The time before cellphones

In January of 2007, I attended the Millbrae munch, where about a dozen BDSM’ers got together for an evening of talking about, what else, the BDSM lifestyle. That evening, it seems like we discussed almost every topic except BDSM, but I digress.

Several of us were standing around after the munch,. We were chatting when one of us received a call from someone on a cell phone who was having problems “finding us” and “getting to the munch”. Problem one: the munch was already over. Problem two: they were lost at the corner of “walk and don’t walk” and didn’t know where they were or how to find us. It was at this point, the rhetorical question “What did we do before cell phones?” was put forward.

My response was, “We made appointments, got to the right places on time, and people took responsibilities for their personal actions.”

My compatriots responded that “I was not being very Politically Correct”; “I was being just a little bit judgmental”; and “How can you say such a thing?”

It seems that with the advent of the cell phone, people have been given license to be late, because they can call and say they’re running late. Apologizing by phone is very impersonal, it also removes all guilt that a face to face conversation might impose.

We didn’t make a six o’clock appointment and then call at seven pm to say we were running just a little late. We didn’t ask if we could reschedule for eight pm, and then just not show up at all without a second call to apologize.

We don’t call day after tomorrow and make up some almost-believable story about how “my cell phone died – I accidentally put it in the microwave oven!”

We would get out a map and actually plan where we are going. We didn’t call up “MapQuest” on our personal digital assistant / web-enabled cellphone combination, only to discover that we had fifteen minutes to cover the sixty-three miles to get us to our destination on time.

We used to say, “Meet me at the train station, I’ll be wearing dark pants, white shirt with blue necktie. I’ll be carrying a copy of History of England in the Middle Ages opened to page 64”, and it always seemed to work.

I have actually seen people at the CalTrain station talking to each other on cell phones, trying to locate each other by using successive approximation. “Are you the one in the blue jacket? I don’t see anyone with a brown jacket. Which train station are you at, again?”

We didn’t spend time IM’ing and blogging someone, instead of talking to the person across the table from us. We would actually have interpersonal, meaningful communications with “he” and “she” instead of “hie” and “sie”. “BRB” and “CUL8R” were actually spoken as, “Pardon me for a moment, I’ll be back in just a minute” and “I’m sorry, but something has come up and I have to leave. Might I make an appointment to speak with you later?”

I, personally, have taken the time (and given enough thought) to write multiple Iambic pentameter sonnets to a lady because I wanted her to know how I felt about her. I didn’t send a postcard with, “FWIW, AFAIK, IMHO, ILVU”.

The word “Master” in front of your name had real meaning. It did not mean that you have had a relationship with an “online virtual-reality slave” for almost three months. We actually spent time mentoring each other; passing our arts and skills to the next generation.

We didn’t have “A Mommy Government” trying to protect us from ourselves. If we spilled hot coffee in our lap, we yelled (sometimes we used profanity), did a little dance, and started looking for a handful of napkins. We would blot our pants, smile apologetically at the people standing around watching us trying not to make a total fool of ourselves. Our audience would giggle at our discomfiture, and the thought that we would have to re-enter the line to get another cup of coffee.

We didn’t sue the store because the coffee was too hot; the cup manufacturer for product failure; the property management company for failing to provide the proper lighting and safety; and every member in the crowd for laughing at us and causing us to have a deflated male ego making it impossible to sire the next generation of coffee spillers.

If we wish to make decisions about our personal lives, and keep the government out of our bedrooms, I think it is time for the members of the BDSM community to stand up and make a personal commitment. If you make an appointment, keep it. Plan your trip so you can arrive on time, if not before.

Stand up for your mistakes and apologize for them in person, but remember that apologizing doesn’t mean that you can start over with a clean slate. People remember when you have short-changed them, and you will find it a lot more difficult to do it the second or third time.

According to the history books, the cellphone “tip point” occured in 1999: the year that cell phones took over the US. A quick calculation shows that I am an “oldtimer”. Apparently I was born in 58 BC — “Before Cellphones”!

Today’s quote is from Grissom on CSI –
A moral compass will always point the right direction, but it can’t make you go there.

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