White Noise - printed in Blackbook Film issue Summer 2006

On a recent Friday night, I got out of the subway to meet my friend Gary. As I emerged, my vibrating cellphone had five messages. It shivered like an energetic Chihuahua.

One was my pal Tim who said he was at the gym, another was from Jim in his car, then a text message from Cary who said she was bored, from Carl who just left his studio, and from Gary, who told me he was in a store on 9th street and 2nd..

I walked to 9th, rang up Gary when I got to the block, and he met me on the street. He just got a call on his cell from Patsy who wanted us to come to a party in Queens. She promised it would be fun.

Gary texted her back for the address. I called Jim to tell him. Jim said he would pick us up. Patsy zapped Gary the address. I quickly called Carl to tell him to meet us on the Southwest corner of 9th and 2nd, left a message for Tim to tell him to call me if he wanted to go, and texted Cary and gave her the address. Carl came, Cary called, Tim texted “2 tired”, Jim picked us up, and we flew up the FDR.

How the hell did people make plans before cellphones? Did they just cleanly arrange their meetings and parties weeks in advance and stick to schedules?

Now everything is so easy to find, so easy to get to, so easy to locate, and I have more friends and acquaintances than ever -- email friends, text message friends, myspace chums, bloggy buddies and Netflix pals. I keep making plans with all of them. Usually we meet for well-scheduled dinners, talk, and take pictures with our phones. Then we take cabs home and send the photos to each other the next day, followed by group emails with lots of inside jokes. There is no way that we could make plans without all our devices. Here are three examples:

Last week I was supposed to meet Gary at a restaurant. Gary arrived before me, only to discover the restaurant was closed. It was a freezing December night so he texted me come to the Italian joint across the street: Simple!

Yesterday I was late for a meeting, (there was subway track construction or bomb threat or a transit strike or something), I just called ahead to make sure they knew I was on my way. No Prob!

Last month when I was hurrying to meet Nancy at City Bakery I couldn’t remember what street it was on. I called information while I walked in the general direction and met her without delay. Thank you satellite technology!

Unavoidable snags like these certainly happened before 1998 (the last year of B.C. --before cellphones), but I have no recollection of how I dealt with them.

Maybe people were more patient and mellow:

“Hi Diane Brill! It’s Basquiat! I’m calling from a payphone with my friend Madonna! We’ll just wait here patiently in the winter cold on the corner of Spring and Greene for two hours until you get here. No big deal!”

Or, maybe the active adults of long ago were actually more punctual and efficient, hustling and bustling in their spats and pomaded hair and white gloves. They made organized and efficient plans with their pencils and ledgers and answering services. Instead of calling Verizon 411 all the time like dithering amnesiacs, people memorized numbers and addresses, and if they were lost, they simply walked into those old Chock Full o’ Nuts diners, had leisurely cups of joe for a dime, and asked the sassy counter clerk for directions. They banged on radiators, used dumbwaiters, whistled for cabs, told their woes to bartenders, got their shoes shined, screamed their friend’s names on the street below their window. We think we are so innovative now, but maybe back in B.C. people were actually more ‘interactive” with the physical world, and with each other.

I am 36 and I can’t remember what it was like to be an adult with an active schedule in the b.c. era. I have no memory of how I got around and met friends. Answering machines? Notes? Carrier Pigeons? Was there some kind of now-dead oral tradition that kept social life alive? It’s like I was Native American or something and I’ve lost the old traditional ways because of the White Man’s technology. Wait. But I AM a white man.

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