Sunday, March 16, 2014

We Used To Talk On The Phone

 Jeremy was getting ready to go to a musical event with our friend Jan. An ambiguous situation came up regarding the tickets. Jeremy was unsure as to whether Jan was going to be able to get in for free, as his plus one, or if he would have to pay twenty dollars. The story is actually more complicated than this; I'm giving you the short version.

Because it was almost time to meet Jan and because Jeremy wanted to prepare him for every eventuality, Jeremy decided to phone Jan instead of texting him. They discussed it for a bit. Then Jeremy resumed getting ready.

A few minutes later, Jan called back. Because he wanted to catch Jeremy before he left, he phoned rather than texting.

Jan had learned that there was a complication with the subway they were planning to take to the musical event. They discussed alternative transportation. They talked about the shuttle bus that was being provided.

Once they nailed the subway issues, they talked about the music documentary they would be seeing. They speculated about the other people that might be there. They spoke about the bands that were scheduled to play that evening. They talked about bands they might like to see together in the future. They talked about music that one had heard that the other hadn't, and vice versa.

I was hanging out with my kids. I drew their attention to Jeremy, walking back and forth, deep in conversation, multitasking while on the phone. See that? I said waving my hand in Jeremy's general direction. It used to be like this all the time at our house, I said.

The kids were mystified and mildly interested.

 I like to regale the kids with tales of life in the days of yore. For our purposes today, the days of yore are the early 1990s. Even when they're bored, they’re polite about it. They're nice kids.

Back in the day, Dad and I were always on the phone, I said. I told the kids about how there wasn't any texting, emailing or social media. If you wanted to communicate with someone quickly, you needed to use the phone. If it wasn't as urgent you could send a snail mail. That was it.

In terms of talking to people in real time, there were no smart phones. You had the house phone. It was a big deal when cordless phones came out. Before that, your phones needed to have these really long cords so you could walk about while talking to someone. No matter how long the cord you would not be able to exit the apartment and still talk on the phone.

Sometimes the cords would get tangled up and you'd have to spend a bit of time straightening things out.

Negotiations would happen over who got to use the phone when. When one person was on the phone, the other person was cut off from all communication. These things needed to be worked out.

Dad and I were on the phone constantly, I told the kids. It was like Grand Central Station around here with the phone. We were on the phone with clients. We were on the phone to make plans. We were on the phone to chat with friends.

We talked all the time, I added.

I asked the kids if they remember a time before we had the Internet at home. They couldn't. Hannah is the older of the two. It turns out that she remembers dial up.

It was getting late. Let me go dude, Jeremy said. He hung up the phone. He left to catch the subway, and then the shuttle bus.

In case you're wondering, things went fairly smoothly once they arrived. There was some misadventure with the shuttle bus and some minor confusion at the door. The important thing is that both of them did get in for free and no one had to pay twenty dollars.

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