Thursday, March 31, 2011

Looking back, I can still see her clearly, sitting triumphantly on the night table beside my ruffled bed. As pink as a prom corsage, wearing a circle of glowing white numbers like a necklace fit for the royalty she was. My very own Princess Phone! A most coveted step on the childhood road to independence, right ahead of a bicycle, just behind a driver’s license. No more would I have to suffer the indignity of conducting my most private girly conversations on the wall phone in the kitchen, half-hidden in the pantry amongst the sugar and the beans, desperate that my parents not hear the latest schoolroom rumour, or the ardent passion I possessed for that dreamboat, Paul McCartney. These vital communications could now be expressed freely, in the privacy of my own bedroom, greatly improving the quality of my pre-teen existence. My very own phone! I had arrived.
In last Sunday’s NY Times Style section, I discovered that the phone call has all but become another relic of the past. Designer Jonathan Adler claims to never use it anymore at all. I scoffed when first reading this, but then I laid the newspaper down on the table to think. Besides my daily call to my mother, when do I really use the phone? There are the occasions when The Songwriter is at the grocery store, unsure of which brand of apple juice to buy. There’s the quarterly call from the Symphony, reminding us to continue our patronage. And there are the quick rings on the iPhone, brief accounts of our whereabouts or what time we should be expected home. But long gone are the hours spent with the receiver resting comfortably betwixt my shoulder and my ear, talking with my best friend about everything under the sun, sometimes until one of us actually fell asleep. And needless to say, the days of calling radio stations to request my favourite song have certainly disappeared. In fact, during my recent trip to London, The Songwriter and I eschewed the phone call completely and stayed in contact via Skype, tickled that we could actually see each other’s faces from so far away. So yes, I had to concede that the article was correct - I rarely use the telephone these days.
Do I miss it? To be honest, I’m really quite grateful for email. I stay in touch regularly with friends far away, and I love the luxury of crafting what I really want to say, rather than relying on the sagacity of the words that happen to be loitering around on the top of my head or tip of my tongue. I do still write letters with a pen, which are luxuries - both to send and receive - and I am loathe to dispense with those. But the phone? As I sat there with that newspaper article in front of me, I had to admit, I don’t really miss talking on the phone. Let’s face it, it does ring at the most inopportune times, not caring a whit if we’re asleep, having dinner, or up to our chins in a hot bubble bath. And, like a difficult child, it always demands that we answer it NOW.
I suppose there is a certain romance to the telephone call that email and texting could never hope to equal. Remember Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in the movie Indiscreet, saying an amorous goodnight on the telephone - she in London, he in Paris - Cary laughing his charming laugh, Ingrid coquettishly twirling the phone cord through her fingers? Email just would not have been the same. And Skype would have diluted the mystery.
So I’m not yet certain how I feel about the demise of the phone call, but I’d love to hear what you think. Has email and texting replaced the ring of the phone in your world? Do you find you use the telephone less and less, and how do you feel about that?