the versatile phone


My first memory of a telephone was when I was around 4 years old. I was at my great grandmother's house and refusing to eat her steamed broccoli and cauliflower. I wanted to go home because my great grandma wouldn't give me anything different to eat either. She told me that if I wanted to go home instead of eat my dinner and stay the night with her, then I would have to call home myself. I didn't even know my numbers yet. She wrote my phone number 4 5 3 1 4 7 4 largely onto a small piece of paper, set it and the black rotary dial phone from probably the 1930s onto the organ stool, and showed me how to work the phone. She showed me how each number matched up with one on the dial, and how to pull it around to the little stopper, so it would be able to make the call. I recall sitting in the living room next to the organ working so hard on learning how to match each of the different number symbols on the page to the ones on the phone and figuring out how to turn the dial around all the way. It got dark out. She wouldn't even turn on the light in living room. So by light of the dining room I figured out how to make my first phone call. And I love her beyond words for that lesson in determination—hers and mine.

Throughout my life thus far, phones have changed a great deal. I used that antique rotary phone a few times. Then I remember talking on a phone in my kitchen with a 10-foot cord with my little friends to see who would be spending the night where and making plans to beat the band. Then the mighty cordless phone came into my life. I couldn't get too far away from the receiver, but that blasted cord was no longer an issue to get tangled in. When I was an older teenager, the magical teen lines became a thing, and my parents got me one so that they could actually receive phone calls of their own. And let's not forget the all powerful pay phone. The movie theater adventure would never have been as good without the freedom to call for a ride home after all of the fun was over—not just the movie. I graduated high school, and I wanted my own phone line, to pay for something myself along with my schooling costs. So I got my own phone line put in, and having my own telephone number was something else. I felt independent. Along with that phone line, I purchased a forest green little phone. I still have it actually. I can't seem to part with it. Many adventures were planned on that phone. Breakups were hashed out, makeups too. Tears, laughter, and everything in between has that little green phone been the bearer of.

Then I got my first cell phone necessitated by my child's seizure disorder. I was fine with having a pager—until I was screaming for help on the corner of a busy intersection while my baby was turning blue and vomit was spewing from her nose. A phone saved us both that day. From the next day onward, I have always had a cell phone. It is an essential item for me even more so than most people believe for themselves. My cell phone gives me a sense of empowerment to save.

Cell phones do so much now. They deliver all sorts of information: news, facts, lies, love, hate, almost anything you can think of. You can purchase something from a store somewhere else in the world and have it delivered to your home with a few swipes and taps to a phone. Business can be done more efficiently by way of these magical contraptions. Setting and breaking appointments, making decisions, and so much more are all at your fingertips.

Phones cause and solve problems. Bridges are built and burnt using phones. Love and care is conveyed throughout the world at any moment in time through the phone, but so is unkindness, misery, and grief. Insensitivity, compassion, disdain, and admiration are part of the nearly infinite gamut of emotions that phones are able to convey. Sometimes, phones by their lack of use convey emotions too. When a message is left and never returned, that non-response says something. The receiver does not understand entirely what the unused phone is saying, so painful misunderstanding can be one side effect. Affection, kindness, and concern are also side effects of a phone best used. Care is communicated by way of voice and text messages, and photographs are one of my favorite means of sharing my world with people who can't be near as we make our way through our days. It is such a treat to reach out across the wires and miles to loved ones and even strangers to share morsels of my day! I truly delight in it.

Without phones, I'm sure life would be vastly different for all of us. I know it would be for me. So much love and happiness arrives throughout my daily life by way of the phone, and I am thankful for the entire experience.




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