Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

My former neighbor Debbi – of the younger-than-40 neighbor set – teased me once.

“That should be your mantra,” she said.

I knew she was referring to the three words I had just uttered during our telephone conversation. But I hadn’t realized, until she mentioned it, that Say that again? was something I said so frequently that it qualified as a mantra.

“I say that a lot?” I asked.

All the time.”

When our telephone conversation was over, I thought about what Deb had said. I thought about my apparent overuse of Say that again?, and then I thought about the mechanics of the telephone conversation we had just had. Deb was on her cell phone; I was on my land line. My needing to ask her to repeat what she had just said was a reflection of the technology, not of my hearing nor of my attention span.

When she had suggested my mantra, I asked Deb if other people didn’t do the same thing. (I.e., if other people didn’t occasionally make the request: say that again?) But Debbi was assured in her response. Among all the people with whom she spoke on the telephone, I was the only one who asked that statements be repeated.

As I continued to think about Deb’s and my telephone conversation, I became sadder.

But I wasn’t sad for me.

Rather, I felt sad for the under-40s, whose telephone conversations – cell phone to cell phone – are so regularly interrupted that they don’t even acknowledge it when they’ve missed something.

They don’t even think to inject, Say that again?

I’m guessing, too, that the people who don’t acknowledge missed dialogue are multi-tasking in the moment.

They could be driving or shopping.

Maybe they’re at a restaurant, having dinner with a friend.

Perhaps they are updating their Facebook page or glancing at the television.

They could be watching one of the 24/7 news networks.

They could be watching both the story and the crawl.

The story and the crawl…

In my opinion, we need to lose the crawl.

We need to get back to the story.


irishoma said...

Hi Katie,
The crawl drives me crazy, but sometimes I amuse myself by finding a misspelled word in the crawl.
Donna V.

Jules said...

The crawl goes to fast for this over-40 person :) But you are correct multi-tasking has taken use from the personal reality of what we should be hearing.
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Martha Gates-Mawson said...

Thank you so much for this post. It's nice to know I'm not alone in having to ask for something to be repeated. Cell phones have a lot to answer for in the area of sound quality, much less the fact that people can be doing everything else while talking.

Deb Shucka said...

I really appreciate your ability to see beyond the surface of things, and once more find myself agreeing with your conclusions. I guess it makes me happy to know that my old fogeyness is shared by someone so much younger. :-)

Anonymous said...

Excellent! I too find myself saying, "I'm sorry, can you repeat that please?" at least five times when someone first comes on the line. I thought it was me at first - I even had my hearing checked - but generally, it is exacerbated by the speed at which the other person talks before they remember to introduce themselves or the mobile phone they are speaking into - especially when driving. More than once I have added,
"I am very sorry but I can't hear a word you are saying, I will have to put the phone down," - hmmmm maybe it is me! I blogged about this a while back much to my family's amusement :-)

Cheryl said...

Blogger ate my insightful comment. Sigh.

When I ask for something to be repeated I get the same response from most folks. Dead air then "Oh shit, I can't remember what I was saying."

I'm going to pretend this is a FB post and hit Like a bazillion times.

Kristy said...

You know what I ALWAYS say? "What was I saying?" I interrupt myself!

Linda Medrano said...

Katie, I hate cell phones with a passion. I have one but barely use it. Give me a land line, a cup of coffee, and time to hang out with a friend and spend some time hearing every word and I'm happy!

Jayne Martin said...

Life now feels like just one big Hollywood party where no one ever looks at the person they're talking to because they're too busy looking around the room in case someone better walks in.

If that makes any sense.

Andrea said...

Oh please let's lose the story AND the crawl and the e-mail and the FB while talking on the phone.
Of course, I have noticed that lots of people have already just given up the phone and now send and receive only texts. Makes it easier on the ears anyway.