Blondie--"Hanging On The Telephone" (mp3)
My daughter, who rightly claims to be inspiration for untold numbers of my blog posts, did it again the other night when she asked, "Do you remember when the phone used to ring and we didn't know who was calling?"
There is a loss here, a real loss. Probably few of us miss it, though, because life is much easier and less confrontational when we know who we are dealing with before we answer and, therefore, can decide whether or not to answer. When we can get prepared and call back. When we can share the potential situation with whomever we're with and solicit advice or follow the group-think and ignore the call altogether.
We cheat ourselves, and we especially cheat our children, when we opt out of this randomness, though. That, to me, is the greatest danger of becoming a society that can hide behind a phone.
We create the great pretense that we do have control, that we can manage, that protection is always better than exposure, that order somehow controls chaos. One need only revisit Newton's 2nd Law, or a lawn after being gone on a 2-week vacation, to remind us that all things tend toward chaos, and quickly. But, like most things, we act with the best of intentions. Time is precious. Who wants to waste it doing something like getting roped into a political survey or listening to a long-lost friend who only calls when he's drunk? Who wants unknown people calling our children (or, taking all of the fun out of the telephone, who wants our children calling unknown people? Is your refrigerator running?)
Part of what I'm feeling, of course, is what happens when we start to get older, that Seinfeldian concept of "I survived; let's see if you can, too." Having gone through it myself, I like the idea that a boy asking a girl out (or vice-versa) has to risk a parent answering a phone, might even, later in the relationship, have to deal with that parent's anger or disappointment. I think it was educational that when I owed money that I couldn't pay, I actually had to talk to someone on the phone about it. It made me never want to do it again. I've taken those awful calls that seem to come in the middle of the night on a phone that couldn't be turned off. I've had to deal with unexpected anger from unexpected people at unexpected times.
Not anymore. Now that phone in my pocket tells me that I can do things my way and that nothing will interrupt the schedule I've planned for myself. Unless I want it to. Now I want people to be at the other end when I want them to be and not there when I don't. Yes, I'm living it just like you, but something doesn't feel right about it.