Jan 172019

For the past year more than half of our calls have been spam — telemarketing calls, health insurance, the service desk for a computer I don’t own, and the like. Most of the time I don’t answer the ringing phone, something as a child I could not fathom.

We are contemplating getting rid of our house phone. It’s not accurate to call it a landline; we’ve been hooked to our digital lines for at least a decade. But since I was a child, I’ve always had access to a phone, either on the wall, a countertop, and eventually, something I could stick in my pocket and carry around the house.

The first phone I remember was in my parent’s home, where we lived from 1959 to 1966. It was a black, dial telephone that hung on the wall in the kitchen. Our number was 4790. The exchange where we lived was so small that everyone had four digit numbers. My grandparents were on a party line out in the country (we lived in town, about 1,200 people). Their number was 4200. My grandfather sold farms, and I cannot imagine that his neighbors on the party line rejoiced over his constant business calls. My grandparents also had an outside ringer which you could hear from the barns, chicken house, garden, and fields nearest the house.

A study in the British Telegraph this month noted that Brits spend only half as much time using landlines as they did six years ago. The article reported that, “The demand for landline calls has dropped from 103 billion minutes in 2012 to 54 billion in 2017, while mobile call minutes increased from 132.1 billion to 148.6 billion.”

People demand instant messaging, instant answers, instant communication in the Internet age. Apparently, old style dialing of a telephone takes too long. Earlier this week, I watched a very funny video on Facebook. Two teenage boys were given a black desktop style telephone (typical to what you would see on any office desk in my early career). They were asked to demonstrate how to use it. They looked for push buttons and didn’t consider dialing the wheel. A failure of imagination, one might say. But I imagine ii someone handed me an iPhone in 1980, I would use it as a back scratcher.

Not having a landline means I will have to keep my cell phone with me wherever I go in our home. Until the batteries started dying in our home phones, we had them all over the house. Rather than replace the batteries or phone, we’ve just gotten rid of them, one by one.

When I was a child, talking on the phone (hiding in my parent’s bedroom, gabbing with high school friends on a one-piece plastic phone that looked like a Space Age hairdryer, was fabulous. Despite my mom’s constant interruptions to “get off the phone,” I enjoyed talking with my friends. A cell phone is not the same level of enjoyment because the coverage varies, depending on your location and the weather. This morning a friend called while driving from the west into Louisville. Having driven that route many times, I knew I would lose her as she made the big wide curve into the New Albany area. Sustaining a conversation is difficult on a cell phone. Maybe that’s why we text? I’m not sure. I’m not a fan of texting, mostly because I can’t really see the type very well.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Talking to high school friends had limitations; in my consolidated high school there were five long distance exchanges. While a close friend lived only five miles away, calling her was long distance. We may no long distance calls in our home, except for emergency or before 7 a.m. when the rates were lower. My mom often called her sister in Massachusetts for a chat at the early hour, and my dad’s sisters called him with family updates that early. Making a long distance call during the day was something reserved for holidays, when one called far-off relatives and the phone was passed around. My mom was the queen of that practice — my brother and I absolutely hated talking to people we didn’t know once a year. We felt like we were being held at gunpoint.

I am newly retired, a little more than a year now. Because my mobile phone was attached nearly 24/7 as a job requirement, I am reticent to keep it with me at all times. I figure people can catch up with me later, via phone, text, Facebook, smoke signals, and worst case scenario, they hunt me down like a dog. Our communications have become so ubiquitous that some of the joy and wonder are gone, no call is special anymore. Most are not even wanted.

So, we will dump our landline in our continued quest to streamline a retiree budget, and I’m not sure that what we’ve lost we didn’t lose a long time ago.

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