Thursday, September 09, 2004

Sounds of Silence

I am she as you are she as you are me and we are all together.
See how they run like Biggs from a phone, see how they dial.
I'm waiting.

Sitting on the sofa, waiting for the phone to ring.
Information call-man, are they gone on holiday?
Girl, you been a naughty girl, you left your base so long.
I am the friendless, they are the phoneless.
I am the friendless, goo goo g’joob.

Mister city phone-sets sitting
Pretty little phone-sets in a row.
See how they ring like a Four 'n Twenty pie, see how they call.
I'm waiting, I'm waiting.
I'm waiting, I'm waiting.

Maladjusted chatter, slipping from a dead phone's dial.
New Yorker still-life, workaholic mistress,
Girl, you been a naughty girl you let your country down.
I am the friendless, they are the phoneless.
I am the friendless, goo goo g’joob.

Sitting in a New York condo waiting for the phone.
If the phone don't ring, you get a Plan
From standing in a New York train.
I am the friendless, they are the phoneless.
I am the friendless, goo g’goo goo g’joob.

Expat textpat, choking brokers,
Don't you thing the joker laughs at you?
See how they dial like birds in a pie,
See how they hide.
I'm crying.

Kirralie StwitchBoard, climbing up a Telstra tower.
Directory Mannequin saying yes I'll call ya.
Girl, you should have seen them saying 'Vote for Joh!'

I am the phoneman, they are the phoneless.
I am the friendless, goo goo g’joob g’goo goo g’joob.
Goo goo g’joob g’goo goo g’joob g’goo.

Apologies to the Beatles

Sounds of SilenceA few weeks ago we bought a VOIP service. What's more - an AUSTRALIAN VOIP service.

I was so excited! For about 8 cents US we could call Melbourne Australia for unlimited minutes. And what's more, anyone in Melbourne could call us in New York (unlimited minutes), for the cost of a local (Melbourne Australia) call.

For around $10 per month we have a Melbourne Australia phone number. So now we have two physical phones - our US phone and our Australian phone.

I hurriedly emailed my Australian friends. Those not on email, or who rarely check it (yes such people exist) I phoned. I spent time explaining. I was a little surprised at the apparent lack of interest, but put it down to ... well I didn't put it down to anything; I just repressed it.
Then we waited. An waited. And waited. Till it dawned on us that it wasn't the expense of a long distance call that was stopping old friends calling. It was something much much worse!
We are forgotten.

Oh I'm not saying we are completely forgotten, but we are no longer part of the daily life of our friends. I can imagine them sitting around at a dinner party and saying, "I wonder how Kate is? - let's call her - doesn't she have a Melbourne number?" And then realising that they don't know the time in New York and that they've lost the number and it's all too hard anyway.

An old friend of mine came to stay last month. She kept asking, "What's the time in Australia". About one hundred times I patiently explained that it is easy to work out. Just add two hours and then realise it is the opposite en of the day. So 9:00 a.m. in New York is 9 plus 2 = 11 and swap from a.m. and it is 11 p.m. in Australia on the east coast. I THOUGHT she was listening but later she asked again. "What's the time in Melbourne?"

I must have sighed, as she commented, "Well it is easier to ask people than to work it out yourself!"

I realised that Carolyne hadn't changed since I met her eons ago in Elsternwick, Melbourne. Still the vague Carolyne. That is one of the aspects of Carolyne that I find endearing; she's an old and valued friend. But perhaps she was displaying more than her "Carolyn-ness" - perhaps this obliviousness to the rest of the world and the movement of the planets around the sun is an antipodean thing. After all they are laid back "down there". Life is comparatively easy. And if a friend leaves for other lands, who can be bothered with working out their time of day?

We still have our "Australian phone". It has rung about three times. Once from a friend who called Telstra first to find out the time in America. Whilst on the call with Telstra she had a chat. She explained about our "Melbourne phone". The Telstra operator didn't believe it. It is impossible she told Sarah.

So Sarah called our Melbourne number and I answered in New York. Most of the conversation consisted of her explaining that it was all impossible. When I would start to explain, she'd quote the Telstra lady. I gave up. At least she'd called after all.

We'll keep the phone. We don't expect it to ring though. And perhaps they are right - our friends in Australia - after all. Why go to all that trouble of working out the time. It is just too much work.

Why do I now remember that Australian bumper bar sticker that I'd see while driving up Punt Road, Melbourne in the eighties - a sticker that sums up the easy-goingness of Australians.

"I'd rather be sailing".

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