The Game of Telephone

“I have a cupcake in my briefcase,” I heard Missy say.

Missy and her husband Biff are here in South Puffin for a couple-three weeks of fishing. Missy loves her bling which dangles and jangles and actually seems to attract fish when she leans over the transom. She still has her job with the state but Biff is out of work for the first time in about 20 years. Naturally, they each brought a cellphone.

In the game of Telephone, according to the Wikipedia, “the first player whispers a phrase or sentence to the next player. Each player successively whispers what that player believes he or she heard to the next. The last player announces the statement to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first. The game is often played by children as a party game or in the playground.” Or by the Congress.

Missy actually said “My son got a cupcake for his birthday. I found it in the fridge.”

The game of telephone has become the game of cellephone.

Everyone in America today has at least one. It is impossible to walk down the street without tripping over Biff yelling into his hand or cupping his earbud to hear a friend at the beach or instruct a partner in Pipeline-istan. If people are far away or speak a different language, Biff knows they can understand him better when he yells.

I hate cellephony.

But it’s cheap! Every cellphone company in this country advertises the best network and the lowest rates. The average $39.99 cell bill last month cost the consumer $103 and change.

But it’s reliable! T-Mobile blamed a software glitch for the outage that left about 5% of its customers unable to send or receive calls or text messages last week. Of course, no cell carrier mentions the millions of individual dropped calls unless some other network does the dropping.

But it’s perfect for people watchers! I love to eavesdrop on conversations; cellphones make too too it easy to listen to just one side.

The game of cellephone we play doesn’t bring more cumulative error, rumor, and gossip than, say, Facebook or television or the blogosphere because our errors are personal, not viral. In the end, though, it’s all about me. Or thee. All I want is for my call to go through when I push send. All I want is to be able to tell if it is Missy or Biff who answers. All I want is to hear the words they say. After all, the simple copper line attached to a Bakelite™ speaker and microphone and the magneto my grandfather cranked did that with amazing accuracy and 99.72% uptime.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to get a bite of that cupcake. I hope it’s chocolate.