Caveat empt . . . ah, never mind.
Cell phones. A whole generation can’t imagine what life was like without them, in the same way that I couldn’t imagine what it was like for my parents to grow into adulthood pre-television, or my grandparents pre-movie (my maternal grandmother, born in 1899 when Queen Victoria’s son Edward VII was on the throne, played the organ at the theater for the “silent pictures” of Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, and the like* before she was married).
My mom was a teen in the 1940s, and her parents had one telephone – a chunky black number featuring a metal dial spun with the finger – tech that lasted into the 90s. It was in the front foyer so everyone could hear (and eavesdrop on) conversations. And it didn’t directly connect to the person being called; an operator had to do that from a control center. If they cared to listen in, they had that power.
By the time I was in elementary school, nearly every room in the house had a phone (our neighbors had them in their bathrooms. I thought that was very chi chi, but they also had metallic wallpaper in their living room that looked like vomited cola, so my teenaged taste was obviously questionable – as was theirs). I got my first one when I was in third or fourth grade - a fancy green Slim-Line (my sibling and I also got our own TVs that year; my parents were either big on sharing the entertainment tech with the kids, or they didn’t want to watch “Hogan’s Heroes” when they could settle into “The Name of the Game”. Of course, back then, there was nothing scandalous or porn-y to monitor; the censors made sure of that).
It was only a couple of decades ago that cell phones made their ubiquitous, intrusive appearance in our daily lives, and there were always rude jerks publicly yelling into them. Problem quickly solved: Texting is a blessing.
How many of us still have a land line? Do any of us go to the loo without our phones (because if we do, we’ll hear that ping from the other room and ruin our potty time)? Don’t get me wrong; cell phones are miraculous. God, remember the days when you’d arrive at the airport and there would be a manic crush at the phone stations so you could tell loved ones you’d landed and could they meet you at Gate F29? No? *What are you doing reading this column, you young snotty?
Thing is, those operators I mentioned earlier? The ones who could benignly listen in if they were bored? Welllll, they’re a little, er, different these days. Now, if CONTROL CENTER doesn’t like what you say, blink! What the hell’s wrong with my phone? I can’t seem to connect! Everything just disappea . . .