Growing up in my house if you had to make a phone call you had to have strong fingers because the phone you were going to use was an old-fashioned Navy issue Black Rotary phone, that sat on the kitchen counter. It weighed at least a ton…ok maybe not that much but it was heavy. It had a plug just long enough to reach the wall, and a cord that was so short and stiff you had to actually lean over while talking. To dial the numbers on this thing require superhuman strength, and the 7 was one that I hated because it always seemed to stick on the way back to it position. I am sure that the only benefit of this phone is that it kept all calls fairly short because you either broke a nail or ended up with a backache. The ring tone on this beast was enough to wake the dead and forget having any choice in volume. It was one sound at one level and reminds me now of a air-raid alarm!
When I was 10 we finally got a new and improved phone, thanks to my brother who worked at the phone company. Of course my parents kept the old one, just in case. I guess they really didn’t trust the new technology quite yet. Anyway….this new phone was sleek and beautiful. A lovely shade of white, with the number actually on the hand piece, and lord help us they were push buttons! It had a nice cord that allowed you to sit in a chair while you talked. They called it a “slim-line” phone, I called it wonderful. Yeah you were still pretty confined so private conversations were something you didn’t have, but then again at 10 there really wasn’t much I was saying that really had to be kept private, maybe that’s how mom found out about the grapes and pretzels. Anyway…it was a definite improvement.
A few years later my brother brought home another new invention for our phone. I didn’t know until I was 14 how important this would be. It was called a “cord extender”. It was a little plug on a long wire that plugged the wall wire and phone together and it allowed you to actually pick up the phone and go at least to the next room. WOW!! We could now go from the den to the dining room and sit at the table when we talked. Yes, we were moving up in the world. Best part you could actually plug-in two of these new phones. Not that we had two mind you, but you could.
By 14, my brother brought home yet another surprise, was there no end to his wonderful gifts? and presented us with a 20 foot phone coil. This is that spiral part that connects the handset to the body of the phone. What an invention! Between the long cord and now the new coil I could take the phone and make it to the end of the hallway and around the corner where I could talk in almost complete privacy, unless someone had to go to the bathroom. And they had to a lot. We had finally caught up with the rest of the world. That old black beast sat silent on the kitchen counter, gathering dust now. I don’t know why they kept it but Dad insisted. Maybe it was a security blanket, after all this new phone had a dainty little ring, unlike the air-raid siren of the past. The only draw back to this new freedom was that we now had a “death trap” in the house. I guess you don’t think about these things at first but that long springy cord, winding its way through door ways, down the hall and across the room meant if you were not careful you would find yourself tangled and held prisoner by the phone. On more than one occasion I found myself wrapped up or face down on the carpet.
For many years we lived a happy life with our new phone. Mom and Dad liked it so well they actually broke down and bought a second one for their bedroom. That one didn’t have the long cords, but it meant you didn’t have to run across the house now when the phone rang.
Then it happened… my brother who was now married, divorced and living on a boat came to the house one night to show off his new toy. It was something called a “cellular phone”.
It looked like something you would see in a comic book. Big, bulky and came with its own back-pack. It ran on batteries that were big enough to power a small car today and it weighed more than the old black beast on the kitchen counter, BUT, you could take it anywhere. What a concept! This was too much for my parents, but I was totally intrigued!
Fast forward 30 years…..
We have now packed away the “black beast” and the “slim-line” only to replace them with these tiny little pocket-sized mobile gadgets called “cell phones”. A far cry from their forerunners, they offer us the mobility we crave while allowing us to stay in touch with the world at a moments notice. They come in an assortment of shapes and sizes and allow us to do everything from making a simple call to surfing the web. They play music, movies, and help us schedule our lives. I have seen them used as teething rings, night lights and book marks. They can be found in every pocket, purse or backpack. From the youngest to the oldest among us, we call all make a phone call at the drop of a hat. While some would say this is definitely an advancement in our lives, I am not so sure anymore. Think about it…I have. Once upon a time you could at least escape having to deal with salesmen, people looking for a donation, collection agents, and the assorted calls from “friends” by simply saying…”sorry I wasn’t home when you called”, but now, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, they can find you! No more quiet dinners out, uninterrupted movies, long walks in the park, driving down the highway or bathroom time. If you have that cell in your pocket, they can find you! We were once held captive by the black beast on the kitchen counter, but at least then we could just leave the house. Now we are held captive by something no bigger than a credit card that we must take everywhere.
LIFE’S LESSON….Watch out this springy cord is invisible!