I remember when answering the phone was an adventure. At a certain age it was about girls, either direct conversation with your latest conquest, your friend with hot gossip about said conquest or a muscle-bound football player making it clear she was not your conquest after all. High drama all around. The problem was that there was typically only one phone in the house and it was tied to the wall. That meant you had to wade through all this drama with the whole family listening. That’s how we all learned to talk in code. Every teenager back then was a Navajo code talker. It was a verbal version of the gibberish kids text today.
If it was a long distance call, then there was drama of another sort. Long distance was expensive so such calls were reserved for monumental events. Life being what it was, a call in the middle of the night was almost always bad news. It was so bad that AT&T created a legendary ad campaign (“Reach Out and Touch Someone“) just to counter the stigma of the phone call.
Because of the expense we would not make long distance calls for routine news. Still, being resourceful folk, we found ways to work around the phone tolls. A common technique to announce a safe arrival, for example, was to place a person-to-person call (remember those?) and ask for yourself. Your family at home would truthfully answer that you weren’t there, refuse to accept the call (knowing you were safe) and everyone was happy, at no charge. In fact, by careful selection of fictitious characters you could transmit all kinds of messages back home. The operators (remember those?) knew what was happening, of course. I always assumed they thought they were providing a public service, like the time and temperature number (remember those?) we used to dial.
Compared to those days, we have more communication options than ever before. We can phone, text, Tweet, Skype, Snapchat, Pin, Tumbl, post on walls and share our lives via live video on Meerkat and Periscope. And yet, we seem more disconnected than ever.
Poking someone is not connecting with them. We have too many false metrics, too many ways to think we are winning when we are losing more than ever.
When we moved into our new home in New Mexico, we waited in vain for the neighbors to come and welcome us to the neighborhood. This was a common practice in our previous home in Alabama but obviously wasn’t a universal practice. Finally, my wife baked a batch of dog cookies and went door to door. When the neighbors answered the doorbell, my wife would say, “You have a dog, don’t you?” “Yes,” they answered with suspicion. “I baked these for you.” Their faces opened in surprise. “No one has ever done anything like this.” “We’re from Alabama. That’s what we do.”
When’s the last time you reached out and touched someone?