ET text home?
Sometimes I feel old at 25.
Not long ago, I stopped at the Redstone General Store to partake of the excellent ice cream and chanced to overhear a conversation between a father and his 9- or 10-year-old child.
The kid had spotted the old pay phone on the front of the building, which the store keeps hooked up for free so that visitors panicking at their lack of reception can make a few calls. Dad tried to explain that such devices used to be so commonplace that we didn’t even question their convenient presence in front of the protagonist’s apartment thriller movies. He didn’t get very far.
“That’s not a phone!” the youngster exclaimed.
When I was that age — not that long ago, really — cell phones were bulky, expensive and actually designed for making phone calls. Consequently, pay phones were common throughout town.
Once, on April Fool’s Day, I snuck out late to call my mother from a pay phone down the street.
“It’s 10 o’clock,” I told her, “Do you know where your son is?”
She claims to have no memory of this incident.
Now, the pay phone in Redstone is the only one I know of in the area. There are likely others, but hardly enough to make it worth buying a calling card. I have heard people criticize the homeless for owning cellphones, but we no longer have other means of keeping in touch.
If the Terminator showed up now, he would have to look on Facebook for Sarah Connor instead of in the phonebook.
Phonebooks, by the way, get a bad rap as useless. Not everyone can be Googled. More than once, before I learned better, I scoured voting records and online databases trying to contact a source, only to pull up a number after 30 seconds with a phone book.
That’s beside the point.
I’m sure people felt the same way when Ma Bell replaced the telegram and when wires replaced the pony express. Pay phones and phone books are just a couple casualties of the tremendous change I’ve seen in the last quarter century. I’m not shedding any tears for tube televisions or floppy disks — though you have to wonder what kids today think the save button represents. The march of progress has brought us some pretty cool things (Wikipedia, Netflix and Christmas lights that don’t turn your house into a firetrap spring to mind).
If you saw “Midnight in Paris,” you probably recall the Owen Wilson’s realization near the end that nostalgia is timeless and antibiotics are a really good thing. I get that. Even if we learn to stop throwing the baby out with the bathwater every time something new comes along, we can’t and shouldn’t keep everything.
It’s just that it happened so fast.
My parents roll their eyes when I reminisce about days gone by. My mother did newspaper work in a time when cutting and pasting was literal and the final product had to be physically driven to the press. My grandfather remembers a time when more people knew how to ride a horse than drive a car.
Still, if I’m already having trouble recognizing the world I grew up in, I have to wonder what will be left 40 or 50 years down the road. I guess I’ll spend that time cultivating my grumpy old man persona.
Will Grandbois doesn’t have Snapchat, but he can be reached on something close to a landline at 970-384-9105, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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