Sunday, October 31, 2010

Virginia Heffernan on the telephone

Virginia Heffernan mourns the disappearing analog telephone call:

You’d endure the long brrrings with a pleasant stirring of nerves, a little stage fright. As many as 10. To give the household a chance to rally. On “Hello?” you’d identify yourself and ask after the person whose voice in your ear you, having waited, now profoundly desired. In the absence of the grammatical spasm of “This is she,” you’d learn whether your friend was “in” or “out” or somewhere in between (weird parents sometimes said “indisposed”), while your patience was casually requested (“Hold on a sec; she’s in the den”). You’d express thanks for the answerer’s good offices. More waiting. Offstage noise. Voilà. Up would come the voice.
A telephone memory of mine, c. 1969–1970: spending hours on the line with my friend Chris, trading particularly ludicrous bits of commercial art from the Yellow Pages: “Page 347!” “Page 562!”

comments: 3

Anonymous said...

Very recently one of the on-air volunteers for the local public radio station pledge drive kept saying the phone was "ringing off the hook."

I wondered how much sense that made to today's cell phone generation.

Adair said...

And the thing is, these solid, heavy rotary phones were extremely reliable. I do not recall them ever going down, and the sound quality was sharp. Compare that to the phones where I work, which are linked through our computers and are supposed to be the latest in technology---they're constantly going down, have often blurry sound or a terrible echo, and have receivers that are harsh rectangles and thus cannot be cradled between ear and shoulder snugly. Ah well, they will probably be obsolete by next year and their cheap plastic will end up in some landfill.

Michael Leddy said...

Anon., I guess we need a verb to replace “dial” too.

Adair, I think of these things when I talk to my parents every week: constant echo and static on the line.