The Evil Ringtone


I have decided, as of 3:45 AM this morning, that ringtones are indeed pure unadulterated evil. Hideous evil things are they, take my word for it. Especially at 3:45 in the morning. My wife and I have really wonderful relatives – some of whom happen to live in the Midwest where time zones are just different enough to cause some issues now and then. Apparently Groundhog Day is an exciting enough event in some locales to entice caring, well-meaning relatives to send texts at 3:45 in the morning. Judging by the weather in Chicago and places like that today I can understand how a reprieve from winter may be cause for celebration and/or elation. So I guess I can try to be a bit understanding about the actions of a furry rodent and how the emergence or absence of its shadow might send otherwise rational adults into a fit of text frenzy euphoria. Maybe it’s my Canadian heritage but I don’t feel any compulsion to send out messages to anyone on the day after Christmas declaring the obvious – that it’s Boxing Day. Does anyone (including Canadians) even know what Boxing Day is? Does anyone care?

A few years ago there really wasn’t such a thing as a ringtone per se. What we had at the time were a series of annoying blips and bleeps or that now infamous Nokia “tune” that many of you are probably familiar with. Remember when going to a restaurant was funny because when a phone would ring everyone would jump out of their seat to answer their phone only to realize that it was another patron with the same ringtone? Good times for sure. Nokia has since added reverb and has reworked the same ringtone but it’s the equivalent of someone like Jessica Simpson with magically corrected pitch and a drum machine. I have to say that the vast array of options for ringtones these days is an improvement if only because there is enough variety that whatever pop song that someone else’s phone is dishing out is inevitably not going to be mine. I am quite thankful that phones can’t accommodate subwoofers at this time – what a menace that would be.

If Pavlov were alive today, I’m sure he would do some version of his famous experiment on one of us that owns a cell phone. Most of us probably won’t salivate upon hearing our phone ring; however, I would bet large sums of money that most of our reactions would be some combination of dread, excitement, nausea, euphoria etc. Couple that with all the benefits of accelerated heart beats, rapid breathing and you have all the elements of stress – all triggered by a ringtone. And herein lies my biggest issues with ringtones: given enough time you will no longer be able to hear your favorite song without thinking of all the things you were supposed to do that you haven’t done yet. Maybe that’s why “old school” phone samples have become popular ringtones. There is no ambiguity with having a phone sound like an actual phone.

It’s time to reconsider how best to choose a ringtone in the near future. Perhaps I should choose a singer or band that I already can’t stand. But, if I were to take that strategy my ringtone would both annoy me and stress me out. At least for today, I have a temporary solution. I’m changing the tone to “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher. I’m sure Bill Murray and the entire cast of Groundhog Day would be impressed. And maybe, just maybe, a few relatives in the Midwest would get a chuckle out of it.

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