There was a time when the home telephone was a big deal and a long-distance telephone call an event. With the cost of long distance by the minute, conversation was expensive and strictly for the adults -- unless it was your birthday; then, of the three-minute call from far-away grandparents, one of those minutes was yours alone. "Talk ain't cheap," we were taught.
The telephone was a learning tool (not a toy!) whereby we took turns answering its ring to practice proper greeting and message-taking. I grew up gossiping directly behind someone's back and chit chatting with pals through letter-writing.
At 24, I called my parents long distance to announce my engagement. Sitting cross-legged on the waterbed, I shared every detail of the biggest moment in my life, but it was through daily letters to my mother, thousands of miles away, that we planned the wedding. Our letters were sent via AIR Mail, worth the extra three cents, given the importance of our correspondence.
The telephone was once treated as a piece of sculpture, residing upon its very own piece of furniture. Just as when I was growing up, I now have a telephone bench. It's arranged apart from the whirlwind of family life, where one can sit and pay a conversation the attention it deserves.
When conversing via a vintage rotary telephone, the phrase "Can you hear me now?" is never spoken. Nothing compares to the clarity and comfort of a landline telephone with a handset. And for the world of business, which requires that a telephone have buttons to press, not a rotating dial, there is the reproduction telephone with modern innards.
I so miss chatting the old-fashioned way, when there was no impatience to hurry things along, to make a point in 140 characters or less, to use icons instead of language, or the worst -- tippytaptapping an e-mail to someone else as I'm speaking and thinking you're listening.
I miss when telephones were special, had their own thrones upon which to set, and we engaged in conversation, not dialoguing.
Perhaps making the time for real conversation is a new leaf to ring-a-ling in the New Year.
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