Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The legacy of Alexander Graham Bell, part II

The year: 1963. The date: Christmas Day. The place: a small house up in the hills above Los Angeles. It was my first Christmas in America and I was house-sitting for Marvin B****, a very popular teacher at USC. He was going home to North Carolina for Christmas, and I was so naive that the significance of the white piano with the blue and green tinsel tree, the large collection of Johnny Mathis records and Marvin’s choice of traveling companion quite escaped me. I was homesick and I remember the phone call I made to England. In those days you booked it weeks in advance and then the operator called and put you through. It was cold and dreary in England and I was looking out at a warm and sunny LA. I still can remember that call.

When we first moved to Michigan, our phones were located no more intelligently than the one I described in England. Obviously that didn’t worry Kate, but I have memories of juggling phone books and pieces of paper and trying to write information. I already wrote about the call I made which gave us the wonderful news of impending parenthood and I will never forget the call I made for an ambulance when Kate fell through a glass door, or the frantic calls to try to get a message to Ernie to tell him to get to the hospital. But most of my calls in those days revolved around schools and doctors and baseball schedules and the never-ending pursuit of baby sitters. I hated making those calls.

When I started working the phone became my archenemy. I wanted to hide under the desk. Not only could I not answer questions, I usually didn’t even understand the questions. I’m glad to say that things got much better.

Now the computer handles much of what we used the phones for before. Thanks to the “Do not call registry” we are spared lots of sales calls. Once again we seem to be making a lot of calls to schedule appointments with a doctor. As I was going through photos I took when some grandchildren visited a couple of weeks ago, I found this one of Evelyn. Whatever the toy is, it isn’t a phone, but she’s got the right idea, She’ll never be intimidated by a phone and long to hide under a desk.

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