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typewriter, technology


Back in the day, I used to have a pager. I think of this clear blue device with fondness now, a fondness that I didn't ever expect to feel. That little bit of noisy plastic was a lifeline and freedom all wrapped into one. I convinced my folks it was a good idea by explaining that it was a way for them to always find me, a way they could get in touch if they needed me. But really it was a way for my friends to call me in the middle of the night to tell me awesome things. We communicated in numbers and codes, all having identities in digits so we could call from pay phones or boyfriends houses and still be in touch. It meant that those of us without phone lines of our own (me) could call those who had separate lines at any time to talk about anything or nothing. The number of calls that started at midnight or 2AM was nonsensical.

These days I have a computer, a smart phone, and iPad and a work phone that I still call a pager. I have no data plans for my smart devices because I can't stand the idea of being tethered to a device that's always reachable, always on. It seems that the novelty has worn off. Maybe it's because the current set of 2AM calls isn't about boys or gossip or parties any more.

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I was in college the first time I had to carry a pager. I was very excited by the idea that I was important enough to need one. The only other person I knew that carried one was an ER doctor. I showed it off to my friends. Oooh, it was cool. That novelty didn't last long. I was on call for the computer systems at the University of New Mexico and there weren't really that many other people who were. It wasn't like the businesses now who have separate on-call teams for databases, websites, client systems... Most things were handled by just one team (though networking and mainframes were split out). After a while with some hellacious on-call rotations I started to hear phantom pages. I'd hear a noise and think my pager was going off, or hear nothing and think it was going off. Worse yet, I'd wake up in the middle of the night worried that the batteries were dead because I hadn't been paged.

Now I carry a smart phone for work, but I'm not allowed to use it for personal stuff. We have a pretty retarded policy about that. I can't even expense screen protectors for it. It's an expensive android phone, but I treat it like shit because I have to carry it plus my personal phone everywhere. Fortunately I'm only on call in a very loose sense now. I haven't had a surprise call since last fall. I'm too old for those hell on call teams now.

I went through a couple of months where I would hear phantom ringing. OMG that was a nightmare. I'm glad that hasn't happened for a while, cause I may not be as old as you (hee!) but I'm also too old to have to stay up all night working.

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