Sunday 26 January 2020

The great hang up: why we're not calling

Kirsty at large

End of the line: Doris Day in Pillow Talk
End of the line: Doris Day in Pillow Talk

When I was eight, my sister and I discovered the source of true happiness.

It was there on the TV, in the corner of Clarissa Darling's ginormous bedroom; a multicoloured see-through phone.

In 90s hit show Clarissa Explains it All, Melissa Joan Hart would pick it up and natter away before slamming it down.

I was entranced - a see-through phone! In your bedroom! The possibilities of prank calls were endless.

My sister and I canvassed for our parents to install a phone in our shared bedroom.

Unfortunately, it turned out that they were sadists, hell-bent on making us deeply unhappy. In other words, they refused.

Months later, as a sort of peace offering, they bought me a multicoloured see-through Walkman, and the re-release of Meatloaf's 1977 album Bat Out of Hell.

Both of which were obviously and undeniably cool, but still, it was no phone.

Since then, I have always loved chatting on the phone. Growing up, I spent hours in my family's front room (the phone room) dissecting school days with my pals, bitching about teachers, and dying of embarrassment when my mum picked up the second phone line as I spoke to my teenage crush.

All of my friends also loved chatting on the phone, too, but these days, not so much.

Phone calls are out of fashion and 'phone phobia' (anxiety and stress brought on by the possibility of talking to someone on the blower) is a real thing.

In the States there are courses and workshops on how to overcome the fear and have a proper telephone conversation.

Tips include writing down bullet points, keeping a glass of tap water nearby and discussing the weather.

The demise of the phone call is partially being blamed on - you've guessed it - Millennials. (They are also currently being blamed for the invention of cloud eggs, the sharp increase in avocado-related injuries, killing the napkin industry, killing the film industry, killing the 9-5 working week, and - perhaps most serious - killing the popularity of marmalade).

Apparently, Millennials prefer to text, email and emoji. If it's important, WhatsApp me, but please, don't call.

This doesn't sit well with me for several reasons.

Firstly, I'm a journalist - making cold calls and forcing people to talk to you when they don't feel like it, is our bread and butter.

Secondly, telephone conversations are fun! They're off the cuff and unpredictable.

People become distracted, or start talking to the dog, they let things slip and overshare.

People never accidentally-on-purpose tells you gossip in an email chain (unless they're an idiot).

And there are other enjoyable bonuses like overhearing one-sided chit-chat on the bus, and trying to imagine people's facial expression. Not to mention watching actors in movies explain mysterious plot twists, or fall in love via a receiver - Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, Scream, Doris Day's whispers in Pillow Talk, or Celia Johnson's clandestine calls in Brief Encounter.

I think the real reason people have become tired of phone conversation is not down to anxiety, I think it's all down to design - landlines are just better for talking.

They're substantial, the receiver can be easily nestled on your shoulder, and they force you to stay put and listen.

They are also much better for arguing the toss on - slamming a phone down in unmitigated fury is hugely satisfying. You just can't deliver that with a smartphone, I'm afraid.

I recognise that trying to get people to recognise the joy of phone calls is a losing battle, on a par with advocating a return to writing cheques or using oil lamps.

But I do think if you got one of those old fashioned Electric Western phones - the ones that clunk when your place the receiver into the cradle and whirl when you dial - you'd be much more inclined to pick it up and connect with people from time to time.

Jedward and The Donald walk into a Sharknado (almost)


As a nation, we have all been rather remiss regarding the recent revelation that US President Donald Trump was almost cast alongside Jedward (pictured) in 2015 horror film Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

The movie followed on from the basic premise of the preceding two films — that a tornado full of sharks strikes, leaving a trail of blood and blubber in its wake.

This time the action took place in Washington DC where our protagonist Fin Shepard receives a Presidential Medal of Freedom from POTUS.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Trump was asked to play the part of the Prez after Sarah Palin said no (that’s not a joke by the way), but was advised that it might be used against him if he ever ran for the US Presidency.

Instead, the role went to Trump’s reported nemesis, flashy billionaire Mark Cohen. When Trump found out Cohen got the role, it seems he threatened to sue the production company — for what exactly was never really clear. It’s sad that Trump didn’t make it into the film — because it would have been one of his more standout Hollywood movie cameos (much better than his Home Alone stint).

In one scene in Sharknado, the US President runs through the White House gunning down flying hammerhead sharks while screaming “This one is for America, baby!” and “Nobody attacks my house!”

In another scene, people surf down the White House staircase on Presidential portraits before ramming a bust of Benjamin Franklin into a Great White’s gob. Unfortunately, Jedward never made it into the scenes located in the White House, but perhaps their screen time will be upped in Sharknado 5: Make America Bait Again. And perhaps in the coming years, Trump will be free to salvage the role of POTUS in the upcoming Sharknado 6 providing that a) we haven’t all died in a nuclear holocaust or b) he doesn’t run for a second term.


WhatsApp Ricky

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