Santa, disguised as my son, Bart, gave me a smart phone for Christmas. I wanted to join the 21st century now that a third of all cell phones are smart phones, but I'm not sure I have the smarts to use it. I am trying . . . I mean I hope to study the book, play with all the "apps" and find out what they all do, but I know that come Memorial Day I'll still be struggling with some of its more sophisticated gizmos. It's a far cry from the helpful lady who chirped "operator" when I picked up the phone as a kid. I bet she'd have helped me.
I got to thinking about how much phones have changed in my lifetime and it was a lot like thinking back on the different cars I've owned . . . the phone models have changed almost as much although they never went through the chrome and fin stage.
Our original phone was black and never moved from where it sat on the phone table in the dining room. It couldn't move it weighed as much as a bone-in ham. I will never forget that original phone number, 1406M, but I did think it was very sophisticated when the phone company assigned us a 7-digit number that began with the exchange Fieldbrook. The Boston metropolitan numbers all had exchange names like Copley, Beacon and Kenmore and I was pleased that our new designation sounded very rolling-lawn suburban . . . a big upgrade for a working class village with an ugly downtown.
Boston was a long distance call and we thought long and hard before dialing what would be an expensive toll call on the bill. . . Boston was 18 miles away. Oh, and I just remembered that we also had long distance operators back in those days. If you needed to make a long distance call you told the operator and she connected you to the specialty maven. I was sure that if she could connect me to Bali or Paris, or maybe just New Hampshire, she was more exotic than the regular housemother type of operator. She probably sat right next to her in the Main Street telephone building.
When I stepped out into the world, phones weren't as convenient as our one black instrument at home. In my college dorm there was one phone a pay phone on the first floor. The girl working "bells" answered the phone and the door. If I received a call or a visitor, she rang three bells and someone on the third floor determined who the message was for. Then it was the run down two flights for a semi-private call from either the latest interesting hunk (be still my heart) or the library reminding me that my anthropology reference books were overdue (yet again).
Out into the work force, my princess phone in New York City had a 24 foot cord. We dragged it all over the apartment, the result being that it crashed to the floor at least once a day. I can honestly say that Western Electric made tough phones maybe because they were still so heavy. Princess Pink didn't necessarily equal lightweight and feminine. Luckily, I never dropped it into the tub where I ensconced myself for hours, as often as possible, with the radio, a good book, a cold drink and our well-traveled phone. I miss those days.
I thought wall phones were a great solution for busy mothers. Immediately after our first-born arrived, we knew we needed a phone in both the bedroom (for those middle-of-the-night emergencies) and one in the kitchen so I could talk without waking the bambino. In all my years of the required bedside phone, I've only received two calls in the wee hours. Neither was from the anticipated state trooper or emergency room. In fact, one was Lieutenant O'Brien calling at 0345 for cheese omelet instructions from what sounded like a drinking establishment, but was actually his kitchen in North Carolina. "Hey, Mom, how many eggs for an omelet that feeds twelve or thirteen?" That actually woke me up as fast as the trooper would have. I learned that night that talking an amateur chef through long distance omelet construction is not conducive to rolling over and slipping back into dreamland. Ah youth.
Yes, parenthood had brought two-phones and over the years, the phone inventory continued to increase. As the children grew ("I have to have my privacy") I also lost my desire to leap up and run two rooms away to answer the thing. Then, remember those years that the phone line was the computer hookup? With the phone lines tied up 23 hours a day, I had friends with teenagers that I could only speak to at red lights or in the produce section.
I'm embarrassed to admit that today I live alone with four phones plus my cell phone. The bedside phone is now for my middle-of-the-night emergencies but I haven't yet used it when I run out of Rolaids at 0400.
Of course, I've discovered that as important as my cell phone is, it's more important for a man. Mine lives in my purse, while theirs are attached to their bodies. At business meetings, they reverently lay them on the table for ready access, but it's only for checking "the score." There's always some kind of important game somewhere in the world, but Dow Jones and the latest weather update are in contention for critical info. If I ever learn how to operate all the bells and whistles on my Christmas toy, maybe I'll put mine on the table too. If I'm going to be critically connected, it would be great to check on the latest catalogue sale or hottest gazpacho recipe. Just think, I could also text message my son while downing a cheese omelet. Life has its rewards.
Happy New Year, everyone.