Monday, January 13, 2014

An Old Perspective on Phones

Apparently I've gotten to that stage in my life when "I remember when ..." becomes seriously amusing. It's easier to notice and happens sooner now in our lifetimes because we're living longer and technology changes the world so rapidly.

So this morning, I heard an angry buzzing noise, followed by The Good, The Bad and The Ugly theme. My DH was still in bed, so his phone was not actually on his body.

That's another sign of our generation–we don't take our phones to bed with us, no matter how sexy the voice on the phone sounds or how many toys there might be on there to distract us. Now I'm editing myself as far as what we prefer to distract us. Moving on!

Back in my day, the phone rang on the other side of the house. We had a fancy house. We had one upstairs, in the kitchen, and one downstairs, in the family room. Sometimes it took a while to get to the phone.

To answer my DH's phone, I had to slide my finger over the screen, and I did an old lady thing. I said, "Rory's phone, Kami speaking." During my youth, no one had a personal phone. You had to learn to answer the phone, and it was a grave responsibility, like being a butler. "Hi, this is the Zeman residence, Kami speaking!" Because, get this, we had no caller ID. Unless we had a pre-arranged phone call coming in (that we had to sit by the phone and wait for) we had no idea who might be on the phone. It might be someone from my dad's work. Some of us were a little psychic and knew why the phone was ringing (or we were lucky guessers.) But my DH's phone told me exactly who was calling, so while I was doing the finger slidey thing, I was already on my way to get to him.

That's another thing. Phone cords! They got twisted and tangled and the older and more worn-out they got, the more often they did that. Longer cords were great because sometimes you could do stuff (or hide in another room with the door closed) but that only made tangling more likely and far worse when it happened. Of course this generation has been deprived of one of life's great joys–dangling the phone at the end of the cord and watching it unwind. (It's faster to hold the phone and let the cord unwind, but much less fun.) Another lost joy–playing with the coils, which could be interlocked, partially uncoiled and recoiled again, etc.

So I'm on my way to my DH with this cordless marvel, and I hand it to him with, "it's G." During the pass somehow, something that would have never, ever happened with the phone I grew up with happened. The phone took a picture somehow. Click! Wrong part of the screen touched or something. I can't wait to see the results. It should be the best pic ever, or at least best pic of the week. For a moment my DH wasn't sure if G. was still on the line. He couldn't hear anything. But eventually he got into the right phone mode and it was all good.

I was raised in the modern era, don't get me wrong. In the unlikely event of a dropped call (almost never happened) we did have one modern convenience during my teen years, and it was actually easier to access than on my DH's phone. A redial button.

But it only worked if we made the call from our side. And it was only the latest number.

Still, it came in handy. The digital phones (the early ones of which had to transmit the rotary phone noises in order to communicate with the switchboard) were a huge advance and my sister and I love playing with them. I did miss playing with the rotary phone dial, though. There was something magical about putting my finger in that little hole and turning the dial around the center pin. (Quiet, all y'all with dirty minds out there!) Also, not only were international calls expensive, we had to talk to a human being to make them, who then talked to a human being in another country to make the switch. There was excitement, drama, and suspense when we made a long-distance call!

And you were never in danger of your phone taking a picture of you, sending you on a wild-goose chase if you're trying to find your way through an unfamiliar town, compromising your identity or pocket calling someone who then listens to your garbled conversation at a cafe for gawd-knows-how-long until they get bored of yelling to get your attention or laughing at you.

Though toddlers were still capable of randomly calling and talking to perfect strangers for quite a while before you caught them at it.

I'm enjoying the hell out of this sense of perspective. It's a never-ending source of hilarity. The fact that half the population doesn't get it doesn't diminish it's charm.

No comments: