Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Background Noise

Dear Friend,

I'm so sorry for suddenly ending our phone conversation, but somehow I just couldn't handle the background noise on your end of the phone. I look forward to talking more soon.


When is it okay to let someone go because there is too much going on on their end of the phone? Is it okay? If they can concentrate on the conversation, should I be able to deal with it? If all is calm and quiet at my end, I think I deal with noise on the other side better, but if things are hectic on my end, it just doubles the stress level, because I've got barking dogs, heavy bags and a full bladder on this end and people talking and milk steamers screaming on the other end. And I can deal better with it if I know the noise is finite, as, for example, as passing ambulance or something one is walking past. This afternoon I all but yelled at and hung up on my good friend because I got so stressed out by all the background noise.

Surely that was not polite, but this gets back to the heart of the intrusion of our technology into more private realms of our lives. There was some article online a few weeks ago about movies that are totally out of date, such as Pillow Talk, because of the totally outdated technology of the telephone party line. The common scene I recall is the restaurant maitre d' bringing the telephone to the table for VIP guests or requesting they come with them to take a call - those days are gone, it seems (except at my work, where a very comfortable elder woman makes herself right at home and who's husband calls her there asking for her by name, but not specifying that she is a shopper and not an employee - how strange). Cell phones mean everyone is on the phone in restaurants. Despite my connected-at-the-hip (literally, with a belt clip) relationship with my cell phone, I actually appreciate those restaurants with a no-cell policy.

During a business meeting yesterday, I left my ringer on because I needed to receive a call or text message to perform an exchange during the meeting. I apologized in advance and excused myself away from the group when the phone rang, but it rang no less than three times in excess of the call I was waiting for. It was obnoxious and reinforced my desire to keep my phone on silent at all times. I hate hearing the ringing phone, be it mine or anyone else's! I don't know how I would feel if I were the barista helping my friend today. I don't know if my friend kept the phone or earpiece in place while talking to the barista. I don't know if my friend raised her voice so that I could hear her clearly or if that annoyed the people around her. I do know that I did not enjoy the noise of the cafe intruding on my life at that time and despite my desire to talk to my friend, I let her go in favor of a more peaceful moment.

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