A WEEK WITHOUT A PHONE

There has been countless reports on how people are affixed to their phone devices. For much of their waking hours, people that own these methods of communication are constantly checking to see who called and/or texted them within the last three minutes. They appear to be staring into their phones where they are looking for something. They don’t know what they are necessarily looking for, but the search goes on. Generally speaking, they don’t own smartphone, the smartphones own them. And that’s not too smart to begin with!

This writer may have been just a little harsh with the description of how people are obsessed with their phones. Yes, there are those that seem to be in a state of hypnosis while they are using their phones, down to having their eyes rolling in a spiral pattern, an edison-style light bulb affixed to their heads flashing while uttering in a monotone voice “I Will Do What Simon Says!” (See Vol. 23-No. 15). And there are a few folks that do take advantage of what their phones can do to use the applications as prescribed, only to place the device down when finished and to walk away! So regardless of what the media reports on how smartphones are good while they are evil, there is a balance in existence.

Which leads up to an experiment that’s been going on to test how one uses their phones or how their phones uses them. There have been a number of case studies that challenged people not to use their cell phones for a given time, let’s say for seven days. For that week’s worth of time, one can’t use their phone at all! No texting, no using various apps of color or size, and no taking either! Nothing! And the contest begins! Who will win? Who will come out unscaved? And who will turn into a total emotional train wreck just because they could not perform simple tasks without that hand held device where once upon a time, they were able to perform those same functions minus any electronic gadgets at their side?

Well, yours truly come to that test, but not by choice. It was through circumstance. However, it was not involving any hand held gadgets through this dare. It wasn’t even part of the smartphone set. It was the other phone device–the one that’s attached to a wall, better known as a hard line!

Here’s how it all began. In early February, the Los Angeles region was hit by a number of rainstorms that damped the area where some five inches of rain fell through the area. And with that amount of rain falling in a short period of time, one will encounter some water based damage. Somewhere near the facility where this here news service is produced, a phone junction box affixed to a telephone pole (‘natch) received some water leakage and thus, shorted the phone wires. This occurred on a late evening.

The next morning, yours truly noticed that the hard lines used did not sport a dial tone. However, it was a Friday, and usually on that day, people frustrated with the weather wanted to start their weekend early, so not many calls would be made. Also, it was the start of the President’s Day weekend, meaning that the Monday would be a holiday. And it would be the last three-day weekend until Memorial Day some three months ahead. (Other “holidays” such as St. Patrick’s Day and Easter doesn’t count, although some people blow off Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday!) So I wasn’t too hot of a hurry to get the line fixed the moment I discovered the outage.

I attempted to contacted the telco, AT&T, about the phone being out of order. Calling the customer service number late Friday, I discovered that they were closed for the day and for the weekend, so I had to wait until that Monday. Monday was President’s Day, and AT&T’s customer service department was also closed for that holiday. So I had to wait until Tuesday to report my outage.

On Tuesday morning, their 800 number was dialed (from my smartphone of course!), only to lead me to a series of phone prompt handled by a robot. After pressing “1” for this and “2” for that, I was able to make my appointment for a technician to arrive to see what the problem was. That appointment day was for that Friday, a week after I discovered that the phones were down!

To make a longer story shorter, the technician was able to fix the problem, and sure enough, phone service was restored. I thanked the person that came in on a rather cold and somewhat damp afternoon, and that was the end of that!

What made this encounter rather interesting was the fact that for that one seven day stretch, I did not miss the hard line being out of order. For that week, it was rather quite and peaceful, never hearing that phone ring constantly throughout the day.

A few things that should be noted. Although many households no longer have a hard line in place, this writer has one. And the reasons for that is because cell phone service in where I am based is rather fair to poor. The hard line serves as a backup. Also, the phone number attached has been a working number for a little over twenty years, and on occasion, I do receive calls for outside sources that had kept that number at bay for the many years. If that number does become disconnected, then one may assume that I moved, went out of business, died, or a combination of all three!

Those are the good reasons on why that hard line exists. The bad news about it all is the fact that within the last two or so years, a majority of incoming calls are either from robots and/or telemarketers based in nations outside of the USA attempting to sell me goods or services that are for real or for scamming purposes. There have been times where within a six hour period, I receive as many of eight to ten phone calls for the above noted robots and foreign based telemarketers.

I am not the only one to get bombarded over robo calls and telemarketers from outside sources. The FCC has reported that such calls have increased over the last year. Los Angeles is one of the hardest hit areas of the nation where robo calls overtake standard voice calls. Some people that have kept their hard lines for various reasons don’t even bother to answer their phones anymore. They just let it ring, or have the voice record device take the message. Even through the FCC does maintain their do not call list established, many of these companies that have robo calls systems set up are located outside of the USA. Thanks to internet based phone connections, it’s very easy and cheap to make thousands of calls all at once from as far away as East India and the Philippines, far enough from the reaches of where the FCC does their business.

Interestingly enough, when phone service was finally restored, within five minutes, an incoming call came in from a telemarketer based in some Asian based nation informing me that I was awarded a three day two night trip to Hawaii. All I had to do was to attend a “ninety minute” presentation from a timeshare vacation company at their facility in Oceanside, California–some 100 miles away from where I hang my hat!

So to answer the time tested question on if I can live without my phone for a week’s time, that answer would be a “yes”! And we are speaking (pun?) about the hard line. As to the smartphone? From the annoyance I receive from that device as it stands, I would be willing to take the challenge!
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NEWS AND REVIEWS

Performing at The Lounge Theatre in Hollywood is the Los Angeles premier of Michael Weller’s FIFTY: WORDS, a drama about a couple that face the challenges of working to get ahead while raising their child, along with coping to a once well kept secret.

Jan (Olga Konstantalakis) and Adam (Erie Larson) live in a renovated brownstone in the New York borough of Brooklyn. Jan was once a professional dancer. Now she is working for a young start-up company. Adam is an architect. His work takes him to various places within the middle region of the US. They have a nine year old son named Greg who’s enrolled in an upscale school. One Friday evening while their son is away at a sleepover event, Jan and Adam and Jan spend their first night home alone since Greg was born. Perhaps it’s the right time for the pair to take a rather intimate evening together. But Jan is bogged down with her work, bypassing their planned night of passion. Adam has his own problems as well with his job. Along with the stress they experience with their son, it appears that their domestic life is teetering on its edge. What brings things to its screeching halt is a phone message that Jan took for Adam earlier in the day from a woman she didn’t know. This woman turns out to be somebody Adam knew for some time. Her existence was more of an intimate affair rather than a business colleague. With their marriage already falling from its peak, Jan and Adam face a contest to either keep their relationship in check, or to end with what they have built up as a couple.

This play is a well intent melodrama that speaks for an element of a domestic marriage on how faithful a partner is to its other. The two performers, Olga Konstantalakis and Erie Larson as Jan and Adam, fit the standard of a couple living in an urban landscape with the sense of having it all. But alas, they hold more pressure in order to keep up with the personal universe. Shane Stevens’s stage direction holds these principles to its truth. This said direction, along with the performances of Olga Konstantalakis and Erie Larson, make this stage work as believable as it could get.

In addition to the talents as seen through performance, John Mahr’s set design shows off a rather cozy yet mildly cluttered unit where Jan and Adam live, complete with toys and other signs showing that a child lives among them. Even through the child himself (Greg) is never seen but only referred to, one can sense that this couple are doing well for themselves in terms of keeping up with the so-called “joneses”.

One element to this play is the fact that it holds many questions about one couple’s marriage that’s on the brink, but doesn’t offer a solid closure. Perhaps it is up to the viewing audience to make that conclusion for the stage couple. As in “real life”, there are no easy answers to life’s own trails and tribulations.

FIFTY: WORDS, presented by Mackley Jones Productions, and performs at The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. (one block east of Vine Street at El Centro), Hollywood, until April 7th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 3:00 PM.

For ticket reservations or for more information ,call (800) 838-3006, or online at https://FiftyWords.BrownPaperTickets.com
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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2019 Linear Cycle Productions. All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!

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