Reach Out and Touch Someone

Nowadays, no one gives a second thought about picking up their telephone to call someone. It doesn’t matter if they live across the street or across the country. It doesn’t make a difference.

Back in the dark ages when I was a kid, or even in the not so distant past, everyone thought long and hard before making a call.  You factored in the distance, length of the call, and time of day. Everything added to the cost. Late night and weekend calls were cheaper. (Telephone costs were like buying airline tickets: the more inconvenient the time the cheaper the cost.) If you were making a local call, which was in your town or a nearby town, you could chat until someone in the family kicked you off so they could make a call.

When I was in college, no one had a phone in their room. The only way to make or receive a telephone call was by using the phone in the dormitory hallway. Good luck if someone called you, because no one wanted to be the one to answer the annoying ring and then have to track down the recipient of the call. Usually, what would happen was the ring would be followed by a yell. That was how I soon learned there were 3 Karen’s on my floor during my freshman year of college.

Because of the lack of privacy and cost, the calls were short and infrequent. I never called home every day, and when I did call, I had a planned list of topics to discuss with Grandma and Grandpa. To fill in the blanks with less important trivia, we wrote letters home. I remember how excited I would be to receive a letter from Grandma with a dollar or two tucked inside or one from one of my friends also away at school.

When I was dating Dad, he was always on the road, but his company allowed him to call me every day for a whopping five minutes. Again, you didn’t waste words with so little time. (“Don’t talk long. It’s a toll call!”) Kelly, you must understand what we went through because you experienced this when you went to Paris and Casey, you did too when Chris went to Africa.

Now, we call each other without a thought to the time or day of the week. We call to talk about nothing and sometimes fill the airwaves with silence when we don’t have enough to say because we do this so often. You have all become so accustomed to instant communication that, at times, I may receive a call on my landline followed by one on my cell if I don’t answer the call. Maybe I’m in the shower or outside or, since we have caller-id, I know who is calling and I choose to ignore the call.

Although I enjoy connecting with family, friends, and acquaintances on my phone, via email, texts, or Facebook, I sometimes feel nostalgic about the way it was. There is something so nice about receiving a letter–not an email–but an honest-to-goodness old-fashioned letter delivered by my mail carrier. It is great knowing who is calling, but at the same time, there was something fun about wondering who would be on the other end of the line. And since I love surprises, I love picking up the phone to someone I haven’t spoken to in years. That’s when the end of long-distance charges is really a welcome change.

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2 thoughts on “Reach Out and Touch Someone

  1. Ah I remember those days well. I recently found some letters I’d written to my folks when I was in college. Lovely. These days, I keep screen shots of my kids’ texts from time to time . . . . And I confess to being spoiled by hearing from them daily. But you’re right: there was something magical about opening the mail box and finding a real letter.Now the magic is less mystical and more digital. 🙂 Thanks for this nostalgic piece!

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  2. Those old letters are such treasures, which will be lost like the photos stored on our phones and never printed. I have several written by my grandfather when he was oversees during WWI, a couple written by my mother, and a bunch by my own children when they were little. They are so special because I have them to read years later, which bring me back in time. This is why I have asked my children to write me a letter of some of their childhood memories and give it as a gift one birthday or Christmas instead of buying a present–a money saver for them and priceless to me. Only one has taken me up with that suggestion.

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