An amphibian improves on nature Joel has been very busy lately. He knows he has missed several of your cell phone calls, and is sorry for that. He has never been very good at remembering to bring the silly thing with him. Secretly, he has always wondered why people think it is so important to be able to get ahold of everyone else at a moment’s notice.

That kind of lifestyle was once considered laughable and ridiculous, the stuff of old Maxwell Smart episodes on TV. Who would have thought that the shoe phone could ever be taken seriously? Now, however, Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone is common currency, and we are seeing the end of all structure in life.

In an ideal world, if you need to talk to Joel when he is at work, you could call him at his work phone number. If you need to talk to Joel when he is at home, you could call his home phone number. If Joel is not near a phone at one of these two locations, and has not left an alternative phone number, then it can wait.

This us how it used to be everywhere in the world, as recently as the 1980’s. Ironically, the year 1984, whose number has become a symbol for central control, now conjures images in Joel’s mind of a better, simpler time, when phones were still in fixed locations. No one used to have the instant ability to insert themselves into someone else’s head at a moment’s notice. Joel wished you would think about that kind of lifestyle, really try and picture it in your mind. What would that be like?

But Joel is really genuinely sorry he left his cell phone on the nightstand this morning before he left for work. He will try and do better, even though he knows your call probably did not concern an emergency of any kind.

Years later, Joel does actually carry his phone on him at all times, so you’d think maybe he’s changed his mind. But most “phones” are really computers now; the fact that we still call them “phones” is, by this point, a stock joke in the culture. And the actual phone part of Joel’s smart phone still annoys him as much as it did nine years ago. For example, the event of a ring on his phone still triggers a cascade of deductions aimed at determining whether the call can be avoided or postponed for any reason.

Though he is not a millennial, Joel identifies with much of what Mills Baker has written about millennials’ distaste for phone conversation:

Above all, I think millennials expect to be able to vary their mental engagement with any media or communications source to whatever extent they want, at all times. They don’t like that phone calls require their steady state attention and provide no visual distraction. They don’t like that sometimes inbound phone calls arrive like a sudden demand; they want to be able to choose when to communicate, respond, etc.

Accustomed to the information-density of —say— Twitter, they find vocal exchanges to be rather dull, even laborious; for them, the pace of a phone call is glacial and frustratingly non-negotiable.

Joel (Author) ·