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Sunday, 5 January 2003

Christi has reported in her blog that I no longer answer the telephone. This is not entirely true. I don't answer the phone in the mornings.

When I had the flu several months ago, I was reading Miss Manners books and I got to a chapter on the telephone. I thought she was going to talk about telephone manners, but instead she talked about telephone's lack of manners. It's a machine and you are free to ignore machines. And anyway, it often rings when you're in th midst of something important, like dinner, or a bath or staring out the window and you don't need to answer at those times. I felt freed. No longer did I need to be a lsave to the phone!

And what sort of messages come through the phone anyway? The governor never calls me to say, "we've decided to succeed from the union to form an eco-socialist-republic." (Although Christi once got a call from President Bill Clitnon, back when she was a democrat, telling her to go vote. It was a recording on the answering machine. Too bad you can't transfer your voive mail when you move.) No, it's always your uncle saying your grandma had a heart attack or your grandma died or your mother has a brain tumor or somebody is dead. These messages are infrequent, but they're bad. Worse than I can deal with before lunch.

Otherwise it's you boss or somebody's boss wanting to know where you or whoever is and could you do some more work. Or your credit card company is trying to sell you more stuff to get you deeper in debt so they can own your soul. Telemarketters, surveys, impersonal strangers calling up to part me with my money. This is a disease of capitalism. I reserve my afternoons to deal with diseases of capitalism.

My friends hardly ever call, probably becuase I hardly ever answer. But telephone conversations are awkward with long silences and it's hard to read the other person's reactions. Am I talking too much? Did that last joke hurt her feelings? How can I tell, it's the telephone.

Telephones exist to carry terrible news and they're excellent at that. The first telephone message was when good old what-his-name who invented the phone spilled acid on himself and needed his assistant to rush to his aid. This set a precedent. And it can wait till lunch time.

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