Thursday, March 09, 2006

If the Shoe Fits...

Now that (I assume) all my Fulbright comrades have returned from their jaunt to the Berlin Fulbright conference and are back in touch, it may be a good time for me to clarify my …um… telephone policy.
No offense intended, but I have a cell phone simply because it is pretty much impossible to exist without one in the Czech Republic (unless one has no friends or professional contacts at all, or lives in a small town where anyone can be found at any time needed). Granted, I have found that it’s very useful. I especially like the SMS capability and the fact that the phone can be set to vibrate instead of making one of those obnoxious ring melodies that make an oldfashioned ring tone sound almost restful. I can be available to my friends at all times without being a public menace. I can assure you that the only time my phone makes any noise but a vibration buzz is when it somehow resets itself to make horrible noises that must immediately be quelled and shut off.
All the same, the fact that the phone itself is available to accept calls or SMSes 24 hours a day does not mean that I normally wish to receive voice calls during the day. You all know where I spend my days: the archive, the library, occasionally a museum.
Not only am I tired of having librarians and museum guards lecture me about how I can’t take calls in their sacred precincts, but let’s face it, if I am working, I really have no desire to talk on the phone. My mind is generally on something that interests me. Perhaps I’m trying to photograph something so that I can send it back and reserve other books. Perhaps I’m hot on the trail of some new weird information about Toyen or the surrealist group. Perhaps I’m trying to figure out which of several vastly different meanings is appropriate for a word I want to translate. Perhaps I’m in the middle of writing a chapter section and don’t want to lose my train of thought. Or maybe I’m merely standing in front of the ultra-strict librarian (he who wears a suit) when my phone starts to buzz uncontrollably. (Believe me, I have been called in all of these situations.)
Keep in mind as well that the library is open evenings and on Saturdays. Chances are good that unless I have other plans, I will be there until seven or so and that I will go there on Saturday. After all, I have only three and a half months left of my grant and am constantly finding new things to look into. (Alén Diviš is my current new object of inquiry.)
Furthermore, I notice that some of you mistakenly try to leave me voicemail. This would be all very well if I could only figure out how to access it. I have tried, and failed. There is no point whatsoever in leaving me voicemail. It will vanish somewhere in T-Mobile’s vast corporate belly.
Now think of the virtues of the SMS! It is silent and can be answered when convenient (which is usually shortly after I receive it). I am happy to receive SMSes at any time of day or night. You may SMS me in the library or while I sleep, confident that I will get the message. Almost everything that any of you call me about during the day could be handled via SMS.
You were under the impression that I do talk on the phone? Indeed, I do at times. I am willing to accept calls on the cell phone in the evening, although as a rule I prefer not to deplete my stipend initiating them. I even enjoy talking to friends and family outside of Prague for hours on end via Skype.
What, you live in Prague and wanted to enjoy my company? Well, I am glad of that. Send me an SMS suggesting we meet for coffee, tea, breakfast, lunch, dinner, a movie, a concert, dancing, wild debauchery, or what-have-you. You know I have my sociable moments. I will usually say yes.

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