Phone times

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pay phone

I spent much of today in 1980. Figuratively, not literally, although the latter would have been fun. No, I spent the day in a location that doesn’t have reliable cell service. If more than say, six people, try to use their phones simultaneously, the signal crashes under the load.

Accordingly, we are all carrying on like rational adults and behaving as if the world is devoid of oxygen. When faced with the possibility that while out in a public venue we can’t text or call one another, we just went ahead and lost our grip on sanity. Husbands are losing wives. Grown children are claiming their mothers are lost. We are paging people like it’s 1980.

“Brittany please meet your mother at the car! She looks mad!”

“Jim please meet your wife, Diane” — as opposed to his other wife I suppose.

Pay phones

Most of us are old enough to know better. You would not know that we have ever lived in a world where you once had to use a pay phone — and actual spoken words — to communicate with people. Do pay phones exist anymore? If they do, do they take debit cards?

Even if I found myself with exact change and a working pay phone, I would not know how to call anyone. In the “olden days,” we had to remember everyone’s number. I am not proud of the fact that even my children’s numbers are iffy to me. I just have them saved on my cell phone. I push a picture of my husband and my phone reaches him.

Distance

I also hail from a time when they had to answer the phone to know who was calling. Worse, we couldn’t just pull it out of our pocket and see what flashed on the screen. We were slimmer then, because we had to run over to the wall or table the phone was to answer it.

I did a lot of sprinting to the phone as a teen. Once there, we didn’t talk long if it was “long distance.” As far as I knew as a child, it cost a kidney a minute, and my mother was not paying for that. Collect calls were a timed speed event. We would call and say quickly, “Mom, I need a ride,” before the omnipresent operator cut us off.

Collect calls aside, we were generally taught proper phone etiquette, such as saying, “hello this is Kymberly, is Tari available?”

Now it seems like people just call and say, “who is this?”

Just phone calls

In the past, our phones just phoned. There was no, “hey Alexa, what is the temperature?”

Calling time and temperature is how you knew what the temperature was. You couldn’t Google the answer. There was no “weather app.” You had to watch the news at a designated time and catch the forecast.

We had only three television channels, and maybe PBS, if we wiggled the wire hanger used as an antenna just the right way.

Music was listened to on the radio or cassette tapes. When you wanted to hear your favorite song you had to call the radio station and wait for the DJ to play your favorite song. It was a special art to be able to press record at the right time on your cassette player to make your own playlist.

Today, my phone makes playlists for me based on songs I have previously liked. I would be offended at the invasion of privacy if it wasn’t so spot on.

As a matter of fact, I would like my car stereo to Bluetooth stream Jim Croce’s Greatest Hits, thank you very much. Most appropriately that great song about the “Operator.” Too bad almost no one under 45 will understand it.

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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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