We’ve all grown accustomed to the convenience cell phones offer. When I was a teenager, during the preppy years, I wore “penny” loafers. Instead of slipping a penny into each shoe, I used dimes in case I needed to find a payphone and make an emergency call. Now, my cell phone is always with me and I haven’t seen penny loafers or a working payphone in years. One of the advances with cell phone technology is blue-tooth, the opportunity to operate the phone without actually having to hold it in your hands. In theory, having your hands free will enable you to be a safer driver.
In order to make hands-free calls in my old car, I had to remember to stick a device in my ear when I entered the car. I always forgot to do this and was only reminded to put in the ear piece after I heard the phone ring. The call would go to voicemail and I would wait until I stopped at the next light before fumbling around trying to get the device to actually stay in my ear. If I did manage to put the ear piece in before the light turned green, I had to wait until the next red light to actually dial the phone to return the call I had missed. Usually, once my jaw began to move while speaking, the device would fall out of my ear and wedge itself between the seat and the car door. Its usefulness left much to be desired.
My new car has the latest blue-tooth technology. When I picked up the car at the dealer, he synched up my phone and car. This is the technological equivalent of introducing them to each other. I have no idea what he did, but there was a lot of button-pushing. Once I was synched up, I enjoyed trying out the new technology. I discovered that when I hear the muffled ringtone coming from the deep recesses of my purse, my car rings like a vintage telephone. When I answer the call, a disembodied voice surrounds me in stereo.
Shortly after learning how to actually answer a call with my steering wheel, I realized that I don’t have caller ID. How am I supposed to answer a call when I don’t know who is on the other end? It seems so primitive to just pick up a ringing phone willy-nilly and not know who is on the other end. Since caller ID has become so commonplace, most of us no longer identify ourselves to the person on the receiving end of the call. This poses a problem in the car. The phone rings and I say hello. The caller, who doesn’t know I’m in the car and doesn’t realize that I don’t know who they are, launches into a story. I’m not sure what the etiquette is for that situation. Do I stop them in mid-sentence to say, “Who is this?” or should I answer the phone with “Who are you?” rather than “hello?” Instead of seeming rude, I listen intently, analyze the voice and content of the conversation and guess who it is on the other end of the phone. I like to think of it as a private game show.
Answering phone calls with the blue-tooth without caller ID is a small problem compared to the issues I have when making a call. With the voice activated system, I am able to push a button, say a contact name or number and my car secretary makes the call for me. That’s what’s supposed to happen. Let’s just say that my blue-tooth and I have some communication problems.
It seems promising each time I press the button and the cheerful chime signifies that my car is listening and at my service. A woman’s voice tells me to say a command. If I don’t speak fast enough, she launches into a menu of options. I’ve learned to speak quickly and enunciate clearly. Despite this, our communication problems persist. After 4 months, I have been able to successfully make a hands-free call to the person I intended to call about 25 percent of the time. Usually my exchange with my car goes like this:
“Please say a command,” she says.
“Call work?” she asks.
“No, call O-REG-A-NO,” I say enunciating each syllable.
“Call Hurley?” she asks again trying to be helpful.
I’m losing my patience, “NO! CALL OREGANO!” I yell.
The car seems equally frustrated, “Select an option from the menu.”
She proceeds to run through a list of likely choices from my contact list, none of which is Oregano. I can’t interrupt her because she doesn’t understand me when I do. So, I wait politely for her to finish her speech and try again following the instructions she has just given me.
“Call Oregano,” I say through clenched teeth, hardly containing the frustration in my voice.
“Call home?” she asks.
Not this again. I push the button to end our argument. I drive a few more miles, let both of our tempers simmer down and try again.
“Call home.” Maybe if I try a one syllable word I’ll have better luck.
“Call mmmmm,” she mumbles.
I grip the steering wheel tighter, lean closer to the speaker near the window and yell, “NO! CALL HOME!” I can only imagine what I must look like to drivers passing by.
“Call home?” she asks.
Ah ha! Success! “Yes,” I say greatly relieved.
She responds not with the sound of a ringing phone, but with, “I didn’t understand. Your choices are yes, no or help.”
I don’t think the help she is offering is going to help me with my mounting anger and frustration. I take a deep breath. With one last try, I say yes very calmly and clearly.
“Calling home,” she says. We’re both exhausted from our exchange.
Finally, my car stereo rings like a phone. Oregano picks up the other end, “Are you on your way home?” he asks.
“Yes, I just pulled into the garage.”
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Many thanks to Judy at earthrider.com for presenting me with The Lovely Blog Award. Judy’s blog is always interesting to read. She varies her topics and the writing is always first-rate. Stop by and see for yourself.