldn't write a letter to someone saying:
"I see I've got an envelope with your postmark on it.
I haven't opened it yet - I thought I'd write back straight away."
The point is, replying to an email is a massive chore.
Replying to a text can be a small chore.
Answering the phone, and having a quick chat is no chore at all,
and nor is listening to an answer phone message,
so let's not be afraid to do it.
After all, we managed it in the presumably more formal old days.
People say that before mobiles we were less in thrall to our phones,
but they're misremembering.
If the house phone rang, it didn't matter what you were doing,
you ran to answer it.
And you answered it in its own special room of the house,
whilst standing up,
and with a recitation of the phone number.
My God, I'm eighty.