I’ve been writing about paper forms of communication in several of my recent posts, but technological forms of communication are still an urgent issue. One of the most commonly used technology is the telephone in its various incarnations over the past one and half centuries. It’s also among the most commonly abused.
Disclaimer: The numbers displayed in the image above do not belong to any of my friends. 1/14/08, 11:00am.
Drunk phone calls are always fun to get. Actually, they’re not. One of the most dangerous things about mobile phones, especially in the hands of the inebriated, is the ease of getting a hold of people and having no qualms about harassing them. Even better yet is when they leave those messages on the voicemail system that they’ll have no memory of, yet are all too painful for the recipients.
A certain friend of mine is prone to doing all kinds of things when he’s had too much to drink. Sometimes, it’s something amusing such as spending several hundred dollars on sustainable fashion. Other times, his drunkenness takes a more dramatic turn as he’ll show a more temperamental side. Of course, there’s no better way to express this than on the phone.
A couple of nights ago at a local bar, what started out a fun get-together turned into a personal issues-laden conversation on the verge of becoming an argument. I simply refused to entertain the argument, called it a night, and went home. When I arrived home, I checked my phone and found I had a four-minute voicemail message from him. He rambled about how offended he was about me blowing him off, that I was wrong, and that he was taking a hard-line stance in not having anything to do with me until I apologized.
I found the message both offensive and laughable at the same time. I plugged my iPhone to my desktop stereo, put the speakers close to my iBook’s microphone, played the message and recorded it, and formatted it into an MP3 file.* I then decided to apply the expression “If they could only hear themselves talk” to this situation. I would send him the MP3 as an e-mail attachment.
I wanted to send out an e-mail rant to him about his message explaining to him my position and how he was wrong. I also considered forwarding the MP3 to mutual friends. However, I settled on simply sending the file with the message: Do you even remember saying any of this?
This friend of mine called me the next morning to apologize and I let him know that the message was disturbing. While I’m not sure if he actually listened to the file, I did remind him that I sent it and that I would record another MP3 if he ever gave a repeat performance.
While I accepted his apology, there are still serious some issues. He uttered words that can’t be taken back. If I didn’t accept his apology, years of friendship would have been all for nothing. The things he said were definite deal breakers. Well, he broke the deal and then he realized what he did when he was sober the next morning. Also, there are records of what he said. The message is in my phone’s memory unless I choose to delete it. Also, I still have the Quicktime recording and the MP3 formatted file. If these messages begin to be enough for an EP or an album worth of tracks, then I have to seriously consider if it’s worth it to remain friends.
It would be easy to say that people like my friend should think about the things they say. If incidents like my friend’s message are a habit versus an isolated incident, the perpetrator should consider that they might have a serious problem with alcohol and that they need some PROFESSIONAL help.
Being able to remember the antics of drunk people is a horrible responsibility. Dealing with them is much worse. For me, I had a horrible end to my evening and one that sapped my energy for the next day or so. However, there are people who suffer through a lot worse. In any case, people should be aware of the impact of their behavior upon others, especially when it comes to alcohol. Sorry, but all those drinks do not completely negate accountability.
*I’m sure there’s a more efficient way to record a voicemail from the iPhone to the Macbook, but I haven’t figured it out yet.