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A Rant about Radios and Ringing Phones

In the "Cult of Escapism": A Rant about Radios and Ringing Phones

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Rant about Radios and Ringing Phones

I like my third host family.  The kids seem wholly uninterested in my existence and the parents are good conversationalists.  Overall, they basically treat me like they are house sitting a cat for the first time – they are not sure exactly what to do but they know to feed it and make sure it doesn't poop on the floor. 

That said, they have reminded me of three habits that make me want to stab myself with a wrench.  Most would call the dislike of these habits “pet peeves,” but the magnitude of my annoyance surpasses peeving and I have therefore elevated them to hate level.  This is a rant.

In the movies, the protagonist waits breathlessly by the phone for a call that will change the course of the movie.  A classic suspense technique is to make the viewers watch while the protagonist looks at the ringing phone and hesitates, thinking, waiting, stalling, sweating, not…picking…up…THE PHONE!!  At this point, I hurl popcorn at the screen and scream, “PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE!!” Then the person next to me screams, “You threw my popcorn away!”  Then someone else screams, “BE QUIET!” Then a wild-west style brawl erupts in the audience.  This happens about every three times I go to the movies.  Maybe I should start buying my own popcorn.

My host family runs a small shop out of the front of their house (this is extremely common – in some smaller towns, almost every house has a small store in front) and they don’t tend it, per se, but someone is always around and ready to sell if a customer comes knocking.  Here’s where the customers become phones and my host family becomes the protagonist.  At times, I’ve been in the room adjacent to the store, surrounded by five family members, all capable shopkeepers, and all five will ignore steady knocking for a full two minutes – un-phased, unhurried. Multiple times, I have almost attended the store myself, assigning random prices with no regard to profitability, just to stop the knocking. If there had been popcorn around, I would probably have thrown it at the nearest family member.

If I’m ever grudgingly, tear-inducingly forced to listen to the radio, I absolutely do not tolerate static.  At the slightest scratching, I change stations, or turn off the radio. Silence is better than scratching. In this sense, portable radios have become my third most significant enemy, after malaria and dengue fever.  Radios play host to tipica, the most popular style of music in Panama, which features a lot of accordion (a Godless, abomination of an instrument) and a singing style that sounds like a constipated female is yodeling, while being punched in the stomach, while a cat has sex in the background.  It’s this, or crappy, auto-tuned hip hop (would somebody please hire good singers to make music, instead of autotuning shitty ones?).  So, the music is bad, but people’s tolerance for static is what sends the popcorn flying.

Yes, those cheap radios are hard to keep tuned, but if they’re sitting on your lap anyway, why not extend thumb and forefinger and get a clear sound?  I’d rather not listen to “Stairway to Heaven” than listen to static “Stairway.”  Nevertheless, everyone and their mom (quite literally) tunes into Static FM, turns up the volume and doesn’t bother to tune.  If only autotuning was something that existed on cheap radios…

Note – the day after I wrote this, I was making coffee with the coffee group and one of the members turned on the radio.  He tuned it for a bit, got nothing but static and instead of turning it off, he just left it.  “I love this type of music” I finally said to him and he digested the statement for a few minutes before turning the radio off.  Really?

I was in middle school when cell phones became more commonplace.  People were excited to play Tetris, make calls, and pick ringtones.  I’ve hated ringtones since before Bin Laden and before I had seen enough movies to hate Steven Seagal.  It was as if people did not have homes and were forced to choose ringtones on crowded buses and other public areas.  I still have a slight limp from kicking so many people in the spinal column (this was before I started hurling popcorn).

As I wrote this, my host brothers were scrolling through the ringtones on the family cell phone, just to hear the music.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the radio stations started playing digital, high pitched versions of “Hall of the Mountain King,” instead of tipica (this could be a slight improvement). Now, my brothers are young and kids like to make noises just for fun.  But there were adults around who did nothing to stop them!  AHHH!! 

I am about to head to the supermarket to buy $700 worth of popcorn.  This way, whenever I walk by a person playing Static FM at full volume, I can hurl fistfuls of popcorn at them.  And God help them if they are not answering a ringing phone.  


At November 26, 2012 at 10:58 AM , Blogger bama said...

Oh, these annoyances could drive you crazy for sure. My son talked about hating the music the fisher folk played in the Philippines.


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