Monday, February 16, 2009

Remembrance of technology past.

Today I was at the grocery store and my friend called me. I pulled out my cell phone, the cell phone I had just taken off the charger and placed in my purse less than 24 hours ago, and it was almost dead.

So when I came home I searched around for the closest landline phone to call her back. It was sitting on the coffee table, and it was dead, too.

So I came upstairs and searched through two rooms for another landline phone. Finally found one that was charged.

(The third landline phone gave up the ghost entirely about 6 months ago and is sitting on Todd's study shelf waiting to be assumed into the heaven of useless plastic things.)

More and more lately, I find my thoughts turning to the bright and lovely days when I had one phone. It was 1992. Todd and I had just returned from our honeymoon and one of the many things we needed to buy for our crummy Pittsburgh newlywed apartment was a phone.

We bought a fun, cream-colored plastic phone with oversized number buttons. Remember when phones had big buttons? These were even bigger than normal. It had a nice chunky handset that you could wrap your whole hand around because it was narrow in the middle and wide and round at the talking and hearing ends. Remember that nice shape? You could tuck it between your ear and shoulder and it stayed put, so you could talk while you washed a couple of dishes or stirred a pot on the stove. And the cradle could go on the wall or on a table. (I liked the wall mount, personally.) And it had a nice long springy cord that you could absentmindedly wrap around your finger while you talked.

Every time you picked it up, it had a dial tone--unless there was a power outage or some other problem out of your control. Nothing you had to do about it, nothing you could do about it, just wait till the power came back on. And you never had to search for it--it was right there, on the wall, where you put it. Since you couldn't walk all over the house with it, it stayed where it was supposed to be and you didn't have to cock your head like a dog and try to figure out which direction the ringing noise was coming from.

And it was cheap. I don't remember what we paid for it, but since we had virtually no money, I can't imagine it was more than $20. And that phone lasted us about ten years, and I'm sure would have lasted longer had we not upgraded our technology at some point and gotten fancy phones.

Well, I want my old phone back. And the answering machine that went with it. I'm tired of these tiny phones that I have to pinch between my fingers to hold onto. I'm tired of having to dial into voicemail. I'm tired of having to sit motionless and not get anything done while I talk on the phone because I can't hold it on my shoulder and use both hands to do something. I'm tired of all these complicated calling plans and contracts that I can never remember the details of.

I have warmer feelings toward my cell phone, but I want one that will last ten years and not become obsolete every six months. I want one that will hold a charge. I want one with a less-annoying beep when I miss a call, and it would be nice if it would catch every voicemail and not inform me I have one that's six months old, and then not inform me of another that I don't catch till six months later.

Why do we race headlong toward owning so many things that add more and more layers of frustration and annoyance to each day? I was in a terrific mood this morning, and then all my phones started failing me, and now I want to smack somebody upside the head.

I wonder if we ever threw out that old big-button phone?
Maybe it's in a box somewhere...