Back in the day when I first moved from print production management into account management (sales), I knew all of the accessible restrooms and phone booths in Manhattan. My favorites were at the Helmsley especially since the wooden phone booths had seats and small counters where I could stick my notebook and a cup of coffee. I also had a phone card so I wouldn’t have to worry about quarters, dimes, and nickels when on an extended conversation. Actually I had the card but used the multi-digit code numbers so many times that the touch tones sang a familiar song to me as I punched in the numbers. When I hit a wrong number, I heard a sour note, hung up, and started again.

I did have a desk but was told if I was sitting at it, I wasn’t doing my job. My only tether to the office was a beeper that told me who I had to call when I was out on the street or signaling “911” when I had to call in to the front desk. That meant either they had messages for me or a crisis had erupted and were giving me fair warning.

My first car phone came out of crisis. I was stuck in traffic and my beeper was going off in near hysteria. Finally, I was able to pull off the road and into a diner, where I used the phone on the back wall. If no one else was using it. When I came into the office the next day, I was confronted by the owner who ordered me to put a phone in the car. Immediately. The first phone bill of over $700.00 had him doubting his decision. There were no packages or data plans in those days. You paid by the call. Do the math.

But the landscape has changed dramatically. Now I sit at my desk most of the time communicating exclusively by email  and only picking up the phone when the cross communication of chaotic cc lists and delayed responses turn into a frustrating stew. Where I once sat with clients, discussed projects face-to-face, sketched around ideas and possibilities, and sometimes wandered over to the creative department for additional feedback, I now get my proposal requests and orders thru online procurement platforms. We don’t discuss designs anymore. We download them.

I sometimes feel I can go for days without hearing a human voice. Even my co-workers, who only sit feet away from each other, communicate by email.

All of which has led me to my latest “smartphone”. I had an old Blackberry which was the go-to device for business at the time. But it had gotten slow and started hiccupping into shutdowns and restarts several times a day. Which usually took about 20 minutes of watching a bar creep slowly across the screen as I sat completely cut off from the world since phone booths don’t exist anymore. Why they’re called smart phones I’m not sure if only because using them as phones is secondary. In fact, the simple act of calling a client means swiping, tapping, flicking, and poking thru several screens until you finally get to the number you want (my newly updated software eliminated speed dial – go figure). Where once I had a memory trained to associate people and phone numbers, I now rely on a database resident somewhere in my “device.”

For the past week I’ve been trying to get my phone to do what I want it to do in the simplest of steps. But since phones are really not phones and have no inherited software to do what I want them to do, I have to wade thru all the widgets and third-party software to make it a phone and not an entertainment center. The result is the same as dumping several boxes of jigsaw puzzles onto a table and trying to make a single picture out of them. Then again, if I run into a problem, I can always Google it…on my phone.

By last night I had accomplished most of what I wanted it to do including downloading additional notification sounds to avoid the Terminator-like warnings that came built-in. I never knew beeps, whistles, and wind chimes could be so comforting.

My software is now finally syncing.My home screen has been personalized and my email accounts are up and running. I even have a resident personal assistant that talks to me and who sounds oddly like the GPS lady in my car. She has no name and is only know as “Voice”. But I can download yet another named Eva if I want. It’s gotten five stars from commenters on the forums I found online. On my phone.

hybrids© Alex Gregory

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