Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – December 23, 2004

Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – December 23, 2004

Carrying A Pager

Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – December 23, 2004 – The thing about having a pager attached to your hip is that people can always find you. Not some of the time or part of the time, but all the time. Even if you shut off the “audible” mode, it will still vibrate and then lurch wildly around your desk top until it falls off, thereby getting your attention.

If that fails, it will still emit a reminder beep to let you know it’s being ignored. I once forgot my pager on a shelf at the LCBO on the Danforth near Greenwood. The store manager found it and put it on his desk where it beeped relentlessly every fifteen minutes for the two days it took me to figure out where I’d left it. When I went to get it he said, “Hey Lady, it was getting very close to hammer time”. I know how he felt. I’ve been carrying a pager for almost nineteen years and there are times when my feelings echo the Honeymooners – “to the moon”.

That’s how I felt yesterday when my pager went off with the message “Offer Registered”. I was minding my own business, having a coffee at Timothy’s in The Beaches – casually flipping through the paper and munching on some lemon poppyseed cake. It’s holiday time. Work is on hold, I’m chilling out. This was not the occasion for an electronic interruption. My pager is set to the most annoying sound available, otherwise I’d undoubtedly ignore its desperate beeping and miss some important messages.

I called the other agent back so we could find a suitable time for the parties to assemble to try and negotiate a sale that was acceptable to everyone. The weather last night was dreadful, the buyers were on shift work, the other agent was in Mississauga, my client was in central Toronto and I was in the east end. This morning at eleven o’clock suited everyone. Whatever happened to the good old days of pay phones and IBM typewriters? The days before a pager could summon me away from a dinner party or interrupt my much anticipated plans for a Saturday night? Simple, really – they are gone.

Now my lack of privacy – pager predicament is exacerbated by computers, E-mail, fax machines and other things electronic. I haven’t succumbed to a Blackberry yet and I hope I can hang on to this last bit of anonymity. If people can reach me by E-mail anywhere in the world, at any time, nothing will be sacred. If anything I’d like to be less busy so I think Ill stick with my pager.

I remember when I first got a pager and had to wear the darn thing clipped to my belt. It started to feel like another extremity and I felt undressed without it. People inevitably asked me if I worked for either the hospital or the police department or why I was wearing my garage door opener everywhere I went. Things have changed a lot. My current pager is only half the size of my original one, far less conspicuous and much easier to use. Fewer buttons and no security chain like the old one had.

The first pager that I had without a safety clip lived to rue the day that it left the assembly line in this ill-equipped fashion. I was at a pub with a friend and had quaffed a couple of brews when nature called, as she so often does, in a situation such as this. I went into the “ladies” and unbuckled my belt, forgetting that my pager was clipped in its usual place. This little guy, minus his safety tether, slipped along the full length of my belt and plunged into the toilet. From the depth of the porcelain bowl it emitted a rapid series of terrified beeps as the water permeated its inner workings. This was followed by a slower beep and then a heartrending, drawn out beeeeeeeeeeeep – beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep and then silence.

I fished it out of the water and wrapped it in paper towels. A shroud for the deceased. Back at home I placed it in front of a fan and dried out its gizzards, put a fresh battery in place and called my pager company. “My pager doesn’t seem to be working” I said. This was true. “Bring it in” said the technician. I did. He operated. The patient didn’t make it. I left with a new pager, equipped with a safety chain clipped to my belt. It didn’t have the same ringing options, so I settled on a new “alert”. Over the years my pager has been replaced numerous times, each one being smaller and more electronically superior to its predecessor.

Its task remains the same – to notify me when my time and attention are needed, by someone – somewhere. I have to admit, it’s a far superior method of retrieving messages than – “the pink slips” that used to be waiting for me in my message slot when I got back to the office. In an emergency it’s a god send. My pager doesn’t differentiate. If a client needs assistance or a friend needs a chocolate chip cookie – the message arrives loud and clear.

It can be saved or deleted. My current pager has more options than I’ll ever use, from alarm, to private alert, to zoom in and zoom out. I use “zoom out” for seniors – gotta love that big print. I’m just about to leave the house – car keys, purse, cell phone at the ready. The last thing to slip into my pocket is my little black Motorola. Can’t live with it – can’t live without it. Sort of how we women feel about men, except of course, a pager always calls.