On Friday, Nick and I were in the car when my mother called. Since my iPhone connects automatically to my car, the car's sound system automatically stops the music or radio, and talks to me when calls come through (like I can't hear the ringing through the speakers...duh).
"Incoming call! Incoming call!" the Voice of Mazda shouts.
Ordinarily, I simply ignore the calls and let them ring through to voicemail because I dislike driving and talking on the phone at the same time. I rarely look at the screen on my car when calls come through, but Nick, sitting in the front seat, read the caller ID and told me it was my mother. He noticed that two buttons appear on the touch screen when calls come through the car, and he wanted to touch one since, well, it's a screen, and teenagers must touch screens or they lose valuable life points.
Or something like that.
Anyway, he touched the "hang up" button, and the Voice of Mazda loudly and disapprovingly announced, "Incoming call...REJECTED! Incoming call...REJECTED!"
Oh, my gosh. I rejected my mother's call. How could I do such a thing!?!?
Nick and I giggled helplessly at the absurdity of automotive technology. When I told my mother about it, she laughed, too, and assured me she didn't feel rejected at all.
This got me thinking about how many calls we reject because of caller identification. Even though our home phone number is listed on the national do-not-call registry, we still get telemarketing calls regularly. I sometimes answer and immediately say, "We are on the do-not-call registry, Take us off your list and don't call again." This usually works, but you might remember my experience with "You People" at a magazine subscriber service.
Some calls come from organizations we actually do support. Wichita State University is particularly persistent, calling every single blessed night during dinner for two months until I accepted the call and promised my annual donation.
Any call that comes through when we're eating a meal gets ignored. The kids used to protest, but now, they know. No call is so important that it can't wait until we're finished eating our family meal.
Needless to say, I'm perfectly comfortable letting the phone ring, but many people find that strange or perhaps even deviant. "Are you crazy? The phone is ringing....you MUST pick it up!"
No. No, I mustn't.
Technology has turned us into Pavlov's dogs. We start salivating every time our ringtone sounds. And the programming doesn't stop with ringtones. Our phones and computers allow us to set different noises for all the other ways people have of contacting us...texts, emails, private messages, FaceTime, Skype, and such. Each sound tells us we must, must, must respond, or the universe will end in a fiery maelstrom of lost opportunity.
One day, George complained that I didn't answer a text promptly, and I ranted: "Texts are the perfect form of communication because you can wait to answer them when it's convenient for you. When I text you, here's what I'm saying: I want you to know this, but I don't want to interrupt whatever you're doing or inconvenience you in any way. If I have a question for you and text it, that means it's low priority. Get to it when you can. The universe will not collapse on itself if I don't get an answer in thirty seconds. If it's an emergency, I'll CALL you and interrupt you."
He saw the sense it that, and hasn't complained about my not texting back immediately since. In fact, we have quite a lot of fun with texting sometimes, although when I "sexted" him, he was disappointed that it was just a shot of my fully-clothed chest as I sat in the cafe at Barnes and Noble.
George was, by the way, not at all surprised.
Do you feel like a slave to ringtones and texts? While technology is no doubt helpful and useful, how have you learned to keep it from invading your life in unhealthy ways?