Thursday, January 22, 2009

Phone Tag and Rediscovering Your Inner Child

From the days of our early childhood to maybe even last week (for some of you), we have been brought up with social games. There is duck-duck-goose, "pin the tail on the donkey," "truth or dare," and the classic, and my personal favorite, tag (not to be confused with Mitt Romney's son Tagg). For those of you reading this in Pakistan or Singapore, tag is a game where there is a group of people, with one designated as "it," and thereby endowed with the prerogative, power, and responsibility to tag everyone else. The last person to get tagged wins.
(This man is enjoying a nice game of tag with a polar bear)
Tag quite often devolves into arguments among children. One says, "I got you," with the other saying, "No you didn't," or, "That was my jacket, it doesn't count." But, petty bickering aside, it's a pretty wholesome activity. And, I'm not about to make it into some metaphor for life or root out your inner demons by psychoanalyzing your success or lack thereof while playing the game as a child. However I do want to talk about the more relevant form of tag for adults, or more sophisticated adolescents. This derivation is called 'phone tag.'

I myself am a master at phone tag. You might think it hubris on my part, and, perhaps you're right, but I have proof. First off, let me start by explaining the ins and outs of phone tag and by which criteria you can go by to find out if you've got skills. Phone tag, (the structured form) involves two people. One person calls the other, for whatever reason does not reach the person, then the other calls back in hopes of getting a hold of the person who called. The game only continues if they never get in touch. When someone finally does, the game is over. Either the caller or the called wins, and that depends on the context of the game (and, if you really want to talk to the person, I guess everybody wins, but I'm not espousing Marxist dogma).

So to my case study. Myself. I make plenty of outbound calls and receive plenty of inbound calls, but I am meticulous in calling people back if they call me. So, you might say I am naturally inclined to end phone tag quickly. But you would be wrong. Whether it happens to be divine providence or luck, I seem to get embroiled in regular bouts of phone tag. It starts off simply enough with me calling someone and leaving a message. Then the person calls back, but for some reason they catch me during the .5% of the day I don't have the phone with me. This might be while I'm taking a shower, making a sandwich, at the gym, or circling the earth in a satellite (that happens more than I'd like to admit). Then, I call them back and magically get the voice mail box again. If it carries on I either leave random or ridiculous tag messages. For instance, I might claim to be a towing service, or prize patrol, or an angry Chinese man, but always I end with "Tag, you're it" even if it is unintelligible in a thick Chinese accent.
So I suppose the moral, if there must be one, is to keep your inner child alive through adaptations of children's games like phone tag. If you can find a way to play duck-duck-goose with phones, texting, or skype, you're my hero.

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