ON THAT NOTE
Suresh Menon is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is
Our columnist Suresh Menon got a taste of his own medicine recently when his mother made up the perfect excuse to avoid having a conversation with him.
You know how it is. You are busy, but can’t ignore the call, you hope the caller keeps it short, and before you have worked out all the choices you have picked up the phone and started speaking into it. But of course the hope for a short conversation disappears within the first 15 minutes, and you can’t hang up in mid-flow. What do you do?
I have two techniques. One, repeat ‘hello’, ‘hello’ a few times pretending the line is faint or unclear or dead and then hang up (if you can manage a fluid curse under your breath, you would have added authenticity to the process). This works well for me since I live just outside the city and people who believe the worst of our various systems don’t find it difficult to imagine that the signal is usually non-existent.
It is important to vary this with Technique 2 for greater realism. A single-excuse call drop is like a single-source newspaper story. It doesn’t stand up well. Here, I pretend there is someone at the door, and to add verisimilitude, I even step outside and ring the bell myself, ensuring the sound carries loud and clear to the ears of the caller. Of course, some counter this tactic by talking on as if nothing has happened, and then you might be forced to ring the bell with greater persistence and urgency.
The real advancement – rather than letting us watch movies on our phones or trying to send a man to the moon from our backyards with all the maths being calculated on it – would be if our cell phones automatically rang a doorbell a few minutes into the conversation, saving us the trouble of having to do so.
Perhaps other sounds could be incorporated too to get the caller off line. ‘I am at the airport about to board a flight,’ you say, and the ambient noises of your average airport filter through to the caller while you are sitting at home waiting to continue watching the movie. Or you say, suitably shocked, ‘Gosh, was that an earthquake?’, and the phone obliges with sounds of family photographs falling off the walls, breakfast dishes hitting the ground and a young man wearing a blue suit wailing somewhere in the distance. You get the idea.
This last I thought was a great idea, and decided to tell my mother about it. You know mothers, they can’t get enough of your voice on the phone. After the usual greetings, I told her, ‘Hey mamma, do you know I have this great idea you will love…’
And she said, ‘That’s wonderful, son. Just hang on, I think there’s someone at the door…’