It was with little fanfare that my wife entered the room where I was sitting last Sunday night, with the now former kitchen phone, wires dangling, in her hand.
The deed was done. Our home phone was no longer operational.
We have gone back and forth for years, with her contending it would cost more to eliminate the
home phone from our “bundle” (thank you, phone, cable and Internet service provider) than to keep it.
As my spouse is the one to patiently oversee such matters for us, I had no reason not to believe her, and the same has been verified by readers of this column when I have previously written about it. Silly me, thinking a reduction in services might cost us less, not more.
We finally decided, rather than listening to that blasted phone ring with virtually all calls being of the junk nature, we could unplug it. So we did. I didn’t even know that, in the midst of a renovation project in our master bedroom and bathroom, my wife had already unplugged a bedside phone.
I had long ago quit answering that line, and no longer even glanced at the caller ID. She still verified the nature of the call before ignoring the ring.
Every few weeks, just for grins, I would listen to the voice mails — from both political parties (who apparently had the mistaken idea I have an allegiance to them), representatives of travel companies promising us we had won all kinds of free vacations or folks from our alleged credit card companies assuring us there was no problem with our account but telling us we needed to call them back for important information.
My wife’s parents and our older son would still call the home number on occasion, and our other two offspring might try it if they could not reach either of us on our respective cell numbers.
All have now been notified that, for our purposes, the number is no longer in service.
There is irony in all of this.
We are joining the legions getting rid of phones attached to interior walls because, of course, we
make and receive calls on our cell phones. We can talk from anywhere, so there is simply no need to
have a home phone which long ago, for some reason, took on the name “land line.”
Yes, it’s all very efficient and convenient now, whether it’s making or receiving a call, texting or
emailing – all on the handy little device we carry around with us. We are never out of touch. We can also make calls in which we see on our little screens the people with whom we are speaking, a la George and Jane Jetson.
And yet . . .
With all this advancement in communication, we have calls dropped like crazy. We can be in the
middle of a conversation and suddenly realize the other person is no longer there. If and when we
reconnect, there’s the inevitable “Was it you or me?” interaction.
And as much as the providers boast of their superior coverage, “Can you hear me now?” is part
of our national lexicon.
And don’t get me started on butt calls, which I make with regularity.
Shelf lives of cell phones vary, but if you have the same one longer than two or three years, you
are the exception. I have often posed this question to peers in my age group: Do you remember ever
having a service call pertaining to home-based telephones, other than for initial setup in a new house?
Those tethered phones could hardly be broken.
There are people who rarely answer their phones. I have a handful of longtime friends with whom I try to stay in touch. I can immediately think of two who, when I have called them since the onset of cell phones, have never once picked up and answered. They either call me back or we don’t talk.
I don’t know if they look at caller ID and see it’s me and decide it can wait, or if it is simply their policy to let all calls go to voice mail, but these two guys never pick up when I call. Do you think it was that way when it was only their home phones that rang?
Everything is a tradeoff.
Although we have made great strides in communication, I submit we have also regressed a bit. Two steps forward and a step back, if you will.
It is probably a good thing all of this did not happen while my father was still alive. Any time he would go out of town, one of his major pastimes in the city he was visiting was to come up with people he could call there. There were very few places he went where he could not think of someone he knew (often more than one).
He didn’t have to know them well. But since he could place a local call, rather than a long-distance one, it was incumbent upon him to call and let that person, sometimes no more than an acquaintance, know he was in town. All he needed was the always-available telephone directory, or he could call 411 (is that still a thing?) and get that person’s home number.
But those days are mostly behind us, and like so many of you, my land no longer has a line. A long lost acquaintance with a layover at the Nashville airport will have to have my cell number.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.