January 11th, 2007

krazy koati

Don't leave me hanging on the telephone

The thing to understand is I don't feign incompetence as a general rule. I might for educational purposes -- asking students how to proceed when I know exactly how I want the problem to be done -- or for compassionate ones -- playing chess a bit worse than I otherwise would to not crush a seven-year-old who's never played before but thinks it would be neat (a seven-year-old who's never played chess before but thinks it would be neat is about the only person I could beat) -- but not for ordinary life. So when I talk about this particular burst of incompetence I want it understood I'm not doing this to be funny or malicious or lazy or anything. It's just happening.

I can't use cell phones. Something about them just doesn't work in my hands. I don't go out trying to mess them up, but my every attempt to use a cell phone -- typically my dad's -- results in the call not working and, often, the phone being substantially messed up in some way. When I arrived this time around, no exaggeration, he had to dial my youngest brother and I just held the phone to tell him I'd arrived safely. Then he gave me careful directions how to go through his list of contacts, find my younger brother, and I hit the 'green' button to dial. We got someone neither of us knew, who had no idea who we were, or why we were calling them after 10:30 pm on a Saturday. And somehow with that button press I messed up enough settings Dad needed two days to get everything back to normal.

A couple days later he insisted I should try calling for a pizza, and I followed his directions, opening the phone, picking the number, pressing the button to start, talking, pressing the other button to stop (and why doesn't closing the phone hang up the phone?), and setting the phone down on the table. Somehow this pitched his ring-tones overboard and he needed a couple of days to get them re-set, so far as he can tell. Last night in attempting to order a pizza again I made sure he could see all the buttons I was pressing, and we just got up to selecting the pizza place when something messed it up, and I got into some options/setting mode that I didn't recognize. Dad didn't either, and told me to stop and give him the phone. He finished the rest of the dialing.

I don't go out trying to mess up the phones, and it's not my intention. But when I went out for the pizza Dad asked if I wanted to bring the phone with me just in case, and I pointed out we both knew that wouldn't work. (I'll rattle off random thoughts about the Apple iPhone later on, don't worry.)

Trivia: Lee De Forest broadcast by radio to the New York City area a live performance of Enrico Caruso at the Metropolitan Opera in 1910. Source: Remaking the World: Adventures in Engineering, Henry Petroski.

Currently Reading: The Invention of Clouds, Richard Hamblyn.