I had a flashback moment the other day, as I came in the back door. I looked across the kitchen to the corner of the room into the telephone nook to see if the answering machine was blinking. But there is no answering machine in the nook. Or a phone, for that matter.
What was I thinking? An old instinct kicked in. It was fun to re-experience the thrill of coming home in the pre-cell phone era, wondering if someone called and left a message. The red light on the answering machine was like a beacon in a lighthouse, flashing a signal, “YOU HAD A CALL!” Rapid blinks meant you had several calls. WHO? WHY? WHAT’S GOING ON?
Such a different world. We had more patience; we didn’t expect instant contact, instant feedback. A nicer world, I think. You had time to think before you replied, to mull over your answer. “What should we say to Joe? He’s upset, but has a right to be. How can we bring him down, gently?”
Lies could be invented if necessary; we call them fibs when we execute these social untruths. “I don’t want to go to their house Sunday night. How can we get out of it?” You had time to conjure up an excuse, or create a conflict.
We were nicer, on the surface anyhow. And freer to escape doing things or going places we’d rather not. We had time to come up with an alternative plan. And, more important, time to calm down before tossing out a knee-jerk reaction to a phone message. Time to re-listen to the message to be sure you got it right. And think.
Don’t get me wrong, I like my smart phone and all the things it can do for me. But still, I miss that old world, where communication was more thoughtful and ran at a slower pace. And, I especially miss coming home to a blinking light. Signaling a mystery. Soon be solved.
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