Sunday Cross Words – #3 Across
Another Little Aspie Rant
You know what I really hate? Telephones. Those things people use to talk with one another over long distances. Those things. Hate ’em. Fear ’em. Avoid them whenever possible. I’m convinced that my mother must have been attacked with a telephone when she was pregnant with me. Or that, on the planet I come from, there’s a species of gigantic, telephone-shaped monster that terrorizes my people. Yeah, it’s like that.
From what I can see, other people hate their telephones as much as I do, since they spend so much time shouting at them. When writing fiction, any and all telephone dialogue must be written in ALL CAPS, because that’s how it sounds to my ear. It’s like the telephone connects you to another person, but only after the signal is first routed through a cantaloupe resting on the surface of the fourth planet orbiting Zeta Reticuli A.
HELLO? CAN YOU HEAR ME? YOU SOUND A BIT LIKE YOU’RE EATING CANTALOUPE!
And that distancing is much of the problem. I find it hard enough keeping up with (or surviving in) human conversation when it’s face-to-face and mouth-to-ear, where there’s a sometimes helpful, even if often overwhelming, amount of ancillary information available, such as tone of voice, facial expression, body language, and a variety of props and illustrative devices. If nothing else, I can get a limbic hit of emotional energy, even if I don’t understand exactly what it is. Strip that down to a garbled voice and communication becomes even more difficult.
And then there’s all the shouting. People seem to feel the need to actually push their voices through the interstellar cantaloupe, which can give their words added flavors of urgency, anger, excitement, or imminent doom. The words may be “Hi, Tim. How you doing? Just thought I’d check in.” but what I hear is “HI TIM. HOW ARE YOU DOING? JUST THOUGHT I’D CHECK IN.” and what it feels like is “TIM!!! EXPLAIN YOURSELF!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING??!! WHY HAVEN’T YOU CALLED!!?? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!?!?!?!?! MOTHERFUCKER!!!”
Since I don’t use telephones to just hang out with people (which apparently other people do) but only in dire circumstances, telephones feel, to me, like the audio equivalent of an extreme close-up in a horror movie. You know there’s something right outside the frame. You know it must be mean and ugly and dangerous. And you know that, at any moment, just as soon as the music builds to the exact right spot, that the something is going to leap into the frame and dispatch your protagonist, me, with a cantaloupe spoon. (Note what amazing things one can find when Googling an innocent phrase like “cantaloupe spoon.” Note, also, that “amazing” does not necessarily mean “good.”)
My hatred of phones is such that I will gladly get in the car and drive someplace to speak to someone face-to-face before I will call them on the phone. Given that I’m not always that comfortable speaking to people face-to-face, this should tell you something. Phones interrupt and surprise and knock me out of my story. They intrude, and blare, and grate my ears. They promote a form of human interaction that feels much too fast to me, and create a sense of urgency that makes it difficult for me to slow down and get what I need, like I’m still stuck back in the 1960s. Hurry, Tim, and don’t talk very long. It’s long-distance!
And it is. Those calls route through a cantaloupe. That’s expensive as hell.