We live in an age of mass communication. The Internet, satellite, cable, instant contact with people on the other side of the world - it's certainly a much smaller world than the one I came into 46 years ago. But the earliest of modern communication techniques still has seemingly total control of the vast majority of us - the humble telephone.
A quite Friday night in beckoned for the Auld Reekie Ranter. The end of another week, the weekend ahead, a wee takeaway and a can of beer or five. I just settled down in front of the old goggle box and was about to take a forkful of chicken fried rice when - inevitably - the telephone rang. So I did what I normally do in these situations - I ignored it. It rang for some considerable time, like a demented machine demanding I give it attention (some people try for ages before realising there's no one in - or in my case just not bloody answering) The ring tone pierces the quiet of the night like a manic alarm, screaming that there's someone who needs to talk to you. But I carried on with my takeaway, determined I wasn't going to give in. And eventually, it stopped.
Relieved, I felt triumphant that I had not sucummbed to the demands of the blasted contraption. But then my imagination kicked in. Why did it ring for so long? That usually means bad news. What if it were an ill relative? One of my grandchildren for instance? Or my mother? Or the police? The hospital perhaps? With my agitation rising, I surrendered. I lay down my tin foiled carton and went to dial 1471. Number withheld. Damn it. However, I allowed common sense to take over from rising panic. Surely if it were an emergency, whoever it was would phone back?
An hour later the telephone rang again. This time I did answer it -it was my mother. And it were she who rang earlier but her reason for phoning was not that important. But she was somewhat alarmed that I hadn't answered earlier. Well, I explained, it is Friday night and a lot of people do go out on a Friday - even me (and I was beginning to wish I had gone to the pub after work as originally intended)
But it proved that many of us remain a slave to the telephone. When it rings we answer it - on occasion dropping whatever it is we're doing to rush to the telephone. After going out, how many of us dial 1471 to see if anyone called? For those with answerphones - not me obviously - they immediately switch on the messages to see who has tried to get in contact while they dare to leave the house.
I was going to add more to this rant - but the telephone is ringing.....