Friday, September 11, 2009

Connections-present tense

Time was when my household had one telephone that lived in one room of the house, with a cord that was six feet long (it cost extra for a longer cord). We didn't own it, we rented it from Ma Bell. It weighed about three pounds. When the phone rang (yes, real bells smacked by a tiny clapper in the body of the phone) we had no idea who it was until we actually answered the call. We had one phone number which was assigned to us. We shared our line with five other phone renters. It was called a party line, and though it rarely led to parties, it was often the source of lots of snooping when neighbors surreptitiously tried to listen in for juicy bits of gossip. Today this is done through something called Facebook.

When we wanted to speak to someone we dialed a call (yes, put our fingers in little holes and rotated a dial). If they picked up the phone receiver we talked. If they didn't, we called back (because answering devices didn't yet exist) or wrote a letter. With an actual pen and a piece of paper, which we stuffed in an addressed envelope to which we affixed a postage stamp and then mailed. Call it texting, for lack of a better description.

It was possible, way back then, to go fishing, or play golf or just a read a book at the beach and be unreachable. It was how we 'got away from it all' for a while. We left a note on the fridge. Mostly nobody worried much, eventually most people found their way home. Life was good. A person could think deep thoughts, ponder the universe if they so chose. Or even think shallow thoughts like how someone would look naked (usually not nearly as good as one imagined) or why red cars seemed faster than white ones. It was bliss. Now, not so much.

I suspect that Twitter is the most logical and least useful extension of a society that now obsesses over the trivial. It tirelessly demands through shrill electronic chirping, beeping, whirring, singing, grunting (or whatever sound has been downloaded) an instantaneous response. And we do respond. Scarcely anyone is without a cell phone. Try to imagine resisting the urge to at least look at the I.D. screen to see who it is, unless of course you have assigned different sounds for different callers and then you know just by listening in many cases. Anyone with a library card has internet access. At any given time of the day or night a photo or even a video clip shot on a cell phone makes its way to You Tube hoping for a moment of fleeting glory as the day's download king.

Is it really necessary that followers in say, Madagascar know that the lettuce in my turkey sandwich was a little wilty today? Or that my left sock keeps falling down? Come to think of it, is it really necessary that anyone other than the waiter and the cook know about the lettuce? And guess what, I can tell them directly...I don't even need a battery. And certainly my sock status is wholly irrelevant to everyone but myself.

I know, I'm hopelessly old fashioned. I have a cell phone. Should I wish it, it will take photos, it will text, it will access the internet (for an additional fee) and it will even take movies for me. Here's the thing: I don't wish it. On rare occasions I will actually use it to make a call. On slightly less rare occasions others will call me. Otherwise, I just want it to be a phone.

I recently discovered something important about this device. I can turn it off. I could go golfing if my back didn't ache so much, or fishing if I had any gear and a license. I can think deep thoughts, ruminate on the intricacies of my next post, relax on the beach. Life is good, it is bliss once again.

Did I mention my left sock keeps falling down?

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