Friday, 13 February 2015

13/02/15 - Phoneberks

Mobile telephones, it’s fair to say, are pretty ubiquitous in 2015. The tide has been swelling since the late 1990s, when affordable stick-it-in-your-pocket telephony started to become truly mainstream, and of course it wasn’t something that we needed to be trained in – phones have been growing in stature since 1876 (which was quite a year – Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray had a mad rush to be the first to arrive at the patent office with the idea of the telephone, Thomas Edison devised his carbon microphone, Tivadar Puskas invented the switchboard exchange; the following year commercial telephones were released in Germany, and after a little while it occurred to somebody to fit a ringer to them), and we know how to use them pretty naturally. They haven’t changed all that much in principle; sure, your grandma’s old rotary-dial phone – or, indeed, your great-grandma’s candlestick phone – don’t have all that much in common with an iPhone 6 in stylistic terms, but they’re all basically just machines with which to talk to people who aren’t in your immediate vicinity. It’s a fairly simple premise.

So why have people suddenly forgotten how to use them? People are bloody stupid in 2015 – go out for a stroll and see how many wallies you can spot misusing their phones, it’s embarrassing for the species. This extraordinarily easy-to-use device seems to be posing a great deal of difficulty for a lot of users. It’s not clear why this is. But here are the key types of common modern telephone stupidities, see if you can make any sense of it:

The holding-hands-free-kit-to-face
There are a number of types of hands-free kit for mobile phones, with the one that’s totally guaranteed to make you look like a self-important turd being the wireless Bluetooth thingy that clips onto your ear. Give it up, David Brent, it’s not 2005.
But that’s not the most annoying one. No, that accolade goes to the cable setup that has a pair of earphones plugged into the phone, with a microphone attached to the lead. Not an offensive item in itself, of course – very useful, in fact. And very easy to figure out how it works, yes?
Er, no, apparently not. Something you see every day, over and over, is people using these hands-free kits, but holding the microphone near to their face with their hand. YOU FUCKING IDIOTS! If you’re holding the hands-free kit up to your head, you might as well dispense with the whole thing and JUST HOLD THE PHONE UP TO YOUR HEAD. Particularly if you were holding the phone in your other hand anyway. Berk.

The moving-from-ear-to-mouth
I just can’t work this one out. People who hold the phone up to their ear to listen to what’s being said, then move it round to their mouth when it’s their turn to speak, then move it back to their ear for the response… this daft behaviour demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how the telephone works. The microphone is very sensitive, and specifically engineered to pick up your voice while suppressing other ambient sounds. You don’t need to put the fucking thing in your mouth in order to be heard.
Furthermore, it demonstrates a certain lack of respect for the person on the other end. ‘You may not interrupt,’ you’re saying. ‘You will listen to the important things that I have to say, and then I will allow you a moment to respond.’
Everyone’s laughing at you when you move your phone about like this. You look like a total moron.

The Apprentice
A fairly well-established device, this – having your mobile on speakerphone, and holding it up to your mouth to conduct your end of the conversation. This is what they do on The Apprentice, hence me calling it that here.
What the brainfarting fuckwits who do this on the bus seem to have failed to spot, however, is that such a device is necessary on The Apprentice because we, as viewers, are observing both sides of the conversation. It needs to be on speakerphone so that we can hear what they hear. If, however, you yourself are one half of the conversation, you don’t need to put it on speakerphone – because you’re already able to hear what it is that you’re able to hear. YOU FUCKING CLOWN.
Turn the speaker off and use the phone properly, you’re disturbing everyone.

The very-loud-talker
Another fundamental misunderstanding of how the phone works here. Well, actually, the same misunderstanding as in the moving-from-ear-to-mouth instance, but for a different reason.
People who are somewhere with a lot of ambient noise – walking down the street, in the pub, on a busy train, wherever – often feel the need to bellow into the telephone like Dom Joly. This is totally unnecessary. The microphone, as previously highlighted, is tremendously sensitive. The person at the other end can hear you perfectly well if you talk normally, you dumb shit – you’re the one in the loud place, not them. If anything, you’re just transmitting a lot of unnecessary noise to a quieter location. Why would you want to do that, what’s wrong with you?

Sadly, there seems to be no easy way to remedy all of this. Almost 140 years of behavioural evolution led the telephone to become an integral unit of communication, something that slipped effortlessly into day-to-day existence. But it’s all being forgotten now, for no obvious reason. 

My suggestion is this: print out this list of telephonic howlers for ease of reference, like an old 1950s I-Spy guide, and every time you see someone behaving in the manner listed above, simply slap the phone out of their hand. And stand on it. And push them over. (Be sure to explain why you’re doing it, of course - you don’t want this crusade to be misinterpreted as a series of random hate crimes.) Let’s reclaim telephone logic one handset at a time. And let’s roll our eyes and tut a lot and say ‘Honestly…’ while we’re doing it.

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