Don’t call us, we (probably) won’t call you

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When I was growing up, the telephone was an almost magical invention. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to use it. Due to my grandmother’s family business, a boarding stable, I was taught early (and reminded often) that good telephone manners were a must.

“Hello, Studers!” we said in a crisp, upbeat tone from an early age. We dutifully took notes on what the caller said or we found the adult the call was intended for. We knew the telephone meant serious business.

Wait

I was a teen just before the rise of call waiting and answering machines. I remember racing across the house and vaulting over the couch to breathlessly answer the phone before a call could be missed. What if it was that cute boy from study hall, or my best friend catching me up on the gossip since we last saw each other at school an hour earlier? Those calls could not be missed.

OK, it may have been a call for my mom but that was less interesting. For those, I tended to hover and sigh, wanting her to free up the line in case someone was calling for me. She was acting like she paid the bill or something.

In the days before call waiting, if we tied up the line, anyone else trying to call heard a busy signal. Every home had a comfy phone spot where a person could sit (or sprawl) and wind the phone cord around a finger while saying “no, you hang up!” to a teenage crush.

Stay on the line too long and we risked our parents having the operator break into the call. That was never, ever a good idea. It’s possible I am still grounded from one marathon phone call in 1986.

As time went on, we grew up and away from the idea that the telephone brought fun and excitement. I spent most of my adulthood seeing it as a necessary tool to contact the cable company and the pediatrician’s office. I spent most of the late 1990s on hold.

As the years have gone on, I, like most of the population, turned into a person who texts. I love words. Makes sense right? I’m a writer after all. I love to send words and photos. I’m known for my perfect punctuation (yes, even in texts).

While some say you can’t hear tone in texts, I disagree. My emoji game is strong. If I send you a smiley face, assume I’m happy. If I send you the one that looks like chocolate ice cream, assume I am not.

This technology is not without issue. Recently I spent 24 hours dealing with setting up a new smartphone to replace a malfunctioning older one. Note that the older one is 12 months old. That must be like 80 in phone years.

I was able to transfer all my items including, but not limited to, my contacts, spreadsheets, social media settings, the cutest photo of my dog (seriously, he’s adorable), three different text messaging services and 14 shopping apps.

It was a solid week before I realized my phone lacked voicemail. I should probably look into that, but according to my mother, I never return calls anyway.

Texting, to me, is more considerate. It’s dropping a note saying “please respond when you wish.” A telephone call seems like a demand for attention. “Talk to me. Now!”

In this, I refer to a recent social media post that resounded with me. We invented telephones, used them for a hundred years, and then collectively decided that we just wanted to send letters instead. I have no problem with that.

I do love to write. Anyone looking for a pen pal? I may never pick up a telephone, but when it comes to communicating with words and photos I may be just your type — typist.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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