The smoke from my fire was starting to obscure the airport. I noticed the incoming aircraft deviated from their normal approach to avoid the plume. I was starting to worry I might get mistaken for an incompetent suicide bomber...you know: the slowly exploding kind.
Wet braai wood really sucks, but that was not what put me in this murderous mood.
It was my phone. Or rather the people who called me.
To put you in the picture: I hate phone calls.
No, let me rephrase that: I detest(!) phone calls.
When I say I detest, I mean any and all phone calls: Even those where the "investment advisor" is kind enough to offer me 20% discount on their latest life insurance product.
I hate calls from my bank, dentist, vet, political parties, government departments, customer satisfaction surveys, pet shops, arms dealers, Julias Malema or even big JZ himself.
The only call I might tolerate receiving is one curt sentence: "May I press this big red button while you are in the building?"
Other than that: Don't. Freaking. Call. Me.
Disclaimer: Calls from my kids are fine too. And my wife. (I know they read this blog, and my momma raised no stoopid childrens.)
I regard phone calls as impolite, inconsiderate and counterproductive interruptions. Like a drive by smack in the head.
The nature of my work require concentration to keep a logical house of cards in balance in my head so that I can visualise the entire programming problem, prior to coding a solution. Most often it might take 30 to 40 minutes to reach the zen-like state where I am in the groove and the code flows by itself...or, if I'm writing, to develop the chutzpah to write a blog posting.
Then some or other idjit calls me. I have to drop whatever I am doing and give the caller my full and undivided attention.
Mentally I see the house of cards explode in a miniature mushroom cloud. A nervous twitch and murderous intent develops.
Even at a braai: When the phone rings, you have to put down either your drink or the tongs.
Unless it's the wife calling.
To find out when the meat will be ready.
Most phone calls are unproductive
Now, an astute reader like your handsome self, might wonder why, if I hate phone calls that much, do I own a cell phone? Your observation is completely valid. Allow me to explain while we wait for the coals to get just right:
The type of instant messaging most people are familiar with is SMS...cell phone text messages. By the way, calling a cell phone text message an "SMS" is technically incorrect because "SMS" stands for Short Message Service - ie a service and not a message. Instead of referring to a "SMS" a better name is "text" - as used almost everywhere in the world.
The advantage of cell phone text messages are that the messages are async. Instead of Wham! to the head, my attention is gently drawn to the fact that I have a message waiting. I can attend to the text as soon as I have a free moment or as soon as I can safely put down the tongs.
But, lets not get distracted. I think it comes down to being polite: Think before you dial.
When in doubt: Don't. Freaking. Call. Me.
This is especially true when you are calling your clients. Make sure that call is really necessary. If not, rather use a text message or an email.
Cell phone text messages are rather expensive at (a minimum of) around R 0.35. Other forms of instant messaging such as Google talk, MSN, ICQ, Mxit and so on are considerably cheaper at (roughly) R 0.019 per message. If you are thinking that cell phone companies are taking us for a ride on this...
SMS text messages (like the one in my pocket) work on all cell phones without the need to install additional software because they utilise the control channels used by the cell phone towers to route calls to your phone. Since the control channels are a scare resource in the sense that overloading them (with a large volume of SMS text messages for instance) would render all the phones in the cell unusable. Special arrangements and equipment must therefore be implemented in the towers to guard against this - which adds to the cost that the cell companies must recoup...not to mention the very agreeable profit margin they implement.
Other (non SMS) instant messaging services work on a client-server basis. This means that a small program runs on the cell phone and logs on to a messaging server in order to send or receive messages. The messages are normal data connections. While cost is a major advantage of this type of messaging, another advantage is that the software client programs can also be installed on a PC - thereby enabling you to send and receive instant messages either on your PC or on your phone - or both as your needs and circumstances dictate.
The main disadvantage of client-server instant messaging are two fold: first off, it requires software to be installed on the phone (or PC) and secondly there is no standard protocol.
From an end-user perspective however, client server instant messaging makes much more sense - financially and because it is so flexible. For instance, there is no 160 character limit per message, one can easily setup up group discussions, send media (eg pictures / sound) or documents. Perhaps the most important benefit is that the protocols and software are indefinitely expandable which means that software developers can add features and controls to make it more effective and productive.
A testament to how effective client-server based messaging can be is the extremely rapid uptake of Mxit in South Africa.
That reminds me: I had a text message waiting on my phone. I put down the tongs to read it. It said:
"There is a fly in my drink."
"It's swimming around man."
I put the tongs down again and typed:
"Dude. Stick your finger in your glass. Remove the fly. Or ask your mommy to help you."
Poor Kurt. Lead painted toys as a boy. He's going to burn the chicken tonight.