Monday, December 29, 2008

On Cell Phones, and the Deterioration of Interpersonal Skills

My dad is an accountant, and for as long as I can remember has always worked in an office during the day, and did people's taxes on the side (this paid for our vacations). Since he would get business calls from tax clients at the house, I learned very quickly to sound professional and confident on the phone - I recall taking detailed phone messages with ease as early as second grade. For a long time, I took for granted the comfortability I had talking on the phone with strangers. The dichotomy between my phone skills and those of others well-highlighted by a memory that begins with me walking into a friend's dorm room freshman year...

L, E, and S were in L's room, and, in some combination, were holding a white Bible and a cordless phone, the latter of which was thrust at me within seconds of my entrance. It was explained to me that L had been wanting to buy a new Bible, and she really liked E's, but this particular company could only be reached by phone, and L did NOT talking to strangers on the phone! Neither E nor S had such a professed dislike of phone inquiries, but the arduous task of calling the company, inquiring the price, and giving credit card information fell to me (which I did without trouble). I think I'd known these girls less than a month. :)

Perhaps that story is better at bringing a smile to my face than demonstrating my point, but I'm not sorry I told it.

Switching gears - I've had a cell phone for less than three years now. Before that time, I spent 5 or 6 years calling friends' houses, receiving their calls through my parents or sister, and other such things. I never knew for sure whether the recipient of my call would be there, or whether her parents would have to give her a message, but that never stopped me from calling, even if it wasn't for any particular reason at all. But recently I've found reasons to call some friends at their homes - like, where their parents pick up the phone, and you have to say, "Hi, may I speak to M please? This is C," and then you wait while they yell for M that he has a phone call.

And yet, despite my years of telephone experience, both professional and social (including answering phones and screening calls for pay), I find that I am calming my nerves before I make those calls. I find that I want to verify whether said friend is online, or might be otherwise reachable, or whether I have any reasonable alternative to taking a shot in the dark and calling a family I don't know to see if their son or daughter is home.

And it's sad. Because I want to someday hear the voices of my childrens' friends on the telephone before I pass the phone along. And I want to see the faces of the boys who will take my daughters out on dates. And I want that opportunity to develop relationships with those whose opinions will matter so much to them. And things are changing so fast, I can't even conceive of what that might look like.

I am forced to simply hope that God will provide for the important things. I guess it's not so bad after all.

1 comment:

  1. Mark doesn't live with his parents anymore.



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