Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Old School

Jonathan Lethem wrote this piece for the BBC back in 2002.   As I drive to work, wait on line in stores, airports, and queues of indeterminate purpose, his bit repeats itself in my head.  Is this attitude toward phones, cell or land-lines, a generational thing, a question of the presence (or non-presence) of manners and consideration, or and introvert/extroert thing?

I'm not sure.  All I know is my attitude is fossilizing into one where I view the convenience of the cell phone as leaning most toward the person on the other end of the ghostly wire than to me; I carry (and pay for) a cell phone for someone else's desire for usage.   A good friend has successfully snubbed the ownership of a cell phone by stating he's not yet seen the benefits of his peace being disturbed.  I admire his resolve (and his monthly savings).

A short snippet from Mr. Lethem's piece:

"This shop owner insisted, as well, that we counterpersons observe a strict hierarchy as to the precedence of a real live customer, standing in front of us waiting to be served, over a caller on the telephone. Telephone customers, he explained, however preemptory and insistent, were to be considered as ghosts, non-entities, birds in the bush. They hadn’t made the commitment to appear in person in the shop, and so weren’t to be given any privileges to rival those customers who had. We shouldn’t ever make someone standing before us wait while we dealt with a telephone order; we were always to put calls on hold. I suppose this was where my notion of the morality of proximity was first instilled"

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An excellent piece that has me musing in more directions than I can yet comment on. Thank you for that, DV.
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