Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Legacy of Alexander Graham Bell

I am not really comfortable with a phone. I will write, I will e-mail and if you live close enough, I may even come over and knock on your door. Anything rather than pick up the phone. Sure, I have been known to talk at length to a caller: I guess it is initiating a call that is my problem.

It started with my childhood. Give me a few seconds to get comfortable on this couch and I will tell you all about it. Very few people had phones in England in the 50’s. Even if you wanted one, there was a wait of several months. We certainly would never have made the move, but my father’s job as an electrician at the Enfield Rolling Mills required him to be “on call”. So the Rolling Mills expedited the delivery and installation of our instrument. They extracted their pound of flesh and summoned my dad several times in the middle of the night. I remember him jumping on his bike and pedaling off through the dark and fog to solve the problem.

Waltham Cross 24645. That was our number. Can’t forget that one. It was, and still is, etiquette in England to answer the phone by stating your number. Mind you, we didn’t get a lot of calls because so few people had a phone, but over the years it came in useful. The instrument (functional black plastic) was installed in our front hall on top of the cupboard that covered the electricity meter and wedged up against the coat-rack. The hall was very cold in winter and there was no place to put a chair, so it was hard to get comfortable and have a heart to heart with anyone. Besides, my dad tended to hover in the background, silently urging me not to stay too long on the line.

That was my somewhat uncertain introduction to the phone and the unseen people it conjured up.Things got worse when I got to America, but time’s up for this session. I’ll tell you more next time.

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