Telephone Nostalgia

It suddenly occurs to me that it’s been months since anybody called our landline.  Except for my mother, of course.  Day after day, when I check the phone after coming back home, the display is always the same.  0 Calls.  0 Messages.  Come to think of it, hardly anybody ever phones at all.  I do get the occasional call on my mobile but even then, they have become an increasingly rare event in my life.  So much so that when the landline or the mobile ring, I jump, wary, assuming it’s either a wrong number or someone demanding that I do something.  I no longer consider the possibility of  hearing  “Hi, Katia.  How are you? I just wanted to hear your voice and catch up”.   

I often call a dear friend who lives in London – so we don’t get to meet very often –  and a precious friend who resides at the opposite end of the country, and I haven’t seen for over ten years.  But I call them.  Although when they pick up the phone, they sound pleased to hear my voice (either that or it’s wishful thinking on my part), the fact that I am always the one to initiate telephone contact makes me wonder if they simply put up with my quirk because they’re fond of me, but that among the rest of Western humanity, it’s a custom that has gone the way of letter writing and non-digital cameras.  

One London friend sometimes calls me on my mobile, and there’s my American aunt who sometimes rings me on the landline.  Other than that, it’s text messages and e-mails.  Maybe it’s the kind of friends and acquaintances I keep.  I can’t remember the last time anybody called and actually spoke to me when inviting us over for lunch, dinner or to suggest coffee in town.  It’s either a text message or an e-mail.  No tone of voice suggesting the person’s mood or state of health, no opportunity for a brief moment of warmth with words exchanged a viva voce.  Just emoticons.  I, too, used to include emoticons in my messages, but I do so less and less now.  I actually dislike emoticons.  Intensely.  Centuries of languages, poetry, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Sturm und Drang, millennia of words in all shapes, colours, sounds and subtle nuances and I get a lazy, bland 😀🤣👍👏🏻or 😘.  A fellow blogger I’ve become friendly with, recently removed the Like option from his blog.  As I understand it, his point is that if we enjoyed what he’s written, then he would like us to express it in our own words.  And not resort to a lazy “Like”.  I must admit, I often find the lengthy process of leaving a fully-worded comment a little trying but then, once I have made the effort, I feel like saying, “Thank you, my friend, for forcing me to use my imagination and my brain.”  

I don’t particularly like social calls on my mobile.  The reception quality is often capricious, there is the background noise to contend with if I am in the street, and my ear gets hot after a while.  Moreover, I am never able to concentrate fully when on my mobile.  At home, on the landline, on the other hand, I can sit down and give him or her my undivided attention.  

I get frustrated with the ping-pong of social text messaging or WhatsApp-ing.  I wish I could just continue the exchange in good old-fashioned human speech.

Text messages are very convenient for brief messages, or if you don’t know if it’s a suitable moment to call someone.  But then what’s wrong with phoning and saying, “Is it a good time to talk now or shall I ring you back?” Text messages have their place.  But sometimes I would like to hear the person’s voice, assess their tone, detect their mood or their humour – without a standard computerised emoji sign posting it.  Also, I like to hear a friend say, at the end of a telephone conversation, “OK, big hug” or “Love you” or “Mwah” instead of the obligatory “x” at the end of a text message or e-mail.  

I prefer face to face contact to talking over the phone.  But, when meeting is not possible, a telephone call provides a personal touch a text message or e-mail simply haven’t.  And, for all its convenient brevity, I find it much quicker to call someone and get an answer straight away, than using my large, clumsy finger pads on the screen of my smartphone – and waiting for the other person to respond.  

After I have cooked a meal and entertained guests, I would far rather receive a thank you call the next day, than a text message.

Yes, I too, am guilty of overusing texts and e-mails. I guess because people don’t use the phone to make a voice call, I am often reluctant to ring them for fear of disturbing them.

As they say in Russian, when you live with wolves, you start howling like a wolf.

Well, I don’t want to howl anymore.  I want to talk to people.  I want to hear their voices, in all their nuances.

Scribe Doll

 

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18 Responses to Telephone Nostalgia

  1. Ah, the good old days. In high school we got fussed at for monopolizing the family phone. I remember just twelve short years ago, my husband and I courting over the phone. Now, to see him call me I panic! What’s wrong I ask my kids when they call. They usually text. I miss long conversations on the phone, twisting the cord around my fingers, walking around or propped up on cushions, switching ears when my ear got tired. Good times indeed.

  2. I love this, Katia, For all the reasons you cite, I will not have a smart phone. Cell, yes (a flip phone for traveling and emergencies), but smart? NO. Although I’m tech savvy in most ways, I am an unapologetic dinosaur when it comes to telephone communications. That said, I never realized how many emoticons I use (oh, they are too convenient, yes!) until I read your post. Now I’m making it a New Year’s resolution to limit their use. Bravo on a great post! (smiling broadly!)

    • Scribe Doll says:

      I WISH I could get away with a basic mobile phone! Unfortunately, publishers and other clients e-mail and mostly expect prompt replies. I have lost two jobs in the past – just because I didn’t check my e-mails within the hour!

  3. I’ve noticed the same thing, namely that 90% of incoming calls to my landline are not from people I know who actually want to talk with me. Thank goodness for Caller ID!
    I prefer to make and receive calls with my landline because the phone itself was designed for talking, unlike my mobile smart phone. If I had a nickle for every time some part of my face has hung up the mobile in the middle of a call, I could buy dinner — with drinks! — at a very nice restaurant.
    But I do appreciate that texting offers the immediacy of a phone call without the intrusiveness. I use it quite a bit to make and confirm plans, and it’s nice for keeping posted about things in progress, such as travel. My kids also text now and then so I know they’re still alive, which is very nice. (In all fairness, they call when they have time to talk, but those little proof-of-life texts are far more frequent and therefore dear.)
    And I won’t even start in about notes and cards and letters — those take time to do properly, and the pace of life for most of us is such that we make the devil’s bargain that a thank-you text sent, however gauche, is better than a note never written. I will note, however, that this makes the occasional hand-written note all the more cherished because it is a gift of time as well as thought.
    May 2019 be a peaceful and productive year for you!

  4. Dear Katia, I am with you 100%! In spite of many, many e-mails written to me to the contrary inclination, I write e-mails like letters, usually with some kind of opening and closing salutation, and etc., and I call when I can. I always send handwritten thank-you notes, in spite of the fact that my 61-year-old hand makes my handwriting a bit challenging to read sometimes. But at least, that way my recipient knows who the thank-you is from, and I almost always get a thank-you for my thank-you! It’s not, I think, that people don’t appreciate the courtesies anymore (though a whole generation or two are growing up who don’t use them because they weren’t obliged to when they were in their formative years), it’s just that the pace of life is so fast that people seem to think you should take things like personal phoning and writing from them for granted, as if they exuded them merely by sharing the same air you do! It’s hard even to find a “thank-you” note packet for a good price at the pharmacy anymore, but there’s no reason that the card needs to have the message stamped on the outside–it’s the soul and sentiment of your response to the gift of people’s time and their gifts that’s on the inside of the card that really matters. A bit of a complicated sentence that, but you know what I mean. So, good luck with your efforts to up genuine phone calling again, I hope you get many more personal phone calls this year on your landline, and are able to have some stellar chats!

    • Scribe Doll says:

      Yes, I try to avoid buying cards with the message ready-printed, such as “Thank You”, “Happy Birthday” and – wherever possible, “Happy Christmas”. I go for the illustration. One of my pet hates is Christmas cards where the sender merely tops and tails the manufacturer’s message. I’m afraid I don’t keep those cards – only the ones where the sender has added lines of his or her own. Like, you, I bemoan the absence of gratitude and appreciation. I believe very strongly that accepting carries responsibility.

  5. de Chareli says:

    So you are missing phone calls? Interesting. I actually abhor phone calls. People who would call me or people I would have to call tend to engage in never-ending conversations. I don’t have patience for that. I’d much orefer having those conversations face-to-face instead But on the phone – no! Messaging apps are fine to stay in touch with geographically distant friends or relatives and share pictures (cats, kids, first snow (❄️🎶😄🎄💫🍀etc.) And when I really want to show commitment, I write a letter!!

    • Scribe Doll says:

      Ah, well, the only people with whom I have lengthy telephone conversations are people who live far away and whom I don’t see very often – or never, actually. As I say, yes I do prefer face-to-face contact to phone communication, anyday. What I mean, is that I find it warmer, friendlier, when short communications are in viva voce than by text or e-mail. I like to hear the person’s voice, its intonation, mood, colour, cadenza, timbre. A vocalised “Thank you so much for dinner, last night” in a convincingly appreciative tone is better for me than a cold, toneless e-mail, which carries no emotion. Of course, I was taught to send a thank-you card to the hosts after a dinner party… But sadly this is a custom hardly anybody follows, these days. Besides, in countries where postal services are slow and unreliable, a phone call is preferable. As for letters, yes, as long your correspondent’s handwriting is legible, and mode of expression is accurate, precise, and beautiful.

  6. Zoë says:

    Very good points and I don’t disagree with any of them, but I don’t just pick up my landline phone any more when it rings. The reason is cold calls, whether sales calls or actual attempts to steal from me – one day, a few years ago, I had eight and it broke me and I cried (I was at a low point, admittedly). I recorded an answerphone message explaining that I’d pick up the phone when the person at the end identified themselves, and why. Additionally, there have been many occasions when I’ve been discussing something that mattered with my husband or someone else, where the phone ringing was really quite an intrusion. I do like speaking to people but just as, nowadays I don’t normally watch live television or listen to live radio, preferring to choose the times when I feel like catching up with a particular programme, I tend to send a text first, to check if it’s convenient to phone, rather than ringing up on the off chance, and quite like others to do that too.

    I don’t have a like button on my blog, but I don’t get anywhere near the comments I used to, even though I still have a good many readers, some of whom have become very good friends.

    • Scribe Doll says:

      Each to his/her own. I agree that cold calls are truly annoying. Back in the old days, in the UK, I subscribe to Phone and Fax Preferences, which means that marketing companies are not allowed to call me and, if they do, I can report them and they will be fined. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to random-generated numbers or, as happens increasingly, calls are made from abroad. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  7. Can’t agree more …. love the good old-fashioned multi-sensual human speech. Once a week I get a call from a dear friend who has a special UK rate. That’s we can let rip, which I truly appreciate.
    Can’t do with fiddly texting, Re: blogs, I admit using the like button in a lazy attempt to say – been here and like what I read.
    I’ve a special rate for calls to Europe through the 18866 service (two pence per minute,) which keeps me in touch with my friends on the continent.
    My simple mobile is only for emergencies when I’m on the road, otherwise I don’t switch it on.
    Trouble is – we’re pushed into the mobile stream, no doubt the aim is to discontinue landlines – same as the attempt to move people away from cash transactions.
    Even beggars are becoming outlawed.

    • Scribe Doll says:

      You’re right about cash transactions! The other day, my dentist actually refused to accept cash from me, saying they kept no change and everybody paid by card. I like cash. It’s solid, tangible – and I know how much I’m spending!
      Do you know the Spanish writer Javier Marías? I heard in an interview that he doesn’t have a mobile phone.

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