I heard a phone ring Tuesday morning just after getting out of bed, and so I staggered around looking for which of the three in our house was summoning me. Then I realized it wasn’t the phone ringing at all. It was the garbage truck.
For some reason, the Allied Waste trucks which prowl our neighborhood every Tuesday morning have been rigged to ring like telephones whenever they back up, which is quite a lot. Those big trucks are hard to turn, and sometimes have to back up when entering culsde-sac and alleys. And every time they do, a person (yours truly) wants to run outside and answer them.
This represents a greater effort on the part of civilization to get our attention. I’ve noticed in the past few years that television and radio commercials often will feature a telephone ringing even when the commercials have nothing to do with telephones.
I think this is because psychologists have observed that if there is one thing that will divert the attention of a person (yours truly again) it is the sound of a telephone ringing. This is not unlike the bell in the famous experiments involving Pavlov’s dog, only in this case, we are the dogs.
“If you want to take advantage of compulsive human behavior,” the psychologists probably tell their clients who are writers of broadcast advertising, “get a telephone ringing in your commercial. That will grab them every time.”
These days, the phone doesn’t even have to ring. All it has to do is vibrate.
Sunday, I was in church, and the minister was giving a sermon on how to be of service to others. Just as she got to an interesting point, a worshiper in front of me tensed up. She grabbed her handbag, dug into it and pulled out her Blackberry. Her mind no longer was on being of service, but on what the screen of the Blackberry was telling her.
So it is no wonder the garbage trucks now are ringing like phones, instead of honking like out-of-tune clarinets like they used to when they backed up. And it probably is a good thing. I mean, who would even notice a garbage truck if it didn’t ring like a phone?