I've discovered that when you can’t figure out how your fancy new Internet-based office phone works, you create more problems than you solve by jabbing buttons at random. And tempted as I might be, I suspect that striking said phone repeatedly with a three-hole punch until it’s reduced to a pile of plastic shards would do little to improve the situation.
The tech guy at my office recently carried off the analog beast I’d used without incident for fifteen years and left a sleek gunmetal gray uberphone covered with buttons sitting on my desk. I stared at it for a while, then finally said, “Let’s make sure we understand each other. All I want from you is a dial tone. Just let me dial a number, talk to somebody, hang up when I’m done, and get on with my life. Sound fair to you?” I thought it was a pretty good heart-to-heart chat. But I was doing all the talking, and probably should have recognized this as a bad omen.
With my new phone I can do a hostile takeover of Microsoft, reconfigure the orbits of communications satellites, and adjust the thermostat of every house in North America. I can do everything but make a telephone call. It has an instruction manual longer than a Stephen King novel. But a Stepen King novel's written in English; at least twice a week I have to ask the office manager to come over and help me decode the thing.
I think it’s time to reconsider proven technologies like talking drums, smoke signals, and tin cans connected by a string. I’m trying to organize a committee at my office to explore those possibilities, but so far no go.
Guess I’ve just reached an age where I can no longer pretend I’m “cutting edge” in any way. I used to dash up a set of stairs, but now I trudge resolutely, briefcase banging against my knee, staying to the right so the youngsters can vault by me two steps at a time. And I often shake my head when I see things on television that would have once had police pounding on the studio door.
But don’t take me wrong; I’m not a curmudgeon. I enjoy and appreciate the wonders of this young century. It’s just that I wish I could slow things down sometimes…just a little. I was perfectly happy with my old office phone, but someone else decided it was time for a change.
So if you’ll please excuse me, I’m going to go dig up a phone book (remember those?) and see if I can scare up a deal on some carrier pigeons.
Charles Coe is author of two books of poetry: “All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents” and “Picnic on the Moon,” both published by Leapfrog Press. His poetry has appeared in a number of literary reviews and anthologies, including Poesis, The Mom Egg, Solstice Literary Review, and Urban Nature. He is the winner of a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Charles’s poems have been set by a number of composers, including Beth Denisch, Julia Carey and Robert Moran. A short film based on his poem “Fortress” is currently in production by filmmaker Roberto Mighty. Charles is co-chair of the Boston Chapter of the National Writers Union, a labor union for freelance writers. He has been selected by the Associates of the Boston Public Library as a “Boston Literary Light for 2014.”