Sunday Scribblings: Telephone
His voice is deep, his tone business-like, almost brusque. If I didn't know him, I'd probably not feel very welcome to leave a message after hearing his "greeting": "Hi. This is G. You've missed me. Leave a message". But I do know him, have known him all his life, so I do leave a message: "Hi. This is your Mum. I've missed you. This is a message." Ho, ho, ho.
He calls later. "What's up?" It's nothing. I just wanted to hear his voice. I just wanted to check in, see how life is, ask how his holiday in Florida was, tell him we're invited to my neice's 30th birthday party, that my week went well, that I'm still enjoying the after-effects of the trip to Paris (and to thank him again for such a wonderful gift), ask is he settling back into normal life, let him know how his grandparents are... just a Saturday evening chat.
It only takes a few minutes. That's us and the phone. That's me and the phone. I'm not known for long, long, chats. There are a few people with whom I can have long conversations - I'm thinking K, I'm thinking M, ... oh... and another K - but the material is usually generated by the other person. I'm along for the ride.
I didn't always have a phone at home. I grew up in a house without a phone (like most of our neighbourhood). Mrs. Hegarty across the road, who ran a little salon where she turned elderly ladies' hair blue or mauve, had a payphone in her front porch, and she was really accommodating to anyone with an emergency, dispatching one of her sons to whichever house to receive a call.
We used phone-boxes to make essential calls - but there weren't really a lot of people to call. If my cousin couldn't make it to work, I might be the one who had to call in for him. (I still don't know why that was. He had brothers. He had a dad who could walk to the phone-box more easily than walk to my house with the message that I had to make the call.... What was that about?)
Phone phobia. That's what it was about. We got a phone for my grandmother. She'd wait until someone came to visit to dial a number for her. She mistrusted anyone who called her. The phone was there for emergencies, but I doubt she'd have used it. In fact, if she did feel at all strange or unwell that March afternoon in 1983,as the stroke that finally killed her was coming on, she didn't pick up that phone to call 999. She sat in her chair and waited.
When I started work, I had to get comfortable with talking to people on the phone. Calling suppliers, customers, the tax office... Learning the etiquette. Realising that tone of voice is crucial. But I've never really gotten to love using the phone. If I've got to make any kind of a call to officialdom, I have to steel myself for it. When I had to spend half-an-hour on hold to my insurance company last Friday (Aaaaagh!), I almost went crazy listening to that really pretty rendition of a really pretty tune over and over, over and over.
I decided I had to have a phone at home on the day I brought my son home from hospital as a newborn. I realised I'm going to be here in the house, alone with this defenceless, vulnerable, tiny little person. Anything could happen! I have to be able to summon help - ambulance, police, fire service, hosts of angels, friends, relations. We had to have a phone installed. And we did. For my son, who has grown up, and who now carries a mobile phone with the greeting:
"This is G. You've missed me. Leave a message."
Other Sunday Scribblings on the topic of Telephone will be found by Dialling HERE