NO FREE PARKING – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Parking

There is no free parking in Boston. There is no free parking in New York either. I don’t know about the rest of the big cities, but I’m betting it’s pretty much the same. Assuming you can push your way through the traffic and actually get to the city … what do you do next?

Alley behind the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston

Weaving through Boston traffic on any given day can be a traumatic experience. Cars and trucks pop out of side streets, apparently without so much as a glance for possible other traffic. If you can find a parking place (good luck with that), it will either cost you a fortune … or pretty much the same amount for a parking ticket.

I have stood there, calculating which is going to cost more — the ticket or a legal spot. The legal spot is usually not only more expensive, but it’s much less convenient than parking wherever you happen to be.

My first car experience in Boston traffic was waiting at a light and getting hit by a car leaving a parking space. I got hit by a parked car standing still. At a light. Welcome to Massachusetts.

How about the people leaving illegally parked cars and stand there with their doors open, waiting for you to knock it off the frame?

I do not know if all cities are as bad as Boston, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are. Of course, now people lurch wildly through streets talking on the phone. Blind and deaf to traffic, at the very least can’t we ban cell phones in cars? AND while walking on the street?

Walkers who have parked are the terror of the roads.

Considering how often we stand at an intersection waiting for the driver in front of us to get off the phone and drive, it’s hard to tell who is parked and who isn’t.

Out here, in the country, the roads aren’t as packed with traffic as they are in town. You can generally find a place to park — at least in the village. Out in the country, it’s perfectly legal — but the odds are very good that someone — texting or talking — is going to come around a curb and whack your car.

Remember TV shows where the cop or private detective could park anywhere? There was always a spot for him, even in the middle of Manhattan or Los Angeles. I want to see more realistic shows where the guy misses his appointment because the IS no parking. And he doesn’t have $120 for two hours of downtown parking.

CAN YOU HEAR ME? HELLO? – Marilyn Armstrong

Someone’s left you a voicemail message, but all you can make out are the last words: “I’m sorry. I should’ve told you months ago. Bye.”

Who was it, and what was it about? It’s a mystery to me.

We used to leave messages on our answering machines telling folks to speak slowly and clearly, but too many people thought we were being funny, that leaving a coherent message was a joke. So we get lots of incoherent messages. Usually, with caller ID, we know who called and can retrieve the number, but the contents of the message is gobbledy-gook.

“Garry, your brother called. No idea what he said. Call him, okay?”

“Hey, Jim called about something. Call him when you have a moment.”

“One of your cousins called. They left a message but I don’t know what it was.”

My favorite: “Someone called. Maybe it was important. They left a number but I can’t understand it.  Guess it wasn’t important enough.” If it really is important and we don’t call you back? Pick up the phone and call again. If it’s that important, make sure we got the message.

If you choose to leave a message, speak up. Clearly. Repeat the phone number at least twice. Don’t forget to include your name — in case we don’t actually recognize your voice because, you know, the phone isn’t very clear.

Don’t mumble.

While we’re on the subject, how about those cell phones, eh? On which you can’t hear anything? From either end? I miss telephones on which you knew you had a connection that wouldn’t drop and on which you could hear what someone said to you — and know they could hear you.


“Can you hear me? Hello? Are you still there?”

It’s 1904 all over again. Without wires or operators.

The other night, my husband and I watched — for the umpteenth time — Meet Me In St. Louis. It’s the old Judy Garland musical. Vincent Minnelli directed it. Great movie, one of our favorites. Terrific songs, Margaret O’Brien about as cute as a kid can be. Nostalgia on the hoof.

The story is set in 1904 when the World’s Fair was coming to St. Louis. Telephones in private homes were the hot new technology. A call from a distant city was a big deal. Early in the story, the oldest sister, Rose, receives a long-distance call from New York.

dining-room-21-512x384

FROM “Meet Me In St. Louis” — SCENE: The phone rings.

Rose Smith: Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?
Warren Sheffield: Yes, I can hear you. (Pause)
Rose Smith: What did you say, Warren?
Warren Sheffield: Nothing. I was waiting for you to talk.
Rose Smith: Oh. Well, did you want to discuss anything in particular?
Warren Sheffield: What?
Rose Smith: I said, was there anything special you wanted to ask me?
Warren Sheffield: I can’t hear you, Rose …
Rose Smith: That’s funny. I can hear you plainly.
Warren Sheffield: Isn’t this great? Here I am in New York and there you are in St. Louis and it’s just like you’re in the next room.
Rose Smith: What was that?


ANOTHER SCENE: TODAY, MASSACHUSETTS

Me: Hello? Hello? Cherrie?
Cherrie: (Faintly) Hello? I’m in New York … (something I can’t understand) … signal.
Me: Bad signal?
Cherrie: No signal.
Me: How are you?
Cherrie: Tired. Running around.
Me: Miss you.
Cherrie: Miss you too. Having trouble getting a signal here.
Me: Cherrie? Hello? Are you there? (Long pause.) No, you aren’t there.

(Click. Sigh. Pause. Ring. Ring.)

Me: Cherrie?
Cherrie: Can you hear me?
Me: I can hear you, can you hear ME?
Cherrie: Hello? Hello? (Pause, faint sounds.) Is this better?|
Me: Yes. A bit.
Cherrie: I turned my head and lost the signal.
Me: We couldn’t have done it better if it was scripted.
Cherrie: I’ll call you when I get back. I think I’m  losing … (Silence.)

Progress and technology. Which way are we going? 

WHIPPING OFF A POST FROM YOUR PHONE

This year, I’m resolving to update my blog from the WordPress mobile app. My phone is always nearby, which allows me to blog from wherever I am, and there’s something about the smaller screen that seems to take the pressure off for me. I can whip up a post draft on the spot or publish a photo immediately.” — Sarah Blackstock


This explains the low quality of so many posts I try to read … and give up on before I finish the first paragraph. It’s the complete absence of thought and a sense that this is merely a text made public — a sure-fire way to not have well-thought-out stories or ideas. Or high quality photographs. Or high quality anything. It guarantees that people lured in by promises they can do it all on their mobile phone will be in and gone in less than a quarter of a year. A few weeks, a long silence, and then the posts linger forever in virtual space and no one goes there anymore.

I have long known this is what WordPress has been pushing. I guess they have not noticed the kids who start out on their phones come, send a few messages and when they don’t get followers, they quit. Those of us who write seriously and pursue photography as something other than snapshots … are ignored by their “happiness engineers” because we don’t need to be happy.

Too bad. With nearly 6,000 posts “in the can” and I don’t even know how many photographs, I am reminded how WordPress doesn’t care about me. They are expending all their efforts to lure aboard people who are not serious and will never be worth reading. They made a decision long ago to ignore “these boring people” who’ve been blogging for years, have substantial followings, and care about what they say and to whom they say it.

Every once in a while, I wonder how come someone in their administration or planning departments might at least consider the possibility that they are missing the point, but I have noticed that WordPress — like every big corporation — will stick to foolish decisions, even when they fail. Bad decisions inevitably get pushed ever harder because no corporate manager will admit to being wrong. Even when the ship is sinking.

I’m not suggesting that me and those like me should be the only focus of the organization … but ought we not be included? Respected? Not treated like the least important part of the WordPress group?

Ought not the editing and photography functions be useful to people who write in complete sentences? A text editor with a find/replace function like every other text editor in the known universe, for example? Proper spacing between paragraphs? Fonts that use points, not “small-medium-large-huge” as if we are buying cheap, unisex clothing?

I’m still using the old, old, old interface because the new one is awkward and poorly designed. Maybe that’s because it’s designed for a telephone — and I use a computer. I’ve been working on word processing tools since they were invented, applauding with each advance in the art. WordPress does not advance. They go backwards, stripping out the stuff that might be useful and leaving us with glitches and a baffling inability to recognize what writers and artists need.

Dashing off something on your phone sets up blogging as a kind of advanced texting. A diary of your life? Is that what blogging is? At the risk of asking a dumb question, unless you are a brilliant writer (on your phone?), who cares? Are you writing it for yourself so you can remember every place you’ve been and every cup of coffee you drank? It doesn’t encourage thought, intelligence, or craft.

I suppose I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing as long as they don’t make it any harder than they have. Call me crazy, but I believe in thinking before doing a brain dump through my phone.

COME AGAIN?

It happened again. Someone’s left a voicemail message, but all I can make out are a few words. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I recognize the voice. Maybe not.

roku and headphones

We used to leave messages on our answering machines telling folks to speak slowly and clearly, but most callers thought we were being funny. Leaving a coherent message was apparently a joke. These days, we get lots of incoherent messages. Usually, with caller ID (and now with a caption phone), we know who called and can retrieve the number, but not necessarily. If it’s garbled enough, the caption phone won’t get it either. It’ll just say “Incomprehensible” or “muffled” or something else that means “sorry, no idea what he/she said.”

72-Phones_02

“Garry, your brother called. No idea what he said. Call him, okay?”

“Hey, Jim called about something. Call him when you have a moment.”

“One of your cousins called. They left a message but I can’t make it out.”

My favorite: “Someone called. Maybe it was important. They left a number but I can’t understand it.  Guess it wasn’t important enough.” Note: If it really is important and we don’t call back? Pick up the phone and call again. Seriously. If it’s that important, make sure we got the message.

wires and blue sky

If you leave a message, speak up. Clearly. Repeat the phone number. Don’t forget to include your name — in case we don’t actually know you as well as you think we do or can’t recognize your voice.

Don’t mumble.

While we’re on the subject, how about those cell phones, eh? On which you can’t hear anything? From either end? I miss telephones on which you knew you had a connection that wouldn’t drop and on which you could hear what someone said to you — and know they could hear you.

No wonder texting is so popular. No one can understand what anyone else is saying.

WHY TEXTING?

I have, after considerable investigation, decided there’s a reason — other than fashion and  lifestyle changes — to explain the popularity of texting.

No one can hear anything on their cell phone. The sound quality of voice on most mobile phones is poor, unclear, prone to disconnecting, and dropping. It’s easier (and much more dependable) to text.

I researched this. I talked to my granddaughter and her friends. I talked to my son and his friends. I talked to my friends. Texting is a defense against poor quality voice transmission.

iphone-whiteMy response? I don’t use a cell phone at all. I turned it off. Nor do I text. I use email extensively, especially if it isn’t urgent. Otherwise, I pick up the VOIP phone I get free with my cable package, and make a call. The quality isn’t great, not compared to old wired phones we used for years, or even early mobile phones, but it’s better than a cell. VOIP depends on a WiFi signal from your ISP. We all know how dependable that is, don’t we?

VOIP depends on a WiFi signal from your ISP. We all know how dependable that is, don’t we?

On a cell phone, you depend on Verizon,  AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or one of the newborn el cheapo services run by Walmart, or some other retailer. Unless you happen to be directly under a tower, you’re going to get white noise, crackling, and dropped calls. It doesn’t matter which carrier you use or which telephone you own. The iPhone has horrible voice quality for phone calls. I’ve heard tell some Android phones are loud, but no one has suggested they’re good.

Venu 8 size compared to phone

Our Blackberries had great voice quality. They aren’t players anymore, so you can choose from bad, worse, and WHAT???

We haven’t discarded the out-dated technology. We’ve lost technology that worked and replaced it with a poor substitute. I’ll bet if companies began making mobile phones with decent audio (again), many of us would use it.

What do I know, right?


It’s a Text, Text, Text, Text World

COULD YOU REPEAT THAT?

Bad Signal — Someone’s left you a voicemail message, but all you can make out are the last words: “I’m sorry. I should’ve told you months ago. Bye.” Who is it from, and what is this about?


We used to leave messages on our answering machines telling folks to speak slowly and clearly, but too many people thought we were being funny, that leaving a coherent message was a joke. So we get lots of incoherent messages. Usually, with caller ID, we know who called and can retrieve the number, but the contents of the message is gobbledy-gook.

“Garry, your brother called. No idea what he said. Call him, okay?”

“Hey, Jim called about something. Call him when you have a moment.”

“One of your cousins called. They left a message but I can’t dope it out.”

My favorite: “Someone called. Maybe it was important. They left a number but I can’t understand it.  Guess it wasn’t important enough.” Note: If it really is important and we don’t call back? Pick up the phone and call again. Seriously. If it’s that important, make sure we got the message.

If you choose to leave a message, speak up. Clearly. Repeat the phone number at least twice. Don’t forget to include your name — in case we don’t actually know you as well as you think we do.

Don’t mumble.

While we’re on the subject, how about those cell phones, eh? On which you can’t hear anything? From either end? I miss telephones on which you knew you had a connection that wouldn’t drop and on which you could hear what someone said to you — and know they could hear you.

“Can you hear me? Hello? Are you still there?”

It’s 1904 all over again. Without wires or operators.

The other night, my husband and I watched — for the umpteenth time — Meet Me In St. Louis. It’s the old Judy Garland musical. Vincent Minnelli directed it. Great movie, one of our favorites. Terrific songs, Margaret O’Brien about as cute as a kid can be. Nostalgia on the hoof.

The story is set in 1904 when the World’s Fair was coming to St. Louis. Telephones in private homes were the hot new technology. A call from a distant city was a big deal. Early in the story, the oldest sister, Rose, receives a long-distance call from New York.

dining-room-21-512x384

FROM “Meet Me In St. Louis” — SCENE: The phone rings.

Rose Smith: Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?

Warren Sheffield: Yes, I can hear you. (Pause)

Rose Smith: What did you say, Warren?

Warren Sheffield: Nothing. I was waiting for you to talk

Rose Smith: Oh. Well, did you want to discuss anything in particular?

Warren Sheffield: What?

Rose Smith: I said, was there anything special you wanted to ask me

Warren Sheffield: I can’t hear you, Rose

Rose Smith: That’s funny. I can hear you plainly

Warren Sheffield: Isn’t this great? Here I am in New York and there you are in St. Louis and it’s just like you’re in the next room.

Rose Smith: What was that?


ANOTHER SCENE: TODAY, MASSACHUSETTS

Me: Hello? Hello? Cherrie?

Cherrie: (Faintly) Hello? I’m in New York … (something I can’t understand) … signal.

Me: Bad signal?

Cherrie: No signal.

Me: How are you?

Cherrie: Tired. Running around.

Me: Miss you.

Cherrie: Miss you too. Having trouble getting a signal here.

Me: We watched “Meet Me In St. Louis” last night. Remember the phone call from New York? We’ve gone back there. Worse. THEY had a better connection.

Cherrie: (Laughter.) You’re right.” (More laughter.)

Me: I don’t think this is progress. (Long pause.) Cherrie? Hello? Are you there? (Long pause.) No, you aren’t there.

(Click. Sigh. Pause. Ring. Ring.)

Me: Cherrie?

Cherrie: Can you hear me?

Me: I can hear you, can you hear ME?

Cherrie: Hello? Hello? (Pause, faint sounds.) Is this better?

Me: Yes. A bit.

Cherrie: I turned my head and lost the signal. Boy, was that perfect timing or what?

Me: We couldn’t have done it better if we’d scripted it.

Cherrie: I’ll call you when I get back. I think I’m  losing … (Silence.)


I love progress. Especially how advanced technology has made everything so much better and easier.

Hello? Can you hear me? — I love progress!

Progress. I love progress and am strongly in favor of it, especially when we are progressing backwards. Kind of like technological time travel as gradually, by adding more and better high-tech devices, stuff that used to be simple and problem-free becomes much more complicated, difficult and expensive. The techno-version of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

iphone-whiteLet us travel together back in time to the halcyon days of yore. Not so long ago … the 1970s and 1980s. Even the 1990s.

Remember? We could make telephone calls without worrying whether or not the person on the other end could hear us. Without wondering if we would be able to understand them. That was so cool, wasn’t it? You didn’t have to shout into the phone, wasting half the call yelling “Hello? Are you there? Can you hear me? You’re breaking up. Can you hear me? Hello?”

You could have an entire conversation, from the beginning to end without getting disconnected, losing the signal, running out of battery. Getting dumped out by your carrier. Nobody said “What” even once! Unimaginable, isn’t it? I grew up and in my entire childhood, I do not remember ever having to ask “Can you hear me?” We could always hear. Sometimes, a long distance call had an echo, but you called the operator and they put the call through, no charge. No problem.

We’ve come a long way, my friends A long and winding road.

The other night, my husband and I watched — for the umpteenth time — Meet Me In St. Louis. It’s the old Judy Garland musical. Vincent Minnelli directed it. Great movie, one of our favorites. Terrific songs, Margaret O’Brien about as cute as a kid can be. Nostalgia on the hoof.

The story is set in 1904 when the World’s Fair was coming to St. Louis and telephones in private homes were still the hot new technology. A long distance call from a far away city was a very big deal. Early in the story, the oldest sister Rose gets a long-distance call from New York.

dining-room-21-512x384

The phone rings.

* * *

Rose Smith: Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?

Warren Sheffield: Yes, I can hear you. (Pause)

Rose Smith: What did you say, Warren?

Warren Sheffield: Nothing. I was waiting for you to talk

Rose Smith: Oh. Well, did you want to discuss anything in particular?

Warren Sheffield: What?

Rose Smith: I said, was there anything special you wanted to ask me

Warren Sheffield: I can’t hear you, Rose

Rose Smith: That’s funny. I can hear you plainly

Warren Sheffield: Isn’t this great? Here I am in New York and there you are in St. Louis and it’s just like you’re in the next room.

Rose Smith: What was that?

* * *

The next day my friend called.

Me: Hello? Hello? Cherrie?

Cherrie: (Faintly) Hello? I’m in New York … (something I can’t understand) … signal.

Me: Bad signal?

Cherrie: No signal.

Me: How are you?

Cherrie: Tired. Running around.

Me: Miss you.

Cherrie: Miss you too. Having trouble getting a signal here.

Me: We watched “Meet Me In St. Louis” last night. Remember the phone call from New York? We’ve gone back there. Worse. THEY had a better connection.

Cherrie: (Laughter.) You’re right.” (More laughter.)

Me: I don’t think this is progress. (Long pause.) Cherrie? Hello? Are you there? No, you aren’t there.

(Click. Sigh. Pause. Ring. Ring.)

Me: Cherrie?

Cherrie: Can you hear me?

Me: I can hear you, can you hear ME?

Cherrie: Hello? Hello? (Pause, faint sounds.) Is this better?

Me: Yes. A bit.

Cherrie: I turned my head and lost the signal. Boy, was that perfect timing or what?

Me: We couldn’t have done it better if we’d scripted it.

Cherrie: I’ll call you when I get back. I think I’m  losing … (Silence.)

* * *

As I said, I love progress. I most particularly love how advanced technology has made everything so much better. And easier.