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He Hates Her Pager: Truly, Madly, Beeply

April 20, 1999|MARTIN MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A weekly column about humans as they interact with things that beep, buzz, ring and download.

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Dear Button Pusher: My wife's beeper has become a real problem. She's in sales and lives in constant fear of missing a call from her boss or a customer. Let me tell you, she never misses a call.

She carries that thing all day. As if that weren't enough, she brings it with her into the bathroom when she showers and sleeps next to it at night. And when that beeper goes off, she has her cell phone out and the number dialed before the last beep sounds.

I've tried to get her to leave the thing at home, but with no success. Whether it's going out to dinner or to the movies (where one guy threatened to punch her lights out if she didn't turn it off), the beeper is always threatening to go off. What can I do?

--NOT BEEP-LESS IN SEATTLE

Dear Beep-Less: So, the ol' ball 'n' chain has an electronic ball 'n' chain of her own, huh?

We'll assume that you've tried conventional methods--reasoning, pleading and begging--to try to get your wife to limit the beeping around the house, which ideally should be a sanctuary from the workplace.

If these attempts haven't worked, she sounds like someone with an overdeveloped sense of duty and self-importance. The same misguided principle motivates people who never take vacations and never call in sick.

Try reason once again. Ask her to ask for blackout hours--nothing after 9 p.m. or before 7:30 a.m. If the boss isn't willing to make a concession like that, then she needs a new boss. Anyone as dedicated as your wife shouldn't have any trouble in the job market. If she still insists on carrying around the little electronic bugger, remove its battery.

Dear Button Pusher: It's been a family tradition to write letters. It's not only a matter of cost as opposed to long-distance phone calls, but also one of establishing a family record of sorts. My grandparents wrote to me faithfully when I was a child in the 1940s, and I still cherish those handwritten letters.

I'm trying to keep this tradition alive with my grandson, but, ah, there's the rub. Of course, he's a right modern 10-year-old and doesn't understand why he should write a letter when he can send an e-mail. Begrudgingly I agreed, reasoning that electronic letters were better than none at all.

But as soon as I received his first e-mail, I felt my concession may have been a mistake. While he dutifully writes e-mails, the manner in which they are written are, to say the least, off-putting. They are usually composed of short, choppy sentences and show little curiosity about me. And joyful be the day the young lad strings together a complete sentence. Should I return to handwritten letters?

--GROUSING GRANDMOTHER

Dear Grousing: Stop grousing. Right now. Seriously. I mean it.

All short, choppy sentences aside, any grandmother who receives any communication from her grandson should be jumping for joy--not grousing.

If you have questions about the human-machine relationship, please send e-mail to martin.miller@latimes.com, write to Button Pusher, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, or fax to (213) 237-4888.

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