It was nearly a decade ago when the Black Eyed Peas put out their hit song “Boom Boom Pow.” I never quite figured out what that song was about, but I did wonder if the lead singer Fergie was talking about me when she said, “I’m so three thousand and eight, you so two thousand and late!”
Some of you older readers don’t have a clue who the Black Eyed Peas are, so let me explain that they were singing about being so up-to-date with things that it was as if they were 1000 years ahead of their time. Meanwhile, others were behind the times—still back at the turn of the century.
Any of you stuck back there with me?
You see, I’m still a holdout when it comes to cell phones. I finally got one in about 2004, but I haven’t kept up with the times. In other words, I don’t have a Smartphone yet. My hubster and I have moved past the flip-phone era (although I still sort of miss that little gadget), but we’re stuck in about 2007 with the little slide-out keyboard devices—slider phones.
In other words, if you send me a message on Facebook, I won’t see it until I’m back home with my laptop. My phone won’t tell me you messaged me. To quote Diana Ross, “If you need me, call me.”
That can be a real hindrance at times; I’ve missed some timely messages. But it can be a real help at times; I’m not glued to my phone. Honest to goodness, I sometimes think my kids’ Smartphones are attached to their hands—like how Spiderman’s web sticks to whatever it touches.
I can actually lay my phone aside. Heaven forbid, there have been times I forgot about it and took off down the road. Shades of 1987 when people couldn’t reach us every second, every minute, every hour!
Anybody else remember those days? We had these things called phone booths that were more than just Superman’s changing stations. If we needed to reach somebody while on the road, we found a phone booth and inserted a coin to make a call. No doubt, cell phones are way handier than that; even this old traditionalist gal will concede that point.
I am also just fine with cordless phones. Oh, those horrid days of movement limited by curled phone cords! You couldn’t escape to your bedroom to talk to your boyfriend; you could only stretch the cord to its near-breaking point to get as far away as you could from the parents.
When that yackety friend or neighbor called, you couldn’t multitask while talking. You were chained to the chair or bed while you listened and listened and listened…..thinking of all the chores you should be doing. Anybody ever signal silently to your spouse or kids to yell for you so you could say you needed to hang up the phone? God forgive us for such subterfuge!
Even with my ancient slider phone, I can talk while folding clothes or watering flowers outside. You see, I’m not a technology-hater after all!
I may be only 39 (eternally 39 along with Jack Benny—and since I remember him, you know I’m not really 39), but I still recall the old paths of no telephone whatsoever. We got our first one over in Dry Hollow when I was seven. It was a party line shared with my relatives next door. Most times when I picked up the receiver, Aunt Louise was on there handling her Hazel Keller makeup business. (Oh, what I’d give to hear her happy voice again!)
Reminds me of that Andy Griffith episode “Man in a Hurry” when Mayberry’s party line (I guess the whole town was on it) was tied up an entire Sunday afternoon by the elderly Mendlebright sisters who discussed their health problems. No, I don’t miss those party-line days.
But I wonder if we realize just how dependent we are on these devices? About a month ago, I picked up my cell phone to make a simple call. No bars. No service. I knew I had paid my bill, and I live in an area with great signal. Yet no cell phone in this house would work.
Having no way to contact the outside world felt crippling to me. For the first time, I regretted getting rid of my landline. This near-panic feeling surprised me. I had truly thought I was not very dependent on technology.
You can’t miss what you never had, but boy howdy, can you miss what you’ve pretty much always had!
Still, I often think longingly of the freedom my ancestors enjoyed, not being at the beck and call of ringing telephones or text alerts—not to mention constant emails, Facebook messages and other social media notifications. Grandma Bray could walk down to the spring and look up at the birds and the shapes of clouds in the summer sky rather than staring down at a Smartphone. Great-Granny Richardson could get her housework done without having to keep one hand free to scroll down her newsfeed.
Sure, I can lay my phone aside or turn the sound off and enjoy the same liberty that my ancestors had, but what do I do about that nagging voice in my head that keeps saying, “Somebody has probably texted you, and you really need to check your voicemail”?
With a sigh, I normally yield to that pressure and obey that little voice. And one day when my slider phone gives up the ghost, I will probably be forced by the “boom boom pow” of this modern world to buy a Smartphone.
And one of my kids will have to show me how to use it…..perhaps the same kid that I sent inside the old Dorminy Dance Studios one evening to make a phone call and who came running out to say she didn’t know how to use the rotary dial phone. She had always lived in a push-button world.
Pretty soon, they won’t even know how to push phone buttons because everything will be touchscreen.
Wouldn’t Ma Bell be amazed how we reach out and touch somebody now?
Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her blog is at http://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com.