Originally Blogging the Artist's Way. Thoughts, musings, experience of the 12-week course, January to March 2006. And after that?.... Life, creativity, writing. Where does it all meet? Here, perhaps.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

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

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At 11/5/08 1:43 pm, Blogger Beautiful Witch said...

I'm surprised at the evolution of the phone. I only got a cell phone a few years back which was late for my Generation X/Y friends. They used to be horrified that I didn't have a phone - "What will you do if there is an emergency?" "What if your car breaks down?" I would do what I always did - ask someone if I could use their phone! We are only as reliant upon internet, cell phones, GPS, cable tv, microwaves etc etc as we allow ourselves to be.

Great post - loved your message to your son. :)

At 11/5/08 2:11 pm, Blogger ell said...

At last a kindred spirit! I also had phone phobia.

I didn't get over it until I got my first "adult" job and had to use the phone to set up appointments, etc. I'd steel myself to the task by rehearsing in my head what I'd say, then worry I'd forget something essential. It's under control now, but the phone is not my first choice of communication. I like to see the whites of their eyes when I speak to someone. :-D

At 11/5/08 3:04 pm, Blogger nonizamboni said...

Very similar beginnings, you and me, and now I agree that I don't spend much time on one either. Hmmm
Lovely post, touching feelings about our children and needing a host of angels when we brought them home!
Lovely. Thanks for sharing.
Oh, and happy Mother's Day too!

At 11/5/08 3:14 pm, Blogger Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Oh, Lady, that's a wonderful essay. I still hate to chat on the phone; I think it's a writer thing -- there's nothing visual to do while talking -- but emergencies are the whole reason I got my first cell phone -- almost twelve years ago now. Most people still don't have the number. 'cause, you know, I hate the phone.

Happy Mother's Day!

At 11/5/08 4:57 pm, Blogger Caroline said...

The turning point for me was getting a cordless phone - when I talk to people on the phone I like to pace - I get a lot of exercise that way! ;-)

At 11/5/08 5:00 pm, Blogger anthonynorth said...

That's an excellent piece. I, too, was brought up in a home without a phone. Later in life I did quite a few admin jobs, spending hours on the phone. I have no problem with phones as such. But mobiles - well, that's a different matter.

At 11/5/08 5:07 pm, Blogger Medhini said...

That was a wonderful piece of writing about the telephone. Glad I read it on Mother's day, it felt more special.

At 11/5/08 5:20 pm, Blogger anno said...

I love this story of your changing relationship to the phone. I especially liked the details about having to use phone boxes, or run down the street to use a payphone.

Like you, I feel my relationship to the phone altering. A few years ago, I avoided it entirely, but lately it has become a necessary evil. Perhaps by the time I am my mother's age, I, too, will welcome whatever connection it enables with a greater world.

At 11/5/08 6:01 pm, Blogger danni said...

would that a host of angels could be summoned by phone --- perhaps the existence of the instrument could have a justification !

At 11/5/08 7:23 pm, Blogger Tammie Lee said...

You are great with words, fun how that doesn't translate to the phone!
Interesting how your Grandmother did not pick up the phone when she had a stroke, me thinks she may have been the smart one. Although I do not know the story. I guess I do not want to prolong death in a hospital. But hey until I am there, on the threshold of death, who knows if I will reach for a phone.

Thanks for your story.

At 11/5/08 8:18 pm, Blogger Jennifer Hicks said...

Thanks for your story. I too have a bit of a phone phobia which I sometimes have to force myself through. Least we have more options now...

Great post!

At 11/5/08 8:56 pm, Blogger Whitesnake said...


At 11/5/08 9:39 pm, Blogger giggles said...

Wow I was surprised you didn't have a phone growing up! I remember party lines. Loved the phone for a stint, not so much now. In fact at times I just let it ring. I much prefer email. Wonderful story love how you tied it all together!

Thanks for stopping by my blog!
Peace Giggles

At 11/5/08 10:14 pm, Blogger Granny Smith said...

I've had a phone my whole life and have had to use it extensively. But I still don't love it, and I have put off for days making official calls. It's a convenience and a nuisance.

At 11/5/08 10:15 pm, Blogger Devil Mood said...

It does seem that life without phones was a lot more enchanting but are we kidding ourselves? In the end I don't think it really matters, they're just objects to help us communicate and now you must love you phone just a little bit more, no? ;)

At 11/5/08 10:48 pm, Blogger anno said...

Just wanted to thank you for your comment on my blog. I just assumed everyone was on the phone, calling their mothers to wish them "Happy Mother's Day!"

At 11/5/08 11:39 pm, Blogger Tinker said...

Although we had a phone growing up, we still had a 'party line' - sharing the phone line with others, so we were always reminded to keep phone calls short - I hadn't given it much thought till reading about your experiences, but perhaps that's why, with only a few exceptions, I still don't talk on the phone often or very long.
Glad you were able to get in touch with your son - phone calls with my daughter and grandgirls are the ones I look forward to the most.
It's Mother's Day here in America, wishing you a happy day!

At 11/5/08 11:46 pm, Blogger Lucy said...

I can't imagine growing up with out a telephone!
You missed out on making prank calls and sending pizza delivery to the weird neighbors house! great post!!

At 12/5/08 2:14 am, Blogger Becca said...

Oh yes, I do dislike those official type phone calls - they make me so anxious! Occasionally I have to answer the phones at work, at I still get jitters about it.

But I like talking to my son on the phone - those calls are much anticipated ;)

At 12/5/08 9:59 am, Blogger Greyscale Territory said...

Love all these phone scenarios.

And yet, with all the hype about cellphones being a must have, I still really dislike the phone. Mine is only there for emergencies. Otherwise, I choose not to be constantly hooked up.


At 12/5/08 8:28 pm, Blogger Robin said...

It's amazing how in just a single generation so many people have gone from not having a phone at all to not leaving the house without one that accompanies them at all times.

At 13/5/08 5:01 pm, Blogger Deirdre said...

I remember my mother calling home to Ireland, to my grandmother's neighbor, the long pause while someone ran next door to announce a call from America, and the time it took my grandmother and aunt to come to the phone. Their voices sounded so far away, nothing like the clear sound we have now.

We're all connected all the time now. Home, work, cell. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be inaccessible.

At 13/5/08 8:05 pm, Blogger Karen said...

There was never a time when we didn't have a phone--though I clearly remember back when overseas calls were enormously expensive and made only during Christmas and Easter. And if you picked up the phone at any other time and heard that distinctive click and then fuzzy air sound that indicated long-distance, you knew you were about to get bad news.

I really love visiting your blog, Imelda--such beautiful entries!

At 14/5/08 2:13 am, Anonymous Bluebethley said...

What a lovely story, well told and well wrapped around this week's prompt. I enjoyed your musings and especially the poignancy of your grandmother's resistance to this new technology.


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