I’m scurrying through “Where the Crawdads Sing,” a popular book I’ve not read but want to before going to the new movie. In one part, a family sits down to a dinner of hamburger patties described as “thicker than a small phone book.” Oh phone books. Who remembers them?
The free and delivered to your doorstep books are shocking when you think about it. Not only were they never recycled, in them every person in your town was listed as was their phone number and address. Can you even imagine that information going out to anyone and everyone now? Weird right?
We are so incredibly private today and live in fear of someone “out there” finding our address and personal info that it’s no wonder phone books for the most part no longer exist. Oh sure I occasionally get a small business “yellow pages” businesses type of book in the mail but it immediately goes in the recycle bin. We have the internet now for all that info. And we have our phones.
Those phones have sure morphed through the years. Some former coworkers and I still laugh about how excited we were to get one of those “brick” phones pictured above. They were indeed big and clumsy, but they were mobile. Flip phones were cool but whatever happened to Blackberries? Whatever kind of cell phone we now have, they fit nicely in our purses and pockets and easily go everywhere with us.
Funny thing is, no one ever seems to answer those phones even though we all know we all have them right beside us virtually 24 hours a day and are always on them; even in a crowd and surrounded by people. Some of you even have a watch that serves the same purposes so you basically ignore two devices. You know who you are and so does everyone you know!
Growing up, I remember yelling “I’ll get it!” anytime the phone rang and running to it hoping I beat my sisters to the punch. It was so exciting to get a call even if the call wasn’t for you. If it was for you, you’d drag that long coiled cord into another room so you could have privacy. The actual phone you see, was mounted on the wall. My mom’s still is in the house I grew up in.
My mom also still thinks I have a “machine” as in “I called you and left a message on your machine.” Remember those? Answering machines? They were the bomb when they came out. A whole new way to get calls and screen calls. Then came voice mail and the machines were out the door. Call waiting and caller ID were also game changers. Except that is, when you were on the internet through your phone line and got a call. Off goes the connection. Sounds so weird to think now that I would have to disconnect call waiting whenever I got on AOL.
When I think of my mom and my childhood home, I also think of “the red phone” just like the one above. When our daughter was little, she loved that phone. Not sure why; she just did. I cherished and still do those pink Princess Phones. Still have one.
In their own way, phones were just as important back then as they are today and I can actually remember many a phone number from my childhood. Friends. Neighbors. My grandma. Friends of my parents. Restaurants my parents frequented. I can recite many of them to this day. Dialing them on a rotary phone day after day or pushing those “new and improved” push button phones made sure the numbers remained in our brains. Today, we push a button or contact. I couldn’t tell you anyone’s phone number on my phone now except for my husband’s and daughter’s. Even those I call (or text) frequently.
Whatever number we call today, it will include an area code. Back in the day, that wasn’t the case. I don’t remember exactly when the area code requirement came into effect, but it wasn’t all that long ago. A dear friend of mine from back in my TV news days recently shared an old press pass request I’d submitted that included my office phone number, sans area code. It looked so odd and naked on paper, clothed only in seven digits. Jenny would agree with her 867-5309 famous digits.
Today area codes are a type of calling card in some parts; excuse the pun. Ask Carrie Bradshaw. The “Sex and the City” character was devastated when she got a new phone number that didn’t have the legendary 212 New York City area code. In Austin, 512 before your phone number is coveted as is 214 in Dallas. No one wants to be the newbie in town and heaven forbid you have one of those California area codes. And BTW: all three of them were three of the original 86 North America area codes established in 1947.
So what is it; what’s changed so much in that we all have to have phones but don’t really like talking on them? Have we become that private? That’s kinda hard to believe being that we post anything and everything on numerous social media sites that are anything but safe and private, enter our credit card numbers willy nilly online, and track locations of friends and family.
Could it be that we’re overwhelmed and overstimulated? Information and requests come in constantly on the phones we own, which are really small computers and not merely phones. Having to talk to someone maybe stresses us out as does being “on call” 24-7. It’s a struggle and it’s a lot. Maybe we should bring back the “busy signal” to ensure callers know we are just to busy to answer the call.
I took this photo sometime back in an airport. Many of you know what it’s of while others have no idea. Spoiler alert: it’s a wall of what used to be pay phones. Yes, we used to have to pay money on the spot to use a phone in a public place. And I’m not talking waaaay back. In fact, I was recently watching an episode of “Friends” and Joey ran out of coins while making a call.
Guess I’ll go back to reading my book, which by the way is a real book; not one I read on my phone. I’ll save it for texting, scrolling, Googling, photographing, and just about everything but calling and talking. If you want to force me, do what another blast from the past Blondie would say, “Call me.” Maybe I’ll pick up.