Sometime in the 1990s I came home from a long day at the office to find that my wife, Margaret, had purchased and installed our first answering machine. It quickly became a great source of entertainment - even better than TV (which FCC chief Newton Minnow had deemed "a vast wasteland"). I turned on the vast wasteland, picked up the newspaper, and lay down on the couch.
The phone rang. My older daughter's voice said, "My parents are finally living in the 20th century!" The phone rang again. "Hi Mom," my younger daughter said. "I know you're there, so pick up the phone." Mom's not here, I thought to myself, and did not pick up the phone. Not long after, my brother called. "I have a date with a married woman who is having an affair with her boss. Would you and Margaret like to join us for dinner?" I silently shook my head. I found myself suddenly in love with our new mechanical secretary. I shifted positions on the couch and lazily flipped channels with my remote control, looking for more waste.
Again, the phone rang ...I could hardly wait to not answer it. This time it was my mother-in-law. "Uh-oh! You've got one of those," she said with her distinctly southern twang. "I got a letter from Mrs. Knight's daughter ... do you want to hear it?" Apparently she deemed the machine's silence as an affirmative response. Ten minutes later, I thought, Mrs. Knight's daughter writes well.
Fast forward to 2010. I am now the proud (if bewildered) owner of a new Droid HTC Incredible. It's not just a phone - it's a communications miracle. It does everything except colonoscopies (although there is probably an "app" for that). After only two weeks, I have now learned how to answer a call, check the weather conditions in Abu Dhabi, and read text messages from my life coach (who writes that I shouldn't be so dependent on technology). I have also learned that as a Verizon customer, I get a tuition discount at MIT, should I ever want to learn how to make a call.
I think instead I will enroll in the local community college's class, Communicating with Signals Using Smoke From Burning Cell Phones.