January 16, 2010 9:55:00 PM
"Some people think the Internet is the best invention in the world," Laura stated, "but it''s not. It''s the telephone." She said this after we had just completed a two-hour conversation. Laura is a home-schooling mother of three. We rarely have time for lengthy visits, but occasionally we plan a short phone conversation. Invariably, we find ourselves engaged in a long phone call, unless one of our family members requires immediate attention. I''ve never felt too bad about it because I''ve always hung up feeling the better for it.
Our conversations range from our daily vitamin regime to philosophical ideas; we surround them all with deep spiritual meanings and end with whatever was burdening our heart at the moment or some trivial matter that inspired the phone call in the first place. I think she may be right. The phone enables you to hear the voice inflections, pauses, a crack in the voice, a long silence or, better yet, laughter.
I guess the new Skype video systems might do the same, but how many people have those? Seriously, will video phones really catch on? Didn''t someone ask that question about a 24-hour weather/news channel? If video phones do catch on, some of us might have to make sure we''re out of our PJ''s by noon.
The way it was
When I was growing up phone calls were a big deal. We had strict rules about when you could make or receive them. No calls during meal times or when studying, or when a favorite television show was on, like "Lawrence Welk" or "The Fugitive," and definitely not during a movie. After all, you couldn''t pause the movie. No calls before 9 o''clock in the morning, and no calls after 9 o''clock at night. I still catch myself saying, "Who would be calling this early (or late)?"
Long distance calls were a bigger deal because Momma thought they cost so much. If a relative called, or we called a relative, the phone got passed around the family with Momma saying, "Don''t talk long. It''s long distance!" I practically developed a phobia about talking long distance and how much it might cost. I still experience anxiety when I see the "roaming" sign on my cell phone. Surely it costs a fortune to roam.
I think the best invention regarding phones, for all the problems and lack of etiquette regarding them, is the cell phone. I''m still amazed at how you can keep in such close contact with loved ones. I hear my husband talking daily to the daughters. Since they no longer live at home, he calls every single day to see what they are doing and how their day was. It was not so in my day. Long distance calls seemed expensive, and phones were not always available.
While living in a dormitory I had to use a pay phone (a big black box hanging on the wall that ate quarters, or was it dimes?). Anyway, to receive a call my parents had to call the pay phone and hope that one of my dorm sisters would actually answer it. Whoever answered had to go find the requested party, which no one wanted to take time to do.
So, for all the great things about the Internet, e-mail and Facebook, I think Laura''s right. There''s no comparison to the warmth, love and security of hearing your daddy say, "Goodnight, Baby. I love you. I''ll talk to you tomorrow."
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.