We need Facetime protocol

By Scott Ballard District Attorney

July 26, 2014

I’m sure you have heard of Facetime.

Just in case you are even more technologically challenged than I am, Facetime is a fulfillment of the Dick Tracy watch that made phone calls that allowed you to see the person you were talking with. I think the Jetsons had something like that, too.

By the way, why aren’t we all zooming around in those flying saucer cars like George Jetson had?

But, back to Facetime. It sounds like a great idea. You call somebody on the cell phone. Suddenly, there he is, his face filling the screen of your phone! What could be better?

Well, to quote Lee Corso from ESPN, “Not so fast, my friend.”

For one thing, Facetime kind of sneaks up on folks—even the one making the call. There is a judge who often calls a prosecutor via Facetime by accident. By now the prosecutor is accustomed to staring at the earhole of the judge on her phone screen. But the first time it happened was a little traumatic.

And then there is the guy who received a Facetime call while on the toilet.

You see, old-fashioned technology caused people to get a little careless. They would talk on the phone while doing anything. You’ve been to a fancy hotel that had a phone just above the toilet paper. Maybe I’m a hopeless prude, but I’ve always recoiled at that. I can’t imagine why that would be necessary.

Twenty years ago I saw a photo of President Lyndon Johnson making an important call from the toilet. That is even more traumatic than the judge’s ear canal. I’ve often wondered who he was speaking to.

The Queen of England? The Ambassador to the UN?

“Your Holiness, the next time you leave the Vatican, be sure to swing by Texas and we’ll ride horses on the ranch.”

When I was in private practice, I would receive calls at night from a lady lawyer to negotiate our divorce cases. I could hear water running in the background.

“Why are you calling me from the swimming pool?” I would ask.

“Oh, I’m not. I’m just soaking in the tub,” she would say.

I never felt like I could bill my client for those negotiations. Somehow it just didn’t seem right to consider that as real lawyer work.

The problem with fast-paced technological advancements is that our mothers haven’t had the chance to advise us of the proper protocol. You remember the rules—don’t talk on the phone with your mouth full of food. Be sure to announce who you are when the person answers the phone. Don’t yell, “Daddy, there’s a crazy woman on the phone that wants to talk to you!”

The closest we have come is “Don’t text and drive.” I have a few others to suggest.

Don’t send a fax that will require the recipient to print a thousand pages.

Be very careful not to select “reply to all” when you respond to a message if you are insulting somebody else in the thread.

And I’m calling for something along the lines of the “Do Not Call Registry.”

It’s a list of folks who are blocked from calling me via Facetime while in the bathtub.

Or, from anywhere on the private side of the bathroom door.

Scott Ballard is the District Attorney for the Griffin Judicial Circuit.