Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hello?


Hello?
Looking back, I can still see her clearly, sitting triumphantly on the night table beside my ruffled bed. As pink as a prom corsage, wearing a circle of glowing white numbers like a necklace fit for the royalty she was. My very own Princess Phone! A most coveted step on the childhood road to independence, right ahead of a bicycle, just behind a driver’s license. No more would I have to suffer the indignity of conducting my most private girly conversations on the wall phone in the kitchen, half-hidden in the pantry amongst the sugar and the beans, desperate that my parents not hear the latest schoolroom rumour, or the ardent passion I possessed for that dreamboat, Paul McCartney. These vital communications could now be expressed freely, in the privacy of my own bedroom, greatly improving the quality of my pre-teen existence. My very own phone! I had arrived.
In last Sunday’s NY Times Style section, I discovered that the phone call has all but become another relic of the past. Designer Jonathan Adler claims to never use it anymore at all. I scoffed when first reading this, but then I laid the newspaper down on the table to think. Besides my daily call to my mother, when do I really use the phone? There are the occasions when The Songwriter is at the grocery store, unsure of which brand of apple juice to buy. There’s the quarterly call from the Symphony, reminding us to continue our patronage. And there are the quick rings on the iPhone, brief accounts of our whereabouts or what time we should be expected home. But long gone are the hours spent with the receiver resting comfortably betwixt my shoulder and my ear, talking with my best friend about everything under the sun, sometimes until one of us actually fell asleep. And needless to say, the days of calling radio stations to request my favourite song have certainly disappeared. In fact, during my recent trip to London, The Songwriter and I eschewed the phone call completely and stayed in contact via Skype, tickled that we could actually see each other’s faces from so far away. So yes, I had to concede that the article was correct - I rarely use the telephone these days.
Do I miss it? To be honest, I’m really quite grateful for email. I stay in touch regularly with friends far away, and I love the luxury of crafting what I really want to say, rather than relying on the sagacity of the words that happen to be loitering around on the top of my head or tip of my tongue. I do still write letters with a pen, which are luxuries - both to send and receive - and I am loathe to dispense with those. But the phone? As I sat there with that newspaper article in front of me, I had to admit, I don’t really miss talking on the phone. Let’s face it, it does ring at the most inopportune times, not caring a whit if we’re asleep, having dinner, or up to our chins in a hot bubble bath. And, like a difficult child, it always demands that we answer it NOW.
I suppose there is a certain romance to the telephone call that email and texting could never hope to equal. Remember Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in the movie Indiscreet, saying an amorous goodnight on the telephone - she in London, he in Paris - Cary laughing his charming laugh, Ingrid coquettishly twirling the phone cord through her fingers? Email just would not have been the same. And Skype would have diluted the mystery.
So I’m not yet certain how I feel about the demise of the phone call, but I’d love to hear what you think. Has email and texting replaced the ring of the phone in your world? Do you find you use the telephone less and less, and how do you feel about that?

31 comments:

  1. Oh Pamela, there is nothing so constant as change. My phone rarely rings these days unless "Unknown" calls. me I love e-mail. It keeps me in touch with far away friends and family. Perhaps this change will prove to be good and will bring us all closer.

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  2. I don't want to sound like I'm a rude person because most of the time I'm not. But I'm so glad to have chatting, email and text messages - you can just get right to the heart of what you need to say or ask without all of the niceties like asking how your aunt's, nieces, grandmother's cousin is doing. (can you tell I'm from the South?) But on the other hand, I love to have a long heart to heart telephone call with my daughter or son.

    Have a great day,
    Lynn

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  3. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm I think the fact that the phone in previous years had a chord/wire which fixed the person to THAT spot! Nowadays we have cordless phones - can take the call anywhere - I much prefer this cos we have spontanious responses to what we say! AND we can detect the feeling of the person at the other end!

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  4. I use the phone quite a bit at work. Many conversations at work are too hard to explain by e-mail. I do use the phone at home. I think the phone provides some spontaneity of conversation and hearing a voice is more personal. Also, people are inundated with e-mail and don't reply. That said, I don't get or make many calls. I rarely turn on my cell phone so I don't get text messages. Of course, living alone makes the needs for regular contact a little different than the needs of many others.

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  5. Much like Skype, deaf persons enjoy a wonderful way to keep in touch using a video relay system that allows them to "see" the other party. Unlike Skype, this system allows deaf persons to contact those who do not have the technology by accessing the services of an interpreter. This is a perfect advantage for the deaf person who prefers to communicate using sign language.

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  6. Dear Pamela, I agree that texting and email is taking over. I still like to talk to my friends although I'm not on the phone nearly as much as I used to be. I used to wear phones out! I still think it's polite to call and cancel something rather than text. As you say an email is as lovely to receive as a letter. I like to receive both xx

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  7. We have kept our landline - for $30 a month, but the reason is that it 'collects' the junk calls like polls and the weird ones. I don't even turn it on so those calls go right to the answering machine and of course they never leave a message. As for the cell, we mostly text - the whole family and my friends. I love texting because if you have just a quick thing to say you can say it. As I read your (always wonderful) piece, I thought of the days when Tom went to prep school, and he would have to call me or receive a call on the pay phone in the hall. Oh, the money spent. And then, as short a time ago as 1971 we had to go into a Post Office in Paris to use a phone and call home. I don't really regret the loss of such things! I think that mostly people are in better touch now than ever.

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  8. Oh, I still use the phone daily. My sisters and I have three way phone chats every afternoon that last close to an hour. And then my parents. They call each five of us kids every evening before they go to bed. I can't imagine not using the phone. Emails are for business and acquaintances, letters are for far away friends, text messaging is for girlfriends, but phone calls are for family and closest friends.

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  9. I love email...for, as you say, it allows better composing of thoughts and words...as well as a choice of WHEN to "talk". However, I still love my phone~~I surrendered the landline years ago but am ever so grateful for the convenience of my traveling phone companion...

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  10. I'm of the wrong generation to ask. I don't "chat" or text or tweet! I don't want to either. I still use email, but not as much as when I was working. For me a phone call is still the method of choice for communicating with people. It is entirely too easy to misinterpret a print message. With a phone you can hear vocal inflection and that is important for understanding what someone is really saying!

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  11. We have on the Hilltop..SIX phones and they drive me crazy sometimes..This because when one startes ringing..and I come running..I'm always to late- ofcourse-..and then the person calling is thinking..O, lets try the other one..hoping I will answer,knowing I'm living in a big place and I could be closer to the other one..See me stop in my tracks..turn in the other direction and run towards the ringing noise..Could be to late again..well,then there's always the possibility to call my cell..Darn...where did I put it..deep down hidden in my purse..where else..
    My life with phones is very complicated...:)

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  12. I loath the phone with a passion and over the years I have evolved our loves so that we barely need it anymore. I certainly don't have time, especially in my working day, to sit and have chit-chat. Nearly everyone now emails me or texts me. so that I can answer in my own time and not be at the beck and call of the darned thing. Call me cranky...

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  13. Interesting Pamela as I read that e mails are now in danger of dying out as texting takes over.

    Little home made gift on its way.

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  14. I remember those teenage years of secretive 'phone calls - sitting on the stairs whispering into the mouthpiece so no one else would hear! I had to smile as this morning, the phone rang just as I had started to wash my hair - I can so earily ignore the 'phone nowadays I'm afraid as I do most of my communicating by e-mail and carry a mobile phone just for convenience when travelling. I do still write letters though to a couple of friends who don't have computers:)

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  15. Aha, you have struck a chord here - a phone chord, that is. Our phones ring less and less these days, though I relish a phone conversation with my daughters and sister and hearing their voices. I find I spend more and more time online and, like you, am better at writing out my thoughts than saying them.

    Still, I used to be able to wash dishes or stir the dinner pot, whilst putting away groceries while talking on the phone, that long, long chord following my every move! It is much harder to multi-task with a cell phone, isn't it?

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  16. Hate phones, have for years! But was have both a landline and a cell phone, the landline because cell phones don't work well where we live. I use e-mail all the time. Probably 90% of the calls receive are unwanted, but then so are 90% of my e-mails.

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  17. Have to admit the cell phone is great for an emergency ,or calling someone that you will be a few moments late for lunch. I really don't use the cell except for an emergency. I like talking to my friends with the coffee and news on.
    One day the coumputers will blow up and we won't have any medical info
    infact we will be lost.
    yvonne

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  18. Same conundrum here. I love the ease and efficiency of email and text...and the ability it allows for my thoughts to be presented as I wish them to be, not at the mercy of the spur of the moment. But I do love to talk wth family on the phone...especially those that live in other states. To hear their voices is precious to me...and helps me to really know how their doing.
    Just like the letter...I think phone calls will always be around, just not in the way they used to be.
    xo J~

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  19. Having grown up when cell phones are almost required and texting is the main form of communication for my whole school, I would say that phones have NOT been deprived of use any time recently. I'm not saying I agree with this- I try to stay away from my phone most of the time- but I would be willing to bet that phones' usage has gone up... sadly!

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  20. Lucky you to have your own phone as a teen - I was not allowed one. I still managed to hog the family phone. I read that article too and I found your question and blog comments interesting.

    As a writer/artist I've never liked phone calls because they interrupt the almost meditative concentration I need to create. When I'm working, I don't answer the phone unless it's a call from my kids' school. I also go offline and only use my cell phone outside of my house. I don't text. Email is great because I can catch up during work breaks. I forget to check voice mail.

    As a writer, I communicate best via written word anyway. I'm rather pleased that the world has adopted my habits. Even my mother emails me. Still, on weekend I call my parents, and it's the best way to catch up with old friends who live far away. We have poor cell phone reception in Maine, especially at home, so we need a landline.

    When the phone rings in our house, it's usually someone wanting money or a call for my very chatty teenaged daughter. She also emails and Facebooks, but rest assured, phones are still popular with teens. She does not have her own cell phone yet but would like one.

    My teenaged son communicates with his friends through XBOX. My professor husband is also an email junky. It's a great way to keep in touch with his family and friends in England. Sometimes I wonder if we really need a phone.

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  21. I have NEVER liked talking on the phone. It is either because I am not a talkative person in general or because I am a visual person. Maybe both. I love email because I love to write. I like texting or chat because it is short and to the point!

    I do talk to my mother by phone because it keeps us close.

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  22. Yes I'm thinking as I read your post Pamela, I much prefer texting and emailing...then I see that pic of Cary and Ingrid and think awwwh...that would be nice! And I do enjoy the odd long girly chat...but...in the main...am pleased not to be a slave to the phone anymore...hope you are well and happy dear girl...

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  23. The princess phone! Pamela, you do conjure up the best memories. I had one too and thought I was the luckiest girl in the world when it was installed in my bedroom. My father didn't and I recall more than one occasion when he took the phone away because I spent to much time on it. Those were the days...

    I use the phone less for all the reasons you mentioned. When we first moved overseas to Australia in the 80's, we reliant on letters and phone calls from friends. As the years went by they dwindled and I felt the loss. On our second move overseas (back to Australia) 10 years later...we had a computer and I have to say it has been one of the best things about travel. I have connected with so many that I had lost touch with. A quick hello, a few pictures...just staying in touch, however briefly, makes all the difference. That would not have happened via phone or post.

    So, I guess my vote is via electronics. A few are still by phone. There are times when only their voice will do. :)

    Another great post Pamela!

    Jeanne xx

    PS...I added a Katharine Hepburn video clip to cashmerejeans that you might like :)

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  24. Pamela...with one child in Miami, the second in Toronto and my darling sister in Vancouver, I am not ready to let go of the telephone just yet. Yes, e-mail is precious, as photos and links can be passed in the blink of an eye; IChat invaluable when I need to see their faces as I cook in my kitchen and they in theirs; texting is marvellous as I find that item they have been looking for at the chemist...but the intimacy of hearing their voice still forms a vital part of my connection to each of them.

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  25. Although I agree with your comments and those of Mr. Adler, I myself still love talking on the phone. I come from a cloe family that is all over the world and while email is great for up to the minute updates I love to hear their voices. You cannot convey the excitement of a child on Christmas morning, in an email, or at least I cannot "see it." I also have an 85 year old mother in law, and a father that does not like the computer, so the phone is really the only way to communicate with them!

    I love technology but I also do love the phone and quite frankly I love snail mail!

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  26. I email friends, I text my teenagers, but I still talk on the phone to my mother for hours at a time! (One advantage of the phone, at least the cordless version, is that you can talk and "do things" at the same time.)

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  27. I think phone calls are so much easier, but I am definitely more of an emailer now.

    I haven't succumbed to texting, but I bet it's on the way, my tween daughter is pestering for advanced technology. Sigh.

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  28. Depending to whom I talk! My parents and in-laws are still rooted in the past, they have no computer, nor cell phone. My only way to keep in touch is through old fashioned phone calls. Which i do not mind the least!
    I curl up on the sofa and settle in for a long chat!
    Mind you, they live in Europe!
    All others keep in touch through Skype and e-mail.
    And since I spend a lot of time on the computer my kids in Europe stop by almost daily to say a quick hello to their Mama! I cherish this so!
    I am sure we will witness much change still in communications in years to come!

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  29. Hello Pamela

    I work at a hospital call center and dealing with five hospitals and several hundreds calls a day-I do not care for the phone!

    E-mail is great, but I do love getting a letter through the mail--do not care for texting.

    Take Care and have a great week.

    Best
    Tracy :)

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  30. Now that I think of it, I do use the phone less and less. We've gotten rid of our landlines in the last two years, and really, the only time I have a long chat is with my mother every week. Huh.

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  31. Goodness, I'm on the phone every day and speak with my family for a couple of hours each week. Texting...don't know it and we don't get cell phone coverage in our valley, although, last month we had a cell phone booster put in and, if we stand in the right room, in the right spot, we're able to use our cell phone...in an emergency.
    I well remember using the wall telephones -three longs and a short ring- where one spoke into one "tube" and held the hearing "tube" to the ear. As to party lines, my Aunt just was given a private line about ten years ago.
    Without satellites, we'd never hear the radio nor watch television and can't say I'd miss either, truth be told.
    I use the i-net to stay in touch with people I'll never meet this side of the veil -smile-.

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I love to read your comments! Each and every one!