This society didn’t just go from landlines to cell phones. No. We went to answering machines, then voice mail, big bag phones, smaller brick phones, flip phones, and, now, smart phones. But let’s not forget the beepers. Then pagers. First numeric, then alpha-numeric, then the voice mail you had to call from another phone to see what the message was. It has come with some funny stories. Well, one funny story anyway.
Back in the early to mid-90, I had a beeper. It informed me that somebody from some number was trying to get in touch with me. Or that somebody wanted to play a joke on me by putting in the number for the AIDS hotline. At any rate, it was helpful for me to get in touch with others both in business and personally.
I had this friend. Let’s call him Phil Carver. Because that’s his name. Phil and I umpired softball games together for many years. It was probably the most enjoyable job I’d ever had. I’d played softball in high school, through college, and on then on my work teams. One night I see my friend Steve Wallace umpiring my game in Houston, TX. Steve and I went to high school together in Slidell, LA, ten years earlier. It looked like he was having fun, so when I moved to Memphis, TN, I began playing softball again, but the next year began umpiring. That’s when I met Phil, in 1987.
Phil is a slow talker; a good southern boy. He’s balding, about 5’6″) I’m being generous here), and a great guy. And a pretty good umpire. If I had to umpire a set of softball games on any given night, he’d be one of three or four guys I’d want to officiate with. This is all fine and good, but what does it have to do with technology?
Okay. There were a couple of leagues that I assigned and would give call Phil to give him his assignments. I’d call his office to contact him and he wouldn’t be there. His secretary would take a message and he’d call me back later. Since we were both salesmen, our days were filled with appointments and paperwork. Sometimes he’d call me back and I’d be on the phone. Then he’d leave a message. He’d call me back, I’d call him back, and he’d call me back. ARGGGGGH. Frustrating.
I purchased a beeper. It was a great way to stay in contact with my clients and my family. Phil would call me and leave his phone number. 382-6400. I’d call him back. He’d be out of the office. Same thing would happen all over again.
After a couple of months, I traded in my beeper for an alpha-numeric pager that had voice mail. My outgoing message was something like, “Hello, this is Steve Collins. Please leave a detailed message, or, if you’d like for me to call you back, key in your phone number now.” It worked like a charm. Now people were leaving me voice mail messages and I didn’t have to play phone tag. Everybody, that is, except Phil Carver. Phil would always key in his phone number. 382-6400.
I called Phil one day and got him on the phone. “Phil,” I said, “I now have a pager that will allow you to leave me messages. If you can’t accept an assignment on Thursday night, just let me know. If you’re going to be late on Monday night, you can leave me that message. Understand?”
There was a brief pause on the phone. “Yeah,” Phil replied, “so instead of me keying in my phone number, you want me to leave me a voice mail message”.
“Exactly”. Me and Phil Carver were now on the same page(r). He now knew that we could quit missing each others phone calls (sometimes for days) and communicate in the last years of the 20th century in a time-saving manner.
A couple days go by. Most people start leaving me voice mail messages, but other don’t. If I have a voice mail, my number appears in my pager. I call that number and get the message. My phone rings. I call my pager number and get the following message – “Steve, this is Phil Carver. Give me a call at 382-6400”.
It is technology or is it me? Or is it Phil Carver?