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Life as Performance Art


Telephones have perplexed me since I had to put my pointer finger into the rotary dial seven times instead of four as before. I had just learned to count to five; two more were a challenge.
Since then it’s just gotten worse with buttons replacing dials, then flip and smart phones.
That explains why I have a 1920s candlestick telephone on my desk next to a Victrola and box of steel needles. England now pledges to get rid of land lines in the next decade or two, unless they come to their senses.
My first smart phone died not long ago. Its old battery had swollen to a point it might put our house on fire. The Allegan computer place told me such batteries were no longer made, so in no time I bought a new phone, they downloaded information from the old one onto it, and I was out the door.
Phones containing so much data spoils the fun kids once had calling random numbers and asking, “Is your refrigerator running? Oh? Better go catch it.”
New phone etiquette: Making calls is secondary. Phones are there to take pictures of food, sunsets, leaves; people, puppies and more pets acting crazy; playing games on, gambling, as alarm clocks, paying bills on, all you need for living. Push an app button and it pulls up a box of squiggles only your phone can decipher. That’s why they call it “smart.”
In addition to exhausting batteries on such activities, we can use it as a telephone largely by which to receive scam and robo calls. I reply,
“Hello caller, welcome to the Incontinence and Diarrhea Radio Talk Show broadcast live coast to coast. Tell us about your most embarrassing moment.” Rarely do scammers call back after.
Before you get carried away thinking you may actually talk with someone, forget about it. Whoever is supposed to be on the other end will go to someplace called voice mail whose repository I have no clue nor wish to find.
Or leave a text, requiring you to find the little stylus and use your finger to laboriously type out a message on that little typewriter keyboard at the bottom on the screen. If they deem you sufficiently worthy, they might answer it. Good etiquette demands you answer ASAP regardless.
Wait, there are more graces Emily Post never taught. Text first to warn recipients before you call them. Otherwise, like Dorothy Parker, they might ask “What the fresh hell is this?”
Show up invited to a friend’s house for dinner, don’t push doorbell. It in fact’s a camera keeping an eye on the neighborhood. Plus doing so will get the dogs involved barking or stampeded of children’s feet to the door.
Once you’ve left your vehicle, used your phone to lock it and turn on the burglar alarm, text first. You might also video call ahead, making sure in the picture you’re attired properly.
Soon, perhaps before this column is published, we can hire AI to do the virtual telephone screening for us. This will be like having a PA (Personal Assistant) inside the phone. Wait for the next app to make the PA inside your SP (Smart Phone) fun.
In the late 1970s a Minnesota neighbor knocked on our door to ask if I had time to help her figure out where to put her Halo Statue. I was not familiar with the household accessory till informed it was a local euphemism for a telephone, i.e. “Hello! Is that you?” Since we were all on 5-party lines, she wanted the cord long enough so the Halo Statue could reach the kitchen table so she could sit and “rubber.” 
You need to know about “rubbering,” but can’t because we don’t have party lines, land lines are becoming extinct and that’s the end of it. To rubber or rubbering was the fine art of gently lifting the business portion of the telephone off the cradle to listen in to all of the local gossip. Sorry, I mean local news. To gossip is not nice, so we share news – with commentary.
And don’t make me to explain what the cradle is!

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