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Friday, August 10, 2012

Phone a Friend

A coworker brought this up to me and it made me wonder the following:

“Do people spend long amounts of time talking to their close friends on the phone?”

By that, I mean, the friends that they see on a regular basis. Not the ones they haven’t seen since childhood or went to college with and only see like once in decade. I’m talking about classmates, coworkers, neighbors.

The reason I wonder is that with the technology we have, the ability to talk on a phone is probably the least of the features people want when they shop for a phone. People want texting and Internet and apps. And do people even worry about home phones anymore?

If talking on the phone with a friend for more than ten minutes is a out of date practice then I weep for the new generation. Let me set up a scenario for you.

Circa 1987, there was a show on MTV called Remote Control. Most will only know that this is where Adam Sandler became well known and moved onto Saturday Night Live from there. At its zenith, MTV could balance shows with music videos but… that ended with a loud thud around 1992. That’s another story.

Anyway, after a long day of seventh grade, I came home and turned on the television to see this new show on MTV. The next day I told my friend about it and he said he had seen it, too. So, the next time it was on, I called him and we pretty much sat on the phone for a half hour, bullshitting while watching this show. There was no important discussion; no need for a call. It was just two friends watching the same show, in two different houses, at a time when a stretched phone cord could be considered lethal to someone under five foot had they ran from one room to another.

I cannot remember the last time I spent a half hour talking with someone on the phone without an explicit purpose. “We have Facebook and texting and email, who talks 30 minutes in a row? How do you get anything done?” We’ve become so task oriented in life. If we can’t get it done while doing two other things, we don’t do it. I can’t sit in a meeting unless I’m troubleshooting one issue, reading email, and IM’ing another person about another issue all at the same time. I am not that important of a person. I could only imagine someone with three letters in their title. You probably never see those people laying on their bed with a phone pressed to their ear to the point of sweatiness discussing their favorite show with their friends. These are things we don’t do anymore.

Do teenage girls call teenage boys anymore? Is this something I’ll need to deal with when my kid is ten years older? Her generation will never know the pains of my generation when it comes to a house telephone. We had one line, no call waiting, and no answering machine before 1984. That was when we had two high school students in the house at one time.

When we moved into a new house in 1984, we had a second line set up for my brother and sister, but still no call waiting or answering machine. In fact, we still had two rotary phones and a push button one, all corded. Then, when my brother and sister were off to college or working late nights, my parents had another push button phone put into their bedroom. Still no call waiting but we did have an answering machine by 1987.

In fact, I don’t think my parents have call waiting in 2012, but they have upgraded to wireless handsets and both have cell phones. That’s why I don’t know how much of an impact the phone will have in my life when my daughter gets to be a teen. She’s certainly not getting a cell phone… at least one that can text or take pictures until she’s 18. (I know. I can wish, right?) If anything, I’d like her to be only able to call us or the police from a cell phone until she’s 18, but I know that’s not going to happen. In any case, I have a cell phone. My wife has a cell phone. We don’t use our home phone that much except for other calls, that we usually don’t answer as it is. We mostly have the ringer turned down because stupid calls come at inopportune times. We can called ID on our television, so we know if we want to answer it, anyway.

But even in the most extreme cases, I won’t care that my kid is on the phone, unless she’s talking long distance to a friend, for hours, or if she’s calling a nursing home for me. Then, I might cut the cord. Or… at least the power.

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