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When did we all become Firemen?

While listening to a radio morning show recently, a particular conversation captured my attention: the hosts were chatting about cell phones, specifically the one host’s proclivity for them and the other’s disdain.  After much ribbing about never having his cell phone turned or even with him, the scornful one quipped, “Well … when did we all become Firemen anyways?”

And I get it. I really do understand what he was saying.

I know….  we’re connected more than we’ve ever been.  And I understand that there are many positives that come with having a cell phone.  Except for one:  I just don’t like being that connected.

I’m not on call.

I’m not a fireman, police officer, EMT, security guard, FBI agent, Nurse, Airport Controller or Surgeon.

a phone just like this still hangs in my mother's kitchen; image from bentoncountymuseum.org

Remember when the phone ringing generated genuine excitement?   In my childhood home that translated to 2 long, 1 short, for we were on a party line.  The combination announced that the call was for US and that resulted in 5 kids scrambling for the phone.  Who would it be?   A handsome suitor calling for one of my sisters?  A friend, calling with the scoop on a brother’s teenage crush?   My cousin, inviting me to go riding?  A grandparent, bus driver, 4-H leader or Hockey Coach?

Heading out to play, the screen door banging behind us, we left the house noise… in the house.  Stepping away from the porch light to play “duck duck goose” or “kick the can,” the only sounds were that of the wind, farm animals and the shouts and hollers of us kids.  That’s it.

Now … there’s phone noise all the time.  Show tunes, rap songs, TV themes and even the old standard ring ring like the traditional phone. Cell phones are on all the time and many people have given up their land line.  I can’t imagine it.  I like having a house phone with voice mail.  Why? Because having one gives me the freedom to turn the cell off. 

I remember my parents going out for the night and not only didn’t they check in on us, there wasn’t even a phone where they went!    A public phone at the Legion Hall?  That’s funny.  OK, maybe in the back office but there wasn’t much chance anyone would hear it over the polka music and laughter.

Remember piling into a car with your friends and heading out to see the “show” with promises to be home on time?  And we were.    Only if a snowstorm blew in or a vehicle broke down did we ever need to “ask” to use someone’s phone. And. often, our parents weren’t there anyways!  We’d call around till we’d find a trusted neighbor or uncle and, eventually, someone would come and pull us out, give us a jump or just get us out of whatever jam it was we were in.

Now, it doesn’t matter where I am, my ears are forced into conversations that I’d rather had been private.

  • It’s not you, it’s me.  I… just need some time to sort things out. Um .. awkward!
  • For goodness’ sake, can’t you just do this for me? It’s not like I ask you all the time to watch YOUR BABY!  JEEZ.  Even more awkward.
  • Momm! I don’t want to have to meet him, I don’t care that he’s nice, it’s weird. I’d rather go be with Dad for the weekend, C’mon!  Heartbreaking and real.

I’m grateful for modern technological advances and I enjoy dilly-dallying with them most of them but there’s s a much bigger part of me that’s awfully glad I’m not a Fireman.

Want to reach me?  I’m probably outside so, please, leave a message.  Thanks!

 * * *

Your turn: cell phones on 24/7 … like or dislike?

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Categories: Family, Life, Opinion, Personal, Rants, Technology, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

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21 thoughts on “When did we all become Firemen?

  1. Love it…I’m not a fireman nor do I work for an EMT. I work in an office building with lots of classrooms. Just yesterday, a student office worker passed me in the office hall, not the general classroom hall. I didn’t notice he had the phone to his ear. Then I heard “I love you too” and it dawned on me, he was not talking to/greeting me.

  2. Nick

    Excellent post! I once tried to force myself to be unreachable for 24 hours… The first two hours were quite liberating — and then I decided that two hours was basically the same thing as 24 and proceeded to turn my phone back on. It’s so sad!

    • For some, I think it’s almost an addiction. I know our son would have a hard time stepping away from texting … but he’s even commented that “hanging out” now means “in the same room/area but texting .. and not necessarily each other.”

      What?

      Thanks, Nick, for popping in 🙂 MJ

  3. Thanks for the memories.

  4. We, too, were on a party line years ago. Now that was interesting!
    I agree with what you’re saying. But my cell phone is with me all the time – mainly because if my hubby or son need me, I want them to be able to reach me. No matter what I’m doing. BUT I try to always be careful to find a secluded spot to talk if I’m out in public. I don’t care to share my conversations with anyone (or everyone) around me.

    • Somehow it does not surprise me that you are so thoughtful of others (re cell phone etiquette). Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the norm.

      Yes, the party line days, those were something – we shared with Grandma, and aunt & uncle and one other family. Like CIA operatives, we learned to be careful of what was shared on the old party line!!

      Cheers!! MJ

  5. PS – Love your new header!

  6. You could come to Africa, where the phones we have don’t work, and there are no other ways to get a hold of me other than to come and find me. I understand your frustrations completely, and am loving my “isloation.” Great thought-provoking post. 🙂

    • MAC! So great to hear from you & glad to know you are ok .. at least I hope you are. 🙂 Have missed your updates. Thanks for checking in and stay safe 🙂 MJ

  7. MJ, your post is entertaining. I agree wholeheartedly with what you said. In February of 2010 (less than a month into my blog), I wrote a post about the telephone. http://lenorediane.com/2010/02/18/the-telephone/
    My feelings haven’t changed.

  8. cooper

    hey that’s the phone I grew up with.

    we now have unprecendented access to a wealth of knowledge..but we don’t seem to get any smarter.

  9. What memories this post incited – party line rotary phones, the first cordless phones the size of entire bags of celery, and today’s constant need for ‘reaching out to touch someone’! My husband is worse than I am – and my son – have mercy! I have told them on numerous occassions that if my phone rang the way theirs did, I would roll down the car window, give it a toss outside and then run over it. One set of my grandparents thought the old fashioned phone was rude and refused to have it installed. What if there was an emergency? No need to worry. They only lived 1/2 mile from us and a giant tree hung well into view of our bedroom window. If they needed something, they simply hung a white towel on a tree limb and my sister and I had to periodically check the window for signs of a flowing white cloth. No ringing necessary!

    • Loved your story about the white towel in the tree :). What a great memory. I remember being rather bratty and, after answering the phone, hearing breathing. Not very nicely I’d say, “Hi Grandma … Hi Aunt Alice … etc” That would incite several quick “clicks.” HA! It wasn’t nice of them to “rubberneck” but it wasn’t nice of us to call them on it, either. Funny stuff. I do remember it being a very big deal when we got our own line. And yes, cell phones the size of celery – great reference :).

      Thanks for weighing in, Renee… MJ

  10. Amen. When I’m “off-duty” my phone is silenced. When I’m in the middle of something, calls get shunted to voicemail. It may sound selfish, but in the end it’s a tool for ME, not for YOU.

  11. Pingback: Filling the tank | Emjayandthem's Blog

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