I grew up before the invention of the cell phone. Indeed, I still vividly remember the day my father brought home a “cordless” phone. It was like magic! A walkie-talkie with no boundaries! We walked around the house with it talking to friends going, “Can you hear me now? There’s no cord, I swear! Can you still hear me?! I’m at least twenty feet from the wall!” This really did happen, and it wasn’t that long ago.
But now, because of cell phones and competition and telemarketers, it seems that the old landline telephone is going extinct. I mourn this loss, and I’m loath to let it happen in my own house. Not because I’m clinging to a piece of outdated technology, but because I think there is overlooked value in having a shared phone in your home.
Cell phones are things for individuals. I have mine and my wife has hers. When my children get a little older, they’ll have their own. So if you want to talk to me, you just call my cell phone. There’s almost no chance that my wife or my children will answer. You’re just going to talk to me. I feel that this is a loss.
I love my mother-in-law, and she and my wife talk just about every day. But she never calls to talk to me, and I rarely call just to talk to her. So without that landline in the house, I would almost never speak with her. It may be small, but it is nice to say, “Hello Nanna! How are you? How’s work? How are your mom and dad? Yeah, we’re coming for Christmas for sure… well, here’s Amy, hold on a second.” This little interaction has value, and I’m going to miss it if we lose the landline.
Consider the effect this will have when my children get older. Am I really comfortable with never talking to my children’s friends on the phone? Don’t I have a vested interest in knowing who is calling my daughter and son? If we give them cell phones and get rid of the house phone, how will I know who they are talking to without taking their cell phone and sifting through the history?
I won’t be surprised if we do give up the house phone in the near future. It’s hard to justify spending the $40 or so dollars a month on it, and telemarketers are driving us crazy because we may be the only people in town with a house phone they can call. Even so, I believe that we’ll lose a little touch of community when it’s gone, and that makes me more than a little sad.
Photo via Holger.Ellgaard.