The other day Jane left me a message:
"Tyler, when the phone says that it is Jane Pratt who is calling that is an indication that you should pick up the phone!"
Funny thing is that I saw her call coming in and I just sort of stared at it ringing, and laughed. I didn't even turn the ringer off as I'm trying to figure out if I'm comfortable with the ringtone—it's that jazz-jangle-linger-ring that I remember hearing at the beginning of some YouTube video where Jack Kerouac reads while tinkering with a piano. I don't think I like it as a ringtone but I heard it through, instead of hearing Jane through. Sidenote: this is the first time I’ve ever had a ring, after a decade plus of the vibrate-only option, and only have it because I keep missing business calls (can we become immune to that feeling of the phone ringing? Is this the opposite of phantom ring?).
I find that staring at the phone ringing is a good challenge to question whether or not you want to pick it up. I’m sure that you do this, readers. I'm more likely to pick it up when it's a random number and even more so if the city next to that number is a city I either like or would like to visit—non-sequitir? This morning I retrieved a call from Boston and it was the wrong number but I had no problem picking it up. I even picked it up before the first ring had stopped ... probably because I didn't want to hear that ringtone again.
I'm sure this all has to do with screening calls (or screening larger situations). Everyone seems to have his or her coda for this. And I’d venture to say that we all do it—to varying extents, of course. There are about five people I always pick up the phone for and I think they all live quite far away. I think the only action more complacent than watching the phone continue to ring is sliding the bar to hit reject. However, what I'm more curious about here is the screening of emails and texts and even larger social situations. But before I entertain curiosity to its fullness, let’s get the small things out of the way.
Do you have texts that remain in bold or go unanswered, either because of their freckled banalities or because that person isn't a good texter? Or for some other reason? What I mean by good is that perhaps these texts pose questions that aren't direct or are statements that, without the real-time visual of that person uttering the statement, just seem bare and superfluous, so you then avoid even opening them (or you open them just to get rid of the bold part but don’t read them). Here are some examples of texts I don't care to respond to:
"Anything going on later?"
"How've you been?"
In thinking about these texts I’m having a hard time deciding on if there is an overall mechanism of avoidance I’m prone to take, in all things social, all things media, or if it’s vagaries within brevity that have me irked; on the other hand, it’s easy to try and decipher why texts like the above bother me (some … us?). For one, they’re half-assed, in a very social-networking-in-NYC kind of way, a way that says “never mind asking if you want to hang out, let me instead see if you know of something cool going on, and if you’re also going to be there that’s a small plus.” Two: they demand an amount of focus between you and the person sending the words, thus they can never be as easily answered as they were administered, and the balance is off, the weight is on you. And on and on. This is not news.
Right now I’m in the Midwest visiting some friends and family. I had to relay a message to Jane this morning so I called and she picked up and said, “why are you calling?” Out of kindness, I suppose, as I am out of the office, but then came the line, “since I have you on the phone …” and a minute later we were combing through a task together. I responded to a request by saying “I wouldn’t do that anyway,” to which Jane replied, “well, just in case your personality has shifted and you’re feeling responsible.” Which then made me think of what it is that makes us feel responsible and suddenly I thought about the number one reason texts can seem so intrusive: they make us feel responsible, or at least question our lack thereof. Although I'm not feeling very responsilbe Jane gave rise to this small bulb of light, so thank you Jane! Texts are so demanding! And speaking of Jane she's calling right now. I have to go. Actually, I don’t have to get the call, I just have to go. Yes, yes I do.
P:S: are these screen savers all of me because I want people to be able to know that this is my phone if I lost it, or because I might be narcissistic? You decide.
[P.P.S. Things Tyler Said this week: No, No and Not This Week. ]