Tucked away in the recesses of my mind are an endless array of phone numbers.
Ask me what I had for dinner two days ago. I dunno, pasta?
Ask me the phone number of a random childhood friend, old employer or close relative and I can rattle it off with ease.
Now, ask me for someone’s current phone number. I have no idea.
“Let me check the contacts on my phone,” would be my stock reply.
My cellphone, which allows me access to an infinite amount of information with a swipe and a poke, has made me dumber.
Remember the days before cellphones? Our children would surely perish.
My tales of land lines only draw snickers and guffaws.
“You mean, like, you left the house without a phone?”
“That’s right, young whippersnapper. We occasionally strayed more than a few feet from the old homestead without the ability to be in constant contact with our family and close pals – not to mention the 450 other ‘friends’ (most of whom we have never had any contact with, other than to wish them a happy birthday on cue, when our phone reminds us of the blessed day).”
Elsewhere in this very fine publication, reporter Robert Barron discusses the demise of the personal land line, which is a sad thing indeed for those of us of a certain era.
That said, as much as I have fond memories of the halcyon days of rotary phones and 30-foot cords you could take into your room, I’ve definitely moved to the dark side.
Our clan abandoned the use of the land line seven or eight years ago. Everyone had a phone that was with them wherever they went, so who needed a number that no one ever called?
Sure, it was more expensive to outfit everyone with phones (ones that needed constant upgrades if you were a technology snob), but you could take it with you! Imagine that?
Helicopter parents can now even use the cellphones to track the movements of their youngsters.
“Johnny, why does your phone indicate you’re at the gravel pit when you’re supposed to be in school?”
Kids have it easy nowadays. Remember trying to build up the courage to call a young lady, knowing you might have to get past the gatekeeper (dad/older brother) first?
Now, a quick text or Snapchat reaches them instantly.
Remember watching your sibling sit patiently by the phone, waiting for (random suitor) to call at the appointed hour, then making sure you quickly picked up the other phone halfway through the first ring so you could make the guy stammer out an “is your sister there?”
How about prank calls? Call display (thankfully) pretty much killed those.
“Hello, Mr. Green? Is gang there?”
Ahahahahahahaha. High comedy, it was.
There was the terrifying realization that “toll free” numbers you found in the back of your friend’s dad’s special magazines were, in fact, not free.
Mum: “Mrs. (identity concealed) just called, wondering why they have a $400 phone bill. Exactly how many times did you (group of virtuous teenage boys) call that number?”
More good times.
Remember when you actually needed separate answering machines to go with your landline? Plugging it in close to the giant home stereo so you could record the perfect background music? Or, even more creatively, cueing up the VCR to include a line from a movie?
I’m so old I remember party lines, where Gertrude down the street would listen in on your conversations and yell at you for always being on the phone.
Today, we’ve got the world at our fingertips.
Or at least our thumbs.
Are we really better off?