The house phone rang.
“Aren’t you going to get that?” I asked.
“Nah, it’s not a number I recognize,” he said as he glanced at the cordless landline on the coffee table in the living room. “If they want me, they can leave me a message.” He shrugged as he placed the phone back a little further away from his reach on the sofa next to him.

I thought back to the time when phones were stationary either in the hallway of a home resting on a small corner table, or in later years hanging on a wall near the kitchen with a cord that could stretch anywhere up to 6 feet to facilitate multi-tasking. On the rare occasion when it rang, there was a race among the household to be the first to pick up the receiver and give the customary “hello?” in the form of a question. It was the anticipation of not knowing who was calling, and for whom the person was calling, or what the person might be calling about. A phone call was made to deliver either good news or bad, to inform, to gossip or to pass on something overheard.

In the home where I spent my teenage years, our phone was a rotary dial landline that sat on a credenza in the entry hall where it could be heard from all four corners of the residence. When it rang my father never missed the opportunity to announce “TELEFON!” in case we might have missed the call. I was often the first to run to it and would greet the person on the other end with an enthusiastic “Hel-lo,” because nine times out of ten the voice on the other end was recognizable. It would either be a relative, a friend of the family, a neighbor,  or better yet, a boy or girl friend. If the call happened to be for another member of the household, there was the usual chitchat, the inquiry as to the person’s well-being, an exchange of information about self and the other prior to the phone being passed on to that person.  The tone and clarity of our voices was an important factor in building the conversation and interacting with the caller. It compensated for the absence of eye-to-eye contact and face to face body language.

In the past, phones played a single role — they allowed people to make and receive calls. It was a convenience. Today, thanks to the development of technology, networks and social needs, phones are considered a commodity, a tool allowing users to do much more to meet the needs and expectations of users. It has become a prosthetic without which we cannot function in our daily lives. Portable, pocket size, and user-friendly, they send and receive text messages and emails, take photos and videos, access the internet, listen to music, play games, set up calendars, and contain work schedules and files, among many other functions. That’s not to mention artificial intelligence (AI) technology, steadily having made its way into mobile phones and allowing for things like human-machine interaction— “Siri (or Alexa), add yogurt and sugar to my shopping list.”

Granted, cell phones have reshaped communication in many good ways. One of the more indisputable upsides is the ability to connect with anyone from anywhere around the globe through Skype, WhatsApp or other virtual platforms. They bring one closer to a truer understanding of the human through conversations and discussions which relies on body language, tone of voice, and eye contact all prevalent in virtual connections.  However, one of the most observable downside changes in today’s phone use is the extensive texting and messaging with emojis that inadequately replace tone of voice in expressive conversation. Conversation is the most humanizing thing that we do. It’s where empathy is born; it is where intimacy is born. And we are losing both as phone calls are made less frequently and the desire for the sound of a true voice is dwindling. We are becoming more secluded in our own echo chambers with our handy cell phones in the palm of our hand. And quite naturally, with caller ID now available on every communication apparatus, we can choose to answer or neglect or reject a call based on our personal mood and taste.
Oh, wait, my landline is ringing. (Yes folks, I still have a landline!)
I run to grab it from the couch. There is no caller ID. My curiosity is tweaked.
“Hello?” I say more questioning than greeting.
A few seconds of machine silence on the other end tells me it’s a telemarketing call.
I am in no mood to make polite conversation with a robocall.
I hang up.


This entry was posted in communication, phones, technology, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Hello?

  1. Taline says:

    I remember those phones with a long coiled cord! This loss of human communication skills is something that is very difficult to teach the children of the next generation. It’s hard to compete with advanced technology that instantly sends or receives messages, and there is no anticipation or patience for conversations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed Taline. Thank goodness we still connect with video chats that bring families together across the globe. But yes, long conversations with the next generation is diminishing. I think the art of conversation should be a topic taught in schools.


  2. Colette says:

    I claim guilty of all the above… 😦
    And the cherry on top is that thanks to all that new technology, we definitely have lost the ability of speaking or writing gracefully.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeran says:

    Good old days … good new days … That’s how it goes. From one that still mostly (emails being the exception) communicates in the “old ways”. Taking advantage of both old and new.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. nellie Pambakian says:

    Well written dear Silva, explaining A to Z (like Amazon). One small part , getting land line; you have to register and wait seven years. I remember getting our home phone. Blessing🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, Nellie, I know in countries other than the US and most parts of Europe, one did have to wait a couple of months or weeks to receive a land line, but years?!!!. I’m glad we’ve moved on….even though land lines are becoming obsolete and telemarketers are now calling cellphones.


  5. serkolig says:

    Very well written. Those were the good old days with scarce phones around. Sometimes I remember we would go to the only one neighbor who was lucky enough to have a phone to answer a call.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes Serkolig, I grew up in a remote area of the desert and we didn’t have a home phone until we moved to the city. If mom wanted to send a message to the neighbors or the grocery store, we were her best messengers!


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