Sunday, September 30, 2007


Several times on the job I have seen this in schools I visit: a child standing at the school office telephone trying to call home. "Dial 9, honey," the secretary will say. I invariably think, there is no dialing. She should say, "Push 9." We haven't used dial telephones in how many years? The same style telephone that was in my house when I bought it in 1975 is now in antique stores.

Friday night we watched the 1978 version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers with Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams. Besides the theme of the movie being one of my favorites, total paranoia, some of the plot hinged on technology that has completely changed. When Sutherland, as Dr. Bennell, tries to call the police, they say, "Stay where you are, Dr. Bennell." He yells into the phone, "How did you know my name? I didn't give you my name!" In those days caller ID didn't exist, or if it did it wasn't used widely. We didn't expect anyone to know who we were when we called them.

Sutherland used the telephone several times in the movie, each time dialing. I know the movie is almost 30 years old, but dialing a telephone seems almost quaint.

There are some movies, not even 30 years old, that have plot developments dependent on telephones. There was Midnight Run with Robert DeNiro, where part of the plot hinges on him finding a pay phone. When's the last time you saw a pay phone? I haven't noticed them around much lately.

A coworker had his home phone disconnected, and now depends solely on his cell phone. I don't know…that seems almost, what? Unfathomable? I have always felt my home phone number was what anchored me, as much as my street address. It meant me. It had to mean me; every year my name is in the telephone book, connected to that address, the seven-digit number.

I'm old enough to remember prefixes. My home prefix growing up was CR7. The CR stood for Crestwood. Where did they come up with these names? My girlfriend's number was IN7-0700. The IN was Ingersoll, like the watch. Maybe that's what the telephone people did. "What do we name this prefix?" Looks at watch. "How about Ingersoll?" I remember having a hard time when they changed to all numerical prefixes, having to think 467 instead of IN 7.

Nowadays no matter where I am, driving, mall, store, work, exercise walking, I see people on their cell phones. I can't even imagine what they are all talking about. Having the phone and the ability to answer it no matter where you are must make them feel like my home phone has always made me feel, anchored and connected to those who need to talk to me.

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