According to my dictionary of the Spanish Language (RAE) the word communication comes from the Latin.
Del lat. communicāre.
We all know how the Roman Empire was efficient. The Romans pioneered the concept of well-constructed roads and built bridges (they invented concrete) to bring communities across rivers together.
I remember my 20th century black dial phone in Mexico City. When it rang I ran to answer it.
For this century I would like to coin the expression “the age of missed communication”.
My writer friend Mark Budgen, who died 22 October 2015, was a paragon of a calm stability. I now realize he was ahead of the game when back in the 20th century I called him up and his answer was, “Alex, I cannot talk to you as I am monitoring a fax.”
I remember that one of the sensibilities of the ever-polite Canadians back in that 20th was that they said this when I picked up the phone, “Am I calling you at the right time?” Sometimes, as a joke I would answer, “I am having sex with my wife.”
In the last few years when I answer my landline (yes I have one!) I like to sometimes say, “Burnaby Fire Department, may I help you?”
All that pleasant banter is all but gone. I have lost many friends who have died. This happens when you reach my age of 80. Many others, in this more than three-year pandemic, have “died” because they jettisoned their landline, they are not in social media so I have no way of finding their cellular number. Some are in LinkedIn which is all but useless if you want to call someone on demand.
It seems that the protocol is to text people, “Can I phone you in a while? When would it be convenient?”
I had a pleasant many-year relationship at the Georgia Straight with the Arts Editor Janet Smith, dance writer Gail Johnson and editor Charlie Smith. I have left messages at Janet Smith’s and Johnson’s on-line cultural magazine Stir with no response. I have called Janet Smith at home. She has never answered or called me back. I have Twitter direct-messaged Charlie Smith to call me. He has not.
As an 80 year-old obsolete, redundant, retired & inconsequential magazine photographer, I have indicated to these media folk that I am not trying to pitch stories or ask for paying assignments. I simply want to connect and tie up loose ends as my time on this planet is statistically short in question.
My good friend, former Straight Editor, Charles Campbell says he is unable to email me back because he gets too many emails and is overwhelmed.
I like to play a game where I write down a short list (shorter by the day) of the phone numbers of people I want to talk to.
The reason I want to talk to people is that living alone with two cats makes me eager to hear a human voice.
In that short list of 10, 8 will not answer. I may get one answering machine or this, “Alex I am driving from North Van. I will call you later." (they don’t), or a recent one, “Alex, I am at the optometrist. I’ll call you later." (he did). Another time time when I called him, “I am buying tomatoes. I cannot talk.”
I called a friend of many years in Memphis about 10 years ago. When he answered he told me he hated to talk on the phone and, “Besides since I read your blog every day, I don’t need to talk to you.”
Another friend, I finally located, asked me how my health was. I told him that I was okay and that I took pills for a heart problem. His email answer was, “You lied. I am going to block your emails.”
And so tonight 10 February, I can feel lucky that I can call my Burnaby daughter Hilary and have a pleasant chat.
And that’s it.
Mark Budgen always knew.