How To Use The Telephone.

Did you know that, at the time of this writing, there are over six billion people on the planet Earth? Yes, you probably did. It’s one of those facts everyone and their mother likes to throw around as if it was useful or even comprehensible. Six billion is a lot of people, a lot of anything really. The wanton hugeness of the number probably eludes you, as quantities over a hundred or so become difficult to visualize, whether you use a handy grid or not. No matter how you attempt to visualize it, six billion remains a hefty sum, and though you almost certainly aren’t so popular that you know the world’s entire population, you probably know more people than would fit comfortably in one room, or within yelling distance. Unfortunately, some people will still want to talk to you, even if you can’t yell at them. When these circumstances occur, your only recourse will be the telephone.

The Hairy Skeleton knows what you’re saying right now (even though you are probably far away). “Mr. The Hairy Skeleton,” you are saying, “what about telepathy?” Yes, telepathy is a viable form of communication, and far superior to the telephone, which was originally intended to be an artificial telepathy substitute for the extrasensorily-impaired. But not everyone is a telepath, and there is some doubt whether anyone is. Also, using telepathy for every little communication really burns through the mind-minutes, which can be expensive. (Check with your service provider.) Beyond telepathy, there are other “technological” options such as internet chattery, electronic mail, steam-powered mail and dynamite sculpture. All of these methods have their drawbacks, primarily exposure to the internet (which is evil) and lethal explosions (which may blow you up, or at least parts of you). Regrettably, that leaves the telephone as the most stable, most widespread, and least lethal method of long distance communication.

I say regrettably because the flaws of the telephone are numerous and profound, and they are also sneaky, causing untold damage to telephone users (or “phoners”) with little or no warning until it is far too late. The Hairy Skeleton does not endorse the telephone. However, the telephone is the best we have, until more effective yells are developed or you are willing to radically decrease your number of friends and live communally with them. Therefore, this instructive missive is motivated by the desire to do things well, even if they are unpleasant. Like using the telephone.

So let’s take these telecom lemons and make some auditory lemonade! Let’s use the telephone!

1. Find and Apply The Receiver
The receiver is the part of the phone which sends and receives voices in order to make long-distance communication possible. Note that it is not called a “sender-receiver.” Already the phone is duplicitous. The receiver will either look like a bulbous handle sort of thing or will be covered in buttons, and is distinct from the phone’s other major component, the “base”, which is vestigial in modern phones and will (according to scientific projections) disappear completely with ten generations. Pick up the receiver and place it against your dominant ear, which will be opposite your dominant hand, unless it is not. When handling the receiver, use latex gloves if possible, or salad tongs if they are available. You can never tell where a receiver has been.

Once the receiver is against your ear, it will extrude several filaments into your skull and ear canal, to anchor itself in place and send direct-cortical advertisements. (Drink Coke.) When you hear the second, louder crunch, you may begin Step 2.

2. Dial the number.
Every phone user has a telephone number which allows you direct access to their voice and ear, assuming they answer their telephone when you call. The average telephone number is a sequence of digits anywhere from seven to eighteen hundred numbers long, which must be entered into the telephone in precise order or your phone and the phone of the party you wish to speak to will melt. There are numerous mnemonic devices on the market to help keep track of these cumbersome strings, some of which have not yet been banned or saddled with class action lawsuits. Or you can do the speed-dial thing. That is one handy feature.

After correctly entering the phone number, you will hear a repetitive sound, like a tolling bell, or a kazoo, or an angry cricket. This is not an auditory hallucination. This is the phone “ringing,” an alert signal that rouses the person you wish to speak with. The ring of the phone sounds very different to the person you are calling. Most people describe the sound as a “vicious kick in the head,” because most modern phones express the ring of an incoming phone call as a vicious kick in the head.

Depending on how much the person on the other end of the line loves you, the ring will eventually stop. You could be waiting a very long time; consider making a snack. An ominous silence follows, most often broken by a single word: “Hello?” Whatever you do, don’t hang up. This is what you have been waiting for. You have connected with your desired conversation partner and may now begin step 3.

3. Conversate.
This is the most rewarding and perilous part of using the telephone, as basically anything goes. The only limits are the limits of your own imagination. Say things! Anything that comes to mind! Did you have a reason to call the person? Tell them! Did you call just to “shoot the breeze”? You’d better be entertaining. Most people have better things to do than shoot the breeze, which if you think about it, is a waste of both wind and ammunition. Then again, if they’ve answered the phone, they can’t be too busy, so whatever. The most important thing to  remember is to use words from a recognized language, preferably one the other person is fluent in. Guttural barks, moans and grunting are unseemly and ineffective communication tools. (This is also true in face-to-face communication.)

4. End transmission.
Once all possible conversation has been exhausted, thank the person for his or her time, effort and patience, and wish them well. Commonly accepted dismissals include “Good Bye!”, “Oh, look at the time!”, “You’re lucky you live on that island”, and “Spiders! Spiders!” Remove the receiver from your ear, place it back in its cradle, and staunch your bleeding head wounds with sterile gauze. Wait three days before using the telephone again, or until the swelling goes down.

Other Things To Consider
Science has yet to find an effective way to transmit gestures via electricity (though the Danish Flaelerfone has successfully recreated the analogue of a shrug with minimal injury to either party), so if you are a physically expressive person, try semaphore.

Are you a sarcastic or dry-witted person? Telephone use is especially dangerous for you, as facial expressions are completely ignored by current phone technology and even inflection is sometimes garbled as it passes through the wires. One possible solution is running your voice through an electronic ring modulator and informing everyone you know that when you sound like a screeching robot on the phone, it means you’re being sarcastic.

Are you drunk? Then step away from the phone. She doesn’t want to hear from you. Seriously: just step away. If necessary, ask a friend to help you with this. Make sure the friend is bigger than you, or at least less drunk.

Don’t talk too fast. Too many words on the wires is a terrible burden on the ancient stooped woman at the telecommunication nexus miles beneath the earth’s surface, who must constantly plug and unplug thousands of cables into and out of a grid of thousands of different sockets so that the system doesn’t crash irreparably.

If you are using a cellular phone, ignore the above procedure. Just dial and talk. The gubmint has found other ways to control your thoughts and life.

And finally, when finished with any phone call, remember to submit to a high-pressure hazmat shower and alcohol rub-down. For safety.

Happy calling!
The Hairy Skeleton

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