Friday, November 20, 2009

Hey Merrill - Are You Reading This?

Hey boy that's Balwyn calling
Hey boy that's Balwyn calling
Hey boy that's Balwyn calling
Get off the phone and get out of Balwyn
From Skyhooks', "Balwyn Calling"

For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off.
Johnny Carson

"Schnitzel the size six iPhones"
Jedro74 on Twitter, Nov 21 2009

Somewhere in Manhattan is a woman called Merrill, who doesn't get along with another woman whose name is Cheryl. They were both out at a restaurant dinner last night with a Jessie and a Susan and one other person - a man in his fifties.

How do I know? Well it's not just me who knows. There must be at least forty other New Yorkers who know, or who knew earlier today. Most likely the others have forgotten. I only remember because I made a mental note of the names at the time. The time being around 9:35 a.m. today. The place - on an M15 bus in Manhattan.

Our informant - a skinny, though I'm certain he'd use the adjective "trim", man in his late forties or early fifties, wearing jeans and an open necked shirt. Not too bald, but not well coiffed either. And certainly not shy. He was calling his therapist on his cell phone. Loudly.

He needs a name. What shall I call him? "Phone-Man" will do.

So there we all were, sitting on the M15 bus, most of us on our way to work. At 72nd Street Phone-Man got on. I didn't notice him at first because I was engaged in a discussion. The woman next to me had struck up one of those New York conversations which sound like the conversers have known each other for yonks. She was pointing out a couple two seats away and commenting on their argument-in-progress, which was getting louder by the minute.

The male part of the couple had a big bulbous alcoholic nose and hadn't shaved this century. His companion looked normal enough, though perhaps it was only in comparison. Bulbous-Nose was carrying on like a pork chop, complaining that my neighbor had brushed his leg as she walked past him earlier. Mrs Bulbous-Nose was being reasonable and telling him to chill out.

We were interrupted in our discussion about strange complaining people with bulbous noses by what at first seemed to be a rather loud soliloquy. It was coming from a man close to the front of the bus, on the opposite side.

Was he practicing for a Broadway audition? We listened.

Nope, turned out to be just another cell-phone New York monologue conversation. It was Phone-Man asking his therapist about his friends Cheryl and Merrill, explaining their conflict, though it seemed as though the therapist was not getting a chance to respond.

How could Phone-Man modify Merril's behaviour and had he done the right thing by confiding later with Susan, who by the way was obviously smitten by Jessie and so hadn't been listening? The questions were endless. Every now and then Phone-Man would introduce another character. Susan sounded rather nice. Jessie was obviously a bit pushy. And Britney - well she sounded like a Britney. The monologue was sounding like one of those radio soaps they had in the olden days. "Blue Hills" or "Portia Faces Life".

I looked around. I wasn't the only one distracted and annoyed. A Jehovah Witness put down her "Watchtower", obviously unable to concentrate. A schoolgirl gave up on drawing squiggly hearts on her French homework and stared ahead blankly. The twenty people reading "Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon" (it's a current New York Times' best seller), put their books down and turned to the cartoon sections of their Wall Street Journals.

I turned to my neighbor and raised my eyebrows. She raised hers. "I'm going to say something to him," I said. "Good idea," she said. And then ... he was suddenly silent. Was the therapist at last getting a word in? Seemed so, as Phone-Man eventually said thank you and goodbye doctor. He then sat quietly with a satisfied grin on his face.

It was almost time to get off. I sat for a while pondering how cell phones have taken over our lives, wondering about Merrill and Cheryl, and thinking how my own son now uses his iPod as a unit of measure. Where will it all end?

The bus stopped at Sixtieth Street. My stop. As I walked past Phone-Man I turned to him and said, "I have to disagree with your doctor. I think that Cheryl was clearly in the wrong!" "Shhhhh, Don't tell her," he responded.

I got off the bus shaking my head. If I didn't get annoyed by people who say, "Only in New York", I'd say "Only in New York".

1 comment:

tj said...

A snapshot,
a soliloquy...
a moment vicariously lived
through the eyes of another

All searching for a small town
in Wisconsin.

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