Modern technology is wonderful and it is supposed to streamline and make life easier. If that is the case then why does it seem we are busier now than we’ve ever been? Thanks to this technology, we have lost the human touch of a real live, person to person phone call. Most people in my age group loathe receiving text messages and we miss the voice of family and friends. So my plea, falling on deaf ears is, “Call me, damn it!”
“Mr. Watson, come here! I want to see you,” were the first words spoken over a telephone on March 10, 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell telephoned his assistant, Thomas A. Watson. It took another 39 years, but in 1915 Mr. Bell made the ground breaking, inaugural coast to coast call from New York City to San Francisco, again speaking with his old assistant, Mr. Watson. Although letters were still written on a regular basis, nothing on the face of this earth could beat the sound of a loved one’s voice on the telephone. Families may have been physically apart, but the warmth of hearing their speech brought them all closer together.
I still recall sitting in the vintage oak seat and telephone stand at my grandmother’s country home, dialing the operator on the black rotary phone and being put through the switchboard to call my parents. Upon hearing their familiar tongues I was immediately transferred back home, if only for a moment and everything felt normal again. Initially, all of us had party lines and only a handful of people could afford the luxury of a private phone line. However, in a perverse kind of way there were those of us who were known as the “eavesdroppers.” We would pick up the receiver to make a call and lo and behold two other people would be carrying on a conversation. As if we were employees of the National Security Administration, we tried ever so hard not to exhale into the mouthpiece, thereby alerting our prey of the intrusion that was occurring. It was a game of cat and mouse in an attempt to figure out who our co-inhabitants on the party line were. It was pure voyeurism and we all did it. Eventually, all of us had a private telephone line and now it really was the NSA listening in on our calls.
In 1974 Motorola introduced the Pageboy 1 pager. Initially these devices were used only within a hospital environment as a means of quickly communicating with medical staff. Pager usage progressed from hospitals, to doctors, on to attorneys and by 1994 people in all walks of life were using the device. Each of us had an opportunity to be connected.
Although the cellular telephone idea has been around for nearly 70 years, its emergence into popular use was slow getting out of the starting gate. In its infancy, the cellular phone was large, cumbersome, expensive and had very limited areas of coverage. In an effort to go mainstream, by the 21st century the phones became smaller, price was now considered affordable for most and cell towers sprung up on the hillsides, giving consumers unlimited areas of coverage. Well, slap my forehead, we were now all tied into one another and everybody with a cell phone was morphed into self importance usually heralded to doctors and attorneys of a bygone era. Almost instantaneously the cell user was catapulted into the arena of prominent, distinctive, momentous notoriety as they chatted endlessly in cars, restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, theaters, airplanes, walking down the street and even in the bathroom. How’s that for being up close and personal?
Then, out of nowhere, around 2005, the volcano exploded and the slow, methodical ooze of disastrous, smothering lava of cell phones transforming into text machines appeared on the scene. Within a few short years post-text, the sound of human articulation is gone. In our enlightened age of electronics we are forgetting an important principle of human contact. Yes, I do get it! Everyone is busy in our rushed society. However, not too far back in my aged memory bank and before the technological breakthroughs of today…you know, the ones that are the time saving inventions…I recall having a family, working two to three jobs, going to school at night and yet, I still managed to phone my parents, grandparents, relatives and friends. Nothing is unique about what I did, because by and large it was a common denominator of the “Baby Boomer” generation. I fear today our intimate relationships are being compromised by mechanical, rather than physical interactions and I don’t see these as positive, fruitful or progressive.
So, how do we regain some normalcy in this crazy world? Quite simply, I suggest placing a spell of chronic thumb cramps on the text message community. Once the hex is in place and right and left thumbs deemed immobile and the user sees no way out of their hell, then call me damn it!
Written By: Dennis L. Page