Alexander Graham Bell’s notebook entry of March 10, 1876, describes his first successful experiment with the telephone, in which he spoke through the new instrument to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, who was in the next room. Mr Bell writes, “I then shouted into M (the mouthpiece) the following sentence: ‘Mr. Watson—come here—I want to see you.’ To my delight he came and declared that he had heard and understood what I said.”
My first thought on reading that statement was that if Mr Bell had ‘shouted’ into the mouthpiece, Mr Watson might well have heard him from the next room without the help of the new invention anyway—but then I realised that was probably a tad mean-spirited. There is no doubt the invention of the telephone has had a massive impact on the world as we know it and unless you are living an extremely isolated existence (or are over 141 years of age) it seems almost impossible to imagine life without one.
Recently, however, by circumstance rather than choice, I was given a taste of experiencing just what that might be like.
Just before last Christmas I discovered my home phone was not working. No static, no funny clicks on the line . . . just . . . nothing. As you might imagine, an inordinate amount of time was spent to-ing and fro-ing with the phone company before the problem was eventually corrected—three weeks later. Then, barely two months along the track, the line went dead again. And then again another month after that.
The first time I felt quite anxious and agitated. It really bothered me. I felt ‘cut off’ and that feeling didn’t really go away until the phone came back on line. The second time it happened I was irritated, to say the least. Now I would have to go through the whole telephone company rigmarole again . . . this is so annoying . . . and I really don’t have time for this . . . and it’ll probably take another three weeks and . . . then . . . somehow . . . I kind of forgot all about it—until one day the phone rang again and I realised it was fixed.
They say ‘third time’s the charm’ but I guess I will have to wait and see whether the phone company’s ‘fix’ will stick this time. Surprisingly, I now find myself quite unconcerned. I have come to realise that it is actually quite pleasant to not have my evenings and weekends constantly interrupted by people wanting to leave messages for the local aged care facility (my number is one digit different from theirs) or having someone insisting I buy funeral insurance (bastards) or hit me up for donations for dying pot-plants in Bolivia . . .
Maybe, just maybe, I don’t actually need a home phone at all . . .
And then my mobile died. Sigh.
There seems nothing I can do to resurrect it. (As John Cleese would say ‘It is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker.’) I admit I felt a little panicky. No home phone and no mobile phone. I at least need a mobile phone. Don’t I? What if I need to contact someone urgently? What about emergencies? What if? What if—what? Well, I can’t think of anything right here and now but somehow I still seem fairly certain that I really should get a replacement. I’ll make it a priority. I’ll do that. Soon.
Maybe next week.
Or the week after that . . .