Posted by: Rob | December 16, 2009

Rescue in Modern Times

When you think about it the pace of technological advance and evolution in our life times has been nothing short of stupendous.  Granted, I will be the first one to tell you that much of the modern electronica is really useless and counterproductive but there have been times when today’s communication devices have saved a lot of anguish and worry.  Today was one of those times.

When I started my engineering career, I shared an office with another engineer.  We shared a single telephone, which was kind of awkward at times as we were both named “Rob”.  The phone was an old “touch tone” desk model.  If no one was in to answer its ringing, it would roll back to the receptionist (remember those?) at the front.  We would pick our messages up from one of those old plastic organizer things with the round holes, our names in Dymo tags over our particular message hole.

Nowadays, we use IP phone sets that are linked in to the company ethernet.  The phones are configured such that a voice message left by a caller is forwarded to Outlook e-mail and is announced aurally on your PC with “You have voice mail.”

I was hosting a meeting this morning and we had barely gotten started, when “You have voice mail” came over my computer, with an accompanying flash box with the caller’s telephone number.  Glancing at it I could see it was Ann’s cell phone.  “Hmm.  Might be a problem.” I thought to myself.

Our meeting discussion continued and about fifteen minutes after the first call, a second “You have voice mail” message was heard.  Looking down, I could see it was Ann’s cell phone again.  “Must be a problem.” I thought.

I excused myself from the meeting and went to my office to call her back.

“What’s up?”, I asked.

“The truck won’t start.  It was kind of dragging at the school, but now I’m at Shopper’s and it’s totally dead.  There’s nothing.  It beeped at me, too, for some reason at home when I started it.  What should I do?”

“Call the 1-800 number.  The cards are in the manual wallet.  Get a tow truck out to boost it.  I’m in a meeting right now.  I’ll call you back in a bit.”

After the meeting wrapped up, I called her back to see how things were transpiring.  The tow truck had come and boosted the truck, getting it going, and had already left.  I said I would be there in a few minutes.  Upon arrival I contacted the dealer to see if we could get the truck in today for a new battery.  They could accommodate it so we drove over to Southfort and left the truck.  Ann drove me back to work and I was back in my office an hour after I’d left.  She continued on with her day’s schedule.

It was then I listened to the messages she’d left earlier.  The first one was in her usual informative tone.  She suspected something was amiss from the sound of it when it started, but was still mobile.  In the second message, her tone was decidedly different; you could tell from her tone that her patience was thin as she relayed the status of the now-dead truck.

I can only imagine how much panic and aggravation would have been added to what was today a simple problem if we were still using the communication technology of twenty years ago.


  1. i still giggle when i overhear (or say) “Where are you?” while on the phone… never had to ask when i was a kid…

    makes me also wonder what gadgetry we’ll have 10 years from now that is indispensible. cell phones? got my first mobile phone a mere 10 years ago. it was the size of a brick…

  2. i’m still waiting on the phone implant with the keypad in the hand and the microphone/speaker in an ocular implant.

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