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Stress-Free Zone | Humorpathic Therapy

In This Too-Complex World, 'Basic' Has a Nice Ring to It

July 27, 1998|JIM SHEA

I am in the cutting-edge electronics section of the cutting-edge store.

I am wheeling and dealing:

Trying to get nothing for something.

Trying to get the least for my money.

Trying to buy a telephone.

My needs, I quickly discover, are unique.

I do not want a phone that:

Beeps. Buzzes. Flashes. Pulsates. Vibrates. Holds. Speed dials. Redials. Remembers. Mutes. Conferences. Speakers. Transfers. IDs. Faxes. Voicemails. E-mails. Quotes stocks. Gives sports scores. Or--anticipating the future--microwaves, checks cholesterol or does windows.

All I want is a basic, boxy, black desktop phone capable of performing the following functions:

Ringing when someone calls me.

Producing a ring when I call someone else.

My request confuses the cutting-edge salesclerk, who disappears into "the back" for the purpose of "checking in back."

He is sorry, he says upon returning, but no one in "the back" has ever heard of such a phone.

Call me Mel Gibson, but the conspiracy continues.

All this time we were worrying about Big Brother when it is Big Mother we should have been fearing.

Posing as friend, acting as humble servant, disguising itself as convenience, the telephone is constantly assuming new duties, increasing its influence, making us dance to its tone.

You can run, but you can no longer hide from the telephone. It is in your house, your office, your car, your pocket. And all the while it is summoning, monitoring, recording, steadily and inexorably altering your life. In what ways?

If you own a touch-tone phone, please consider the following explanations:

Press 1: If you want to know why those who resist the latest in telephone technology are stigmatized.

Press 2: If you are interested in how the telephone has conditioned us to believe unavailability is a bad thing.

Press 3: If you seek to explore the pros and cons of not being able to avoid phone calls from the following people: Boss. Spouse. Kids. In-laws. Pollsters. Computers. Heavy breathers. People to whom you owe money.

Press 4: If you would like to take a test to determine the degree of influence the telephone now holds over you.

Beep: Have you recently expressed the following thought? Telemarketers are just people.

Do you actually prefer speaking with answering machines?

In restaurants, do you ask to be seated in the Cell Phoning, or Non-Cell Phoning section?

Are you ever concerned your phone doesn't match your outfit?

A basic, boxy, black desktop phone. The search continues.

* Jim Shea is a columnist at the Hartford Courant. He can be reached at the Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115.

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