Who is phoning me? What do they want? Are they going to ask me questions to which I don’t know the answer? Are they trying to sell me something? Ask me for a charity donation? Scam me? Is it family? Bad news? Hassling me for a decision that I haven’t yet made? Wanting to know my plans for August when I haven’t thought beyond May?
Even if it is somebody I want to hear from, the chances are I’m in the middle of cooking my dinner, or eating it. Sometimes, when I’m alone in the house, I let it ring and ring off, and then dial 1471 to find out who it was and whether I want to call them back – in my time, on my terms.
I am glad that I was born into the age of the internet, when communication is moving back towards writing. It’s not so much the fact that it’s written, as that a delay is built in. On email, even over instant messenger (though I have that turned off most of the time, as well), there’s space to breathe between sentences, time to assimilate what I’ve just been told, and room to come up with an appropriate answer. There’s a moral panic that the internet encourages a demand for instant gratification; so far as I’m concerned, it’s got nothing on the telephone.
I like to think that, in centuries to come, our descendants will view the telephone as a quaint artefact of the uncivilised twentieth century. One summoned one’s friends with a bell, and expected them to drop everything and speak to one? How unutterably rude! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must just answer Xanthe’s mind-telegram while I remember. No hurry, though. She knows I’m well; she’ll have seen my neutron update.