I had to get a new cell phone this week. I’m not a real big fan of change, especially when it comes to technology, but sometimes, it can’t be put off any longer. When you know, you know.
In this case, I’d known for a month or more. There was a subtle hint. A solid 75 percent of the time, I couldn’t make, or receive, a phone call inside the house. I’d only know someone called if they left a voicemail, and my phone made an innocent little ding and the voicemail icon appeared.
I’d spend a good 5 minutes trying to psychically guess who it might have been and what they wanted. But my powers still aren’t that great, so without fail I’d put on some shoes and a jacket and go outside, wandering the yard until I caught a signal again, and then checking the message and rolling the dice.
This wasn’t an ideal situation, I acknowledge. But I didn’t mind it so much, for a while. The weather was decent for the early part of the winter, and checking the phone gave me a reason to get some fresh air instead of say, folding yet another load of laundry and contemplating the eternal mystery – where do all those missing socks go?
But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. It got cold, and it got rainy, and I gave up. A trip to the phone store, and a few hours of my life sacrificed to the cause, and I was back in the realm of the technologically-connected.
Now, anyone can call me and I will see it in real-time like a civilized person, listen to the synthesized ringtone and, answer – most likely. But still – you can’t text or send me a Facebook message? (Insert shrug emoji.)
It’s strange to think, now, about life before cell phones, and social media for that matter; before it was hard to be truly out of reach. All you had to do was take a walk and you were at the world’s mercy, no cords or satellite signals attached.
Of course, there were the downsides; situations, for instance, when you needed to get in touch with someone and they weren’t around. How many of you remember getting a sore finger from turning the rotary dial over and over again, waiting for your party to either: a) pick up, eliminating the endless ringing; or b) get off the call they were on, stopping that accursed busy signal from blatting in your ear like the world’s weakest fire alarm.
There was a sense of victory there, once you actually made a connection. Your efforts were not in vain.
There were the advanced tricks, too, the dark arts of telephony – star 69 to find out the last number that dialed you, and the nuclear option – asking the operator to break in to a call. This was supposed to be something you did in emergency situations, like when something incredible was happening on wrestling and you had to make sure your buddies were tuned in.
This was also before the days of DVR, when “taping” meant using an actual videotape to record things. I could talk about the earlier days when we rented VCRs from the Piggly Wiggly, but if you’re under 25 I’m afraid it would just blow your minds, and there’d be nothing but puffs of smoke where your Instagram selfies used to be. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a new wax cylinder to put on the graphophone, and I’ll be turning my phone off to enjoy it.