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Front Page » December 6, 2005 » Opinion » Of voice mail, cell phones and China
Published 3,245 days ago

Of voice mail, cell phones and China


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate general manager

The phone on the other end of the line rang and rang and rang.

Finally a harsh electronic voice came on the line that said, "Enter your access code now."

I had kind of expected a "Hello, this is Joe Blow..." kind of message or at least an artificial voice that said "Leave a message at the tone." But no; to leave a message for the person I was calling, I needed an access code.

Well I didn't need to talk to them bad enough to try some unknown numbers so I hung up.

It seems that is the way our society is today. We just can't do without voice messaging, cell phones and PDA's (okay if you don't know what that means I had to ask around the office too. It is a Personal Data Assistant).

There is a segment of our society however that isn't so sold on these recent electronic gadgets though. You see them everywhere; poor lost souls who are not in communication with the world at all times. I pity and envy them at the same time.

Some ask, "What is wrong with these people."

I ask, "What do they know that I don't?"

In fact it wasn't that long ago that I didn't think cell phones were a needed accessory to my belt line. I remember being on a plane in the mid-1990's and as soon as it pulled up to the gate some guy in front of me got on his cell phone, just to chit chat. I thought then how ridiculous those phones were.

"Who could possibly need to be in touch all the time?" I mumbled to myself as people pushed and shoved to get off the plane first. A guy behind me agreed and shook his head.

But my kids, who all loved their cell phones began to remind me constantly that I was always one to say "We should look to change for the answers."

They finally got me to buy one in 1999, and I basically have not been without it since. I have to say it sure cured those missing someone you were supposed to meet in a busy part of Salt Lake incidents. Or how about all those times when I get sidetracked at a mall and my family heads off another direction. Now all I have to do is call them up.

I always hear complaints about cell phone etiquette, and I really have to agree. This past fall I was actually at a family funeral, in fact in the family prayer when someones cell phone started to play "Happy Days Are Here Again" to everyone, except the owners, chagrin. Even worse though was the fact that the person who owned the phone actually answered the damn thing and began a conversation right then and there. I felt many hands come together in a strangulation hold while the woman gabbed on like nothing important was going on.

But if you think that urge to answer a cell phone is only an American phenomenon, guess again.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal pointed out that the Chinese are much worse about using cell phones anywhere or everywhere. While land lines in the United States have been around almost everywhere for over 75 years, the regular telephone network in China has always been lacking, and never really developed much. However with the recent boom in China's economy, land line communication has been passed right by and once cellular technology took hold, it has become the main way the Chinese communicate with each other. According to the piece they don't ever shut their cell phones off, because it is literally their only way to communicate.

So cell phone etiquette basically does not exist in China. If you get a call you take it, whether your grandma is on her death bed and you are holding her hand or it's in the middle of your granddaughter saying a family prayer.

As for me, I hate cell phones ringing in the middle of anything. In fact the new ring tones, most of them with some classic song recorded into them, are even more annoying. Most of the time I set my cell phone for the "etiquette" mode which means it buzzes instead of ringing. That means when I am in a meeting or a crowd I can ignore it if I want. I wish more people would do that.

But let's get back to voice mail. According to the article about cell phones the Chinese hate voice mail too. It seems that the attitude is that anyone of any importance would have someone answering their phone for them. So many who have to telephone lower ranking people in their company (or in the country for that matter) do not want to just leave a message because it is apparently beneath them.

The Wall Street Journal article said it is basically a "cultural gap." In the U.S. it seems the cultural gap exists between those that are connected and those that aren't.

I remember a number of years ago I saw a half hour science fiction show on television where a guy was connected in every way, with five phones, one of which was with him all the time. It was produced before cell phone technology became all the rage. He kept talking about getting away from the technology so he could be left alone, but his cohorts kept acting like he was crazy to want to do that.

Eventually he disconnected all the phones in his office and on his person and it was totally quiet. It was night time and he was loving it when the police came in and arrested him for being "disconnected."

So keep that cell phone on and that voice mail working. You never know when the law might change in the middle of the night and the technology police show up at your front door.


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December 6, 2005
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