My, how technology has changed.
I’ll admit I’m the first to love the technology in our lives, especially when it comes to my cellular telephone, my mobile technology, or what we simply refer to nowadays as my phone.
Because we each have our own phones. Our own numbers. A direct line to us. To me. There’s no escaping anyone, anywhere, anytime unless you’re on top of Mt. Everest and most likely out of range. Although, if you’ve ever followed any of the expedition parties to the summit of Mt. Everest, you’d know that they have advanced satellite technology and can literally talk to people from the top of the world.
But there is one means of escape. One method that we all to often forget…
DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE!
My husband has often said, “The phone is there for my convenience, not someone else’s.” I always thought that sounded a little brash and maybe just a touch standoffish. But he’s right. We don’t have to answer our phones.
Let’s revisit the olden days for a sec…
A harvest gold wall phone hangs in the kitchen with an extra long curled cord. The telephone rings. Everyone rushes to the kitchen. “I’ll get it! I’ll get it!” Because any phone call was the opportunity for news, excitements, a change in our ordinary routine.
Sometimes it was my grandma calling for my mom. Sometimes it was a bill collector or a salesperson asking, “Is your mother home?” We always answered the phone because we knew it must be important, especially if it was a long distance call.
As technology advanced, we added an answering machine. A tape recorder that would take a message if we weren’t at home to answer the all important phone call. Soon after, we attached a small device to our phone to give us new technology called Caller ID. Now we would now who was calling us before we even answered the phone! Oh, the fun of answering the phone with “Hi, Susan!” as opposed to a cryptic “Hello?”
Yes, it’s fun traveling down memory lane. Remembering the value of a phone call, of connecting with another human voice. In our teen years, it was spending hours on the phone with our girlfriends gossiping about school. Or maybe it was that boy you really, really liked and you could only talk for a few minutes because you absolutely froze in the fact that he was calling your house!
You ran around to different phone extensions trying to find the one that would afford you the most privacy, something that was difficult in a house full of six people. Most of the time, the phone still attached to the wall by this thing called a phone cord. As you found the perfect spot for a little privacy, you’d have to yell down, “HANG IT UP! I’ve got it!” and just hope that your little brother really did hang it up and wasn’t secretly collected ammunition to use against you at a later date.
Yes, the good old days. When we valued a conversation and the privacy that came with it.
As I’m sitting in the library, my office away from home (because it’s close to preschool and has free wifi), it occurs to me how we’ve lost all sense of decorum. It’s the library, for God’s sake. It’s the place where librarians wears their hair in a bun and place their glasses on the tip of their nose and give “the glance” to anyone that raises their voice above a whisper. The older ones will even raise a bony finger to their lips and say shhhhhhh.
But that’s not the library I’m in. It’s full of others working on their computers and lots of new mommies and babies and toddlers squealing around the books. And it’s full of cell phones.
I enter the library and I place my phone on vibrate. When I receive a call, I let it go to voicemail. If I’m concerned about the call itself, I’ll text the person and tell them I’m in the library and can call them in a bit. If it’s urgent, they’ll let me know and I can step outside to make the call.
In the thirty or so minutes I’ve been in the library, I’ve heard no less than five cell phones blare their Saturday Night Fever-type ringtone (which really isn’t cute anymore). More importantly, all but one have answered the phone. Yes, I was privvy to a conversation about a man who was going to meet someone at his house but was concerned that he didn’t have the keys to the armoire and thought it might be locked.
People don’t seem to value privacy much anymore. Gone are the days of the phone booth when we craved quiet and solitude for our phone calls. Now, the conversations of our lives are fair game.
I get that social media has taken away a certain layer of privacy. But that’s by choice. I like to think that some things in my life are still private and more importantly, I haven’t forgotten the lost art of telephone etiquette.