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459 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth, WA, 6006
Australia

Yes, I know the phone is ringing

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Yes, I know the phone is ringing

Andrew Ryan

The modern human being is nearly constantly connected to the rest of the world. Via telephones or the internet, we are always in reach. It’s nice, because friends are good, connection is nice, and having all the world’s information at your fingertips is (/should be something of) a vaguely exhilarating experience. However, sometimes it is preferable to be completely off radar. For some people, they couldn’t possibly comprehend this, but for others, it is necessary for their sanity. So those who like to stay mysterious will, on occasion, manipulate those qualities in technology that makes it a little bit unreliable as a communication tool. I do it, you do it, your friends do it, your boss does it, so let’s all have a little think about it.

This desire to be non-contactable has been going on for years. Before the proliferation of mobile phones, households with landlines would often unplug the phone cord when they didn’t want to be interrupted, for whatever reason. Way back in the day, it was accepted as a normal thing to do, and not much offence could be taken.
“Barry, I tried to call you last night, but your line was dead.”
“Oh yeah, Bob, mate, the kids were at the in-laws place, so was having a coupla’ drinks with the missus, didn’t want no interruptions.”
“Fair call mate, cheers to that.”
clink

But these days, with everyone having a mobile phone, and big differences in the way we communicate with each other, often it’s easier to just say “Oh, my phone died”, “There was no reception/was in a dead zone”, “I left it at the library”, or “It was on silent and I couldn’t find it underneath the massive pile of clothes on my bedroom floor” etc.

Of course, most often these reasons for disappearing from the grid are legitimate. Our phone batteries konk out a lot, especially if you’re like me and your laptop is dead and you don’t have spare cash to buy another phone charger that plugs into the wall socket, so you have to charge your phone at the computer behind your local bar… And dead zones are one of those things that are completely accepted as being a normal part of telecommunication, just as absent mindedness is as common as sneezing… although a lot of people are in the habit of keeping their phone on their bodies at all times, so often that one is not a very good excuse.

Internet communication, however, lends itself to a much more lenient approach to availability to interact. Physically being on the Internet 24 hours a day is not possible for the average person, so while some sensitive cry-babies with constant internet access may take offence to their wall comment on your Facebook page not being replied to, generally it is accepted that if you’re not online, you’re probably doing something more important. If they haven’t replied to that email you received, they probably haven’t checked their inbox today, and it’s not because they don’t feel like talking to you at that exact moment. It’s often forgotten that some people don’t have the Internet at home, which in itself is a pretty funny and extremely modern thought.

But sometimes, just sometimes, one just really does not feel like talking to anyone on the telephone for a period time. One needs time to just sit with their own thoughts, or needs to focus their attention at the task in front of them, or the person in front of them, or they simply want to nurse their hangover in the bath while smoking cigarettes and watching 30 Rock without having to think about anything but how Alec Baldwin was BORN to be in that show, you know? And in moments like that, I don’t think anyone can be blamed for just turning that phone off, or screening his or her calls.

But we still feel compelled to deflect the blame from ourselves, and put it on our electronic devices, which, as I mentioned earlier, is very easy to do given the nature of our telephone network services. Phone conversation dropouts are barely even noticed anymore. The line goes dead, so we call them back, and without mentioning the death of the conversation, someone says “So anyway…” and gets right back into it. That’s a little weird don’t you think? So everyone is accepting of these lapses in technology’s loyalty to us and our usage, and trendy young Jethro will say “Oh, fair enough mate”, just as readily as old Bob at the pub in the 50’s with his friend’s admission of a romantic, telephone free night with the missus. It’s easily accepted, so easy to do, and then our moral code goes down the drain.

I have just realised that I am assuming everyone is as bad at friendship and accepting responsibilities as I am, so feel free to email tahlia@coolperthnights.com with any comments you have on the topic. I’d love to know that I’m not alone. But if I don’t reply please just be patient. Good luck friends.