I recently printed business cards for myself—I was going to a writing conference—but I didn’t put on my address or phone number. Then people would know where I live, for goodness’ sake. That seemed completely unsafe—my email address was more than adequate. Sure, I was giving my cards out to people by choice, but that didn’t mean they merited complete access to me. Besides, sometimes you dropped business cards into raffle boxes or empty fishbowls and who knew who might read them?
I mean, when the phone rings, my first instinct is to hit it with something, or throw it across the room. I feel assaulted. No, that’s too strong of a word, but certainly invaded.
That’s not how it always was. I used to live on the phone. I used to get in trouble for talking on the phone too much. Between my brother and I, our line was permanently busy, and my mom was so mad that she spent extra money every month for this fancy new thing called “call waiting,” which I then used to talk to two friends at the same time. (Remember that? And when you accidentally said something to the wrong friend?) Getting grounded off the phone was the absolute worst possible punishment my parents could assign me.
When car phones were invented, we thought that was the most amazing thing ever, because then you could talk on the phone and drive at the same time. I have to admit that I had two car accidents that mostly likely would not have occurred if I had both hands on the wheel and wasn’t chatting away as I sped down the highway. But OMG, I couldn’t wait ten minutes to talk to someone! That would’ve been completely ridiculous.
I remember the first text I ever got, and the first friend who texted me regularly. I hated texting. I thought it was the stupidest thing ever. I could see they called from my missed call log. There was this handy thing that happened at the end of every missed call—an opportunity to leave a message. Now I even get my voice mail translated into text so I don’t have to listen to recordings—it’s too traumatic.
When I first got married, back when I was twenty, one of my greatest sorrows was that long-lost friends would no longer be able to find me in the phone book. I felt invisible, lost to history (I was always a little dramatic). Now, the idea that they printed a book of every person’s address and phone number and gave it to everyone else in the entire city seems patently unsafe. Anyone could look you up. Anyone.
I’m not the only one. Many of my friends have experienced this same phone disillusionment as I have. It’s like we’ve outgrown our first love, and now that we have a new and improved one, we can’t ever imagine going back. Not that I’m un-nostalgic. I can wistfully recall the weight of the black handset, the feel of wrapping the spiral cord around my finger as I talked. I remember pulling the cord as far as possible so I could talk around the corner from the rest of the household, the drrrrrr sound of dialing a rotary phone. But, Dude, my pocket-googler is way better. It can give me directions to anywhere I need to go, and play any song or audio book I ask it to. Plus, it has a virtual cat on it that I feed virtual food to and can even pet with my finger without inducing my allergies.
I heard an old-fashioned ringtone last night and it brought me back to those days when my brother and I raced across the dining room, our socked feet sliding on the carpet at we tried to be the first one to answer the phone, screaming “I got it!” way louder than necessary. My current ringtone is some electronic hard rock sounding thing my kids picked out. Maybe if I change it to something gentle that recalls the nearly forgotten magic of the unknown caller I’ll be less hesitant to answer the next time my phone rings. Who am I kidding? I’m still me, after all.
Copyright © 2021 Lara Lillibridge
Public domain imagery courtesy of Snappygoat.com