Saturday, September 27, 2008

Day two hundred and sixty nine ... Off the hook.

I don't particularly like cell phones.

But I don't think it's for the same reasons a lot of people claim to not like them.

While I do think it's rude to talk loudly in public on your phone, I feel it either doesn't happen that much in the area where I live, or people are just doing it less in general.

It's not that they're expensive--they are. But you get what you pay for--convenience. 

Oh ... you need to be reachable at all times? Okay ... sure ... that's a easy solution, but it's gonna cost you.

I feel it's only right.

And now, as they are made smaller and smaller, it becomes increasingly easier to lose your phone through a hole in your pants that at one time only a quarter could escape from.

No, I don't like cell phones. But it's mainly because, by design, cell phones have made one of the main facets of enjoyable communication obsolete ... rhythm.

See, if I have to say "go ahead" after each time I inadvertently talk over the person on the other end, and then wait until the volume stabilizes before I can process the information, it ruins the art of talking.

It's what killed morse code.

Okay, maybe not, but you know what I mean.

Wait ... did you say ... um ... hello? ... go ahead ... 

See that?

I feel lucky to have witnessed a grand period of evolution of the world of the telephone.

I remember when it was only five numbers to remember--2-7231--that was my number.

But what they didn't tell you was that the connection name was "Osbourne" or "67" in phone speak ("6" for the "O" and a "7" for the "S").

If you watch old movies, you'll sometimes see the people pick up the phone, tap the holder a few times, and when the operator came on (you had to go through the operator back then, not that I remember that) they'd say something like, "Operator ... please connect me to Osbourne 2-7231."

And then, when there were too many new people in the world--myself included--they just made it official and our number changed from 2-7231 to 672-7231.

Do you realize how traumatizing that is for a seven or eight year old child?

Well, it sucked ... because at the time, every day at school they tried to teach me something new in preparation for a test which would be graded in red pen or marker which I would be able to bring home for inspection and/or validation.

This was just some stupid thing the government said we had to do, like it or not.

And I did not.

I remember, in my house at 1073 Bedford, we only had one phone. We only needed one phone because back then only one person could talk on one phone at one time. It had a really long cord which was permanently connected to a jack that was screwed in to the wall.

I don't thing the word modification was used much in communication technology back then.

I also remember a time when an awful (read: psycho) high school ex girlfriend of mine called every seven or eight minutes for a period of about three months. The phone would ring, either myself or my mother would pick it up and say hello, and there would be nothing at the other end except for some breathing. 

I remember how my mother--who at one point had had enough--pulled the phone cord out of the wall--mid ring--with all her might (it took a few, hard yanks). I remember plastic shards flying everywhere, and then, we were just left standing there, looking at each other; my mother crying, and me crying; the dogs barking; the canaries tweeting, and the hamster wheel squeaking .... and then, except for the last bit of bell that could be heard from the heavy, black, bakelite, rotary phone dangling from my mother's tired right hand, it had stopped.

It felt really strange.

We were disconnected--on purpose.

And then we had to go downstairs to my aunt's place to call the phone company to come and reinstall it.

That was when they replaced it with the more modern, adaptable jack that we have all come to know.

We now had a choice besides on and ready to ring, or off with a busy signal.

We could just have nothing.

But who in their right mind would want that?

I pulled out a sales receipt the other day from the purchase of a cell phone I made back in November of 2005.

My mom had just been given her terminal pancreatic cancer diagnosis, and I had to be in touch in case I was needed.

My aunt paid for me to have it. It wasn't something I wanted; not by a long shot. But I went downtown and picked out the style and put down the money for the pay-as-you-go plan.

¢.25 a minute.

Not exactly a bargain.

But I had this phone for a long time. Seeing it wasn't on a contract plan I never had people trying to get me to upgrade to a new one. It was kind of nice.

I got used to the ringtone which was labeled "Cosmic Girl" in my phone's little data bank.

It came to represent a lot in my life.

I heard it when I was needed at the hospital.

I heard it when I was late for a lobster supper.

I heard it when I was at the pet store, making sure I knew which cat litter to get.

I heard it when I was on my way to pick up medications.

I heard it when I was at the grocery store and they had forgotten to add something to the list.

I heard it when I was just around the corner.

I heard it when I was parking in the driveway.

I heard it when I was shutting the car off.

I heard it when I was in the hospital elevators and her room had changed and she was letting me know.

And "she" had at one time meant my mother, and then my aunt, and then it didn't mean either one anymore.

And then I turned it off for real.

I now have a new phone.

It's fancy, it's expensive, and it's absolutely necessary to me the way my life is set up now.

And that's not a hollow justification, it's true.

But I went out to dinner with a close friend last night (one of the people who calls me the most) and I did something strange.

I left my phone at home.

I purposefully left my phone sitting in my bag, on the chair in my apartment, and I left the house for a few hours.

There wasn't the need to have it on me at all times.

There wasn't that impending guilt that if I wasn't 100% reachable at the drop of a hat, that I was taking a risk of not being ready when needed.

And I went out.

We had a delicious meal.

And when I came back, I checked to see if anyone had left me a message.

Someone did.

It was my dinner guest, telling me he was on his way to my place.

But I, of course, knew that, because I was already back and he was now on his way home.

And I turned off my phone, put on my slippers, and turned on the TV.

Life is simpler now.

It's quieter, predictable, and calm.

My new phone has a new number, a new ringtone, and a new purpose.

But I'm still ready for anything.

And I mean that in every way possible.

Today makes nine months since I took a drink, a puff, or a snort.

But who's counting?

Thanks for reading.


1 comment:

John Holland said...

I remember when I was a kid we didn't have a phone at home. When my parents wanted to call their parents we had to drive down to the local gas station and use the public phone there.