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打电话的烦恼 Hold the Phone


打电话的烦恼 Hold the Phone   My alluring1) wife was a Junior Leaguer2), once upon a time, and got a big laugh out of a lecture she was obliged to attend on making “cold calls3)”. It was the first time either of us had ever heard the term, and she was especially amused at the idea of being coached about so simple a task as picking up the phone and calling a stranger.

  I admit that I would not especially wish to be taught, as an adult, how to make cold calls; but an antipathy4) to calling strangers—and an abiding dislike of the telephone—is neither laughable nor alien to me. If either of us has to make a call on behalf of the household—whether, in phone company parlance5), to a business or residence—I am happy to concede the privilege. My long-suffering spouse is alternately amused and annoyed by this reticence6), and still cannot quite believe that a man of my age, given an opportunity to do his duty, would employ the Bartleby the Scrivener7) defense: “I would prefer not to.”

  The Freudian in me searches for an explanation for this behavior, and the only experience I can suggest is the childhood trauma8)—common to nearly everyone, I would guess—of being put on the phone when some adult relation had called long-distance. The ensuing dialogue—“Hello, how are you?” “We’re fine, thanks. How’s school?” “Pretty good, thank you. I hope you and Aunt Charlotte can visit soon.” “So do we.”—was, for me, as awkward and painful as it was meaningless. Nor has adulthood smoothed out the mortification9): I still freeze when the telephone’s hideous bell begins to clang, and thank whatever gods may be for answering machines and caller ID.

  I suppose there is a more charitable explanation. As a person of some conceit I prefer the monologue to the dialogue; and as a journalist I prefer to communicate through the written word. Indeed, if the words and phrases are in printed, rather than oral, form, I am as voluble10) as any cell phone user on the train: The language comes quickly; jokes abound; it’s a veritable Niagara of puns, tart11) phrases, and snappy repartee12). Put a receiver to my ear, however, and the mind slows down, the thoughts evaporate13), and one labored14) sentence yields sluggishly15) to the next.

  Indeed, one of the nice things about email—or Facebook, for that matter—is that they nicely combine the immediacy of telephone contact without the voice-activated trauma. You have time to ponder your response, and refine the way you phrase it, or opt out16) altogether. On the telephone I feel as if I am testifying in court and a stenographer17) is taking down every misbegotten18) syllable. On email, or Facebook, or Twitter, I’m the Wizard of Oz19): The “voice” and the pyrotechnics20) are basically theater.

  Of course, not everyone approaches the subject from this point of view, or gives much thought to practices that are second nature21) for most people. Yet I am intrigued to note that the young seem also to have an aversion22) to the telephone (no doubt for reasons different from mine) but exchange a colossal23) number of text messages every month. Most of these messages have only a passing resemblance to language—OMG! :( LOL! u rock ☺ etc.—but might also represent the same disinclination to deploy the voice when a better, more satisfying, substitute exists.
  当然,并非每个人都会从这一视角来审视这一问题,或对多数人都习以为常的行为有太多的关注。不过,使我感兴趣的是,我注意到年轻人对电话似乎也有一种反感(当然反感的原因肯定和我有所不同),但他们每个月都要互发大量的短信。虽然大多数短信都对语言进行了改头换面,如“OMG!”“:(”“LOL!”“u rock”“☺”等等,但或许也说明:如果存在更好、更称心的替代品,他们同样不喜欢使用声音来沟通。

  This is especially evident to me when I am driving home from work at night. There is a particular intersection in Washington, off Farragut Square, where I must always stop for the light, and dozens of pedestrians cross the street or move along the sidewalk beside a subway station. A substantial percentage of them are holding cell phones to their ears, and during the warmer months I can eavesdrop24) on their conversation: “Hey! How ya doing?” is frequently heard, along with “So what’s going on?” and “Hi! It’s me.” Which, roughly translated, tells me that my fellow urbanites25) don’t really use their cell phones for any practical purpose except making random contact.

  Which, to someone of my nature, is incomprehensible. When I was in college there were two forms of communication available to the average citizen: the telephone and what we now call snail mail26). In my fourth-year dormitory, there was exactly one telephone, a pay phone located on the wall of a floor above mine; and in those halcyon27) days, a long-distance call between Washington and Philadelphia, or vice versa, not only was reserved for occasions such as a death in the family, but also required an inconveniently large supply of coins.

  I was happy to write a cheerful letter to my parents every two weeks or so, for which in exchange they would dispatch a welcome check. But I can say with perfect confidence that I never, not once, wasted an infinite number of nickels on a telephone call.

  1. alluring [əˈlʊərɪŋ, əˈljʊərɪŋ] adj. 迷人的,吸引人的
  2. Junior Leaguer:青年联盟成员,青年联盟的全称为国际青年联盟协会(The Association of Junior Leagues International),创建于1901年,是一个非营利性的妇女教育和慈善组织,其宗旨是推广志愿服务,发展妇女潜能,通过培训成员的行动力和领导力来改善社区生活。
  3. cold call:(向潜在顾客打的)冷不防电话
  4. antipathy [ænˈtɪpəθɪ] n. 憎恶,反感
  5. parlance [ˈpɑː(r)ləns] n. 说法;用语
  6. reticence [ˈretɪs(ə)ns] n. 勉强,不愿
  7. Bartleby the Scrivener:抄写员巴特比,美国作家赫尔曼·梅尔维尔(Herman Melville)的小说《抄写员巴特比:一个华尔街的故事》(Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street)中的主人公,他是一位纽约律师的小文书,因拒绝工作而被捕入狱。
  8. trauma [ˈtrɔːmə] n. [医]外伤,损伤
  9. mortification [ˌmɔː(r)tɪfɪˈkeɪʃ(ə)n] n. 羞愧感,窘迫感
  10. voluble [ˈvɒljʊb(ə)l] adj. 健谈的,有口才的,口若悬河的
  11. tart [tɑː(r)t] adj. 辛辣的,尖酸的,刻薄的
  12. repartee [ˌrepɑː(r)ˈtiː] n. 机敏的回答,妙语;巧辩,机智的反驳
  13. evaporate [ɪˈvæpəreɪt] vi. 消失
  14. labored [ˈleɪbə(r)d] adj. 不流畅的,不自然的
  15. sluggishly [ˈslʌɡɪʃlɪ] adv. 行动迟缓地
  16. opt out:决定不参加;决定退出
  17. stenographer [stəˈnɒɡrəfə(r)] n. 速记员
  18. misbegotten [ˌmɪsbɪˈɡɒt(ə)n] adj. 设想(或筹划)得很不周密的;设计得很拙劣的
  19. Wizard of Oz:奥兹国的巫师,是美国作家弗兰克·鲍姆(Frank Baum)的童话故事集《绿野仙踪》(The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)中的人物。《绿野仙踪》在1902年被改编成舞台剧,1939年被拍成电影。
  20. pyrotechnics [ˌpaɪrəʊˈteknɪks] n.(辩才、演奏技巧等的)出色表现,炫示;(用词等的)炫耀
  21. second nature:第二天性,习性
  22. aversion [əˈvɜː(r)ʃ(ə)n] n. 反感,厌恶,嫌恶
  23. colossal [kəˈlɒs(ə)l] adj. 巨大的,庞大的
  24. eavesdrop [ˈiːvzˌdrɒp] vi. 偷听
  25. urbanite [ˈɜː(r)bənaɪt] n. 都市人
  26. snail mail:蜗牛信件,蜗牛邮递系统(指与电子邮件相对而言的普通邮政服务)
  27. halcyon [ˈhælsɪən] adj. 平静的,安静的;和平的