No More Phoning Home

“Nelson residence. Mel speaking.”
“Hi. This is Ryan. May I speak to Cassie?”

I was listening to Pimsleur’s Japanese in the car the other day and repeating the set dialogs for phone conversations. Japanese is filled with set phrases and when you break the rhythm of the exchange by interjecting personalized expressions, you throw the other person off.

Lately my English phone conversation has been thrown off, too. No one answers phones anymore the way I was taught as a child. When I call my sister, I can never tell which of her daughters is answering, or if I even have the right number. And when people call me and start right into conversation, I have to rein them in and say, “Who is this?” for I’m no better at recognizing voices than I am faces. But what’s really caught me by surprise is when someone answers the phone and says, “Hi, Mel.” “How did you know it was me?” “Caller ID.” “Ah…”

We don’t use the phone much. I avoided having a cell phone for years because I didn’t want to join the tribe of inconsiderate loudmouths who annoyed me whenever I went out. How I miss phone booths! The idea of private conversation seems to have disappeared. I don’t think a conversation is worth having unless it is quiet and intimate.

Yet slowly cell phones creeped into our lives. AJM got one because he needed to stay in contact when he picked up SAM in Houston. But I ended up using it most of the time. My car’s broken down on the road a couple of times and I wanted a phone for emergencies.

That’s when I noticed how much things had changed. If I answered the phone when the caller was expecting AJM, the caller reacted as if I’d murdered AJM and stolen his phone. Answering someone else’s phone is considered as low and intrusive as rifling his wallet. The idea of a family phone had disappeared without fanfare.

During the latest release crunch, AJM was issued a blackberry at work. Now they can find him if he’s out of his office for a second. No more quiet restroom breaks. Even the computer at work emails him status. We sit watching DVDs in the evening and half the time he’s reading email none too slyly.

Now that we each have a phone, does our house need a phone? We’ve decided it doesn’t. We’re going to yank our land line. I will miss my old phone number. My home phone. I’ve had it for 22 years and it’s moved with me three times. I’m ready to say goodbye to it as the only people who use that line are telemarketers.

At last I’m ready to exchange the idea of having a residential phone for having a personal phone. It feels like having one of those communicators from Star Trek. Ah! The marvels of our modern age.