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It's about time.
As you read this I'm wasting precious time trying to find a new cell phone company. I dialed an 800 number and a machine answered. Trying to sound as chirpy as a machine can, it said it was glad to talk to me. I was denied the opportunity of telling the machine how annoyed I was that the phone company forced me to listen to a machine in the first place because it wouldn't shut up. Machine told me how important I was to the company and how everyone there was tickled to death that I called and how they couldn't wait to help me.
I'd be in favor of a law allowing customers to bill their phone company the minutes wasted on hold listening to machines. Let customers bill for all the time spent trying to go over the wall from the voice-mail prison where “valued” customers are detained. The phone company bills us for every minute spent on their phone line. Who should know more about how valuable time is?
Timing is everything.
In 1876 Alexander Graham Bell arrived at the U.S. patent office to patent his telephone a four hours before a competing inventor showed up to register a similar invention. Imagine if Bell first sent a telegraph message to the patent office in Washington to find out their hours. I wonder what the telegraph equivalent of a voice-mail prison was in 1876? You probably got a return telegraph message saying, "Your telegraph message is important to us, however all telegraph associates are busy deciphering other telegraph messages. Your telegraph will be deciphered in the order in which it was received. To serve you better we ask that you chose from the following menu of options in your next telegraph message: For information on patents, please telegraph one dot, for new inventions, please telegraph one dash…
After registering his patent, they say Bell tried to sell the rights to his telephone to Western Union Telegraph Company. The asking price for his great invention was reportedly $100,000. The geniuses running Western Union laughed him out of the office.
Charles Williams of Somerville, Mass., was the first person to have a telephone installed in his place of business. It wasn't too useful, at first. Being his was the first phone and all, he couldn't call anyone and no one called him, but at least he didn't need call waiting. Williams soon had a phone installed in his house. His wife was then able to call him during the day. She's thought to be the first wife to ask her husband to stop for a few things on his way home from work.
A woman with the unlikely name of Emma Nutt became the first female telephone operator in America. You think she'd have changed her name if she knew she'd one-day end up in the telephone Hall of Fame?
Oh, I have to go. The machine just told me I'm next up for an “associate.”
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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