In my lifetime technology has come, gone, and changed forms faster than the Wonder Twins. Though it, too, has gone the way of the ghetto blaster, we still have a traditional household telephone - that thing, mounted on the kitchen wall, with the long cord small children once reveled in wrapping around their necks to get their mother's attention while she tried to have a serious conversation with a girlfriend about the latest antics of her mother-in-law.
I would remove the archaic box, except then I would have to repaint the big block of wall behind it, which, of course, would lead to repainting the entire kitchen, which naturally would snowball into all kinds of decorating issues I'm not willing to address. As much as technology had advanced, painting is still a messy, arduous, bemoaned task. And while my children logged a lot of hours fighting that phone for my attention, its decline in usage has deprived them of some of the finer nuances of the once hallowed device.
Brrrnnnngggg, Brrrrnnnnggg, sounded that antiquated contraption on the wall that I all but ignore these days. Reminding me of myself as a girl, jubilant at the ring denoting contact from the outside world, my daughter sprinted into the kitchen, shouting, "I've got it! I've got it!"
Not one to hinder that kind of joy, I stepped aside and let it flow. Only telemarketers from the Paleolithic Era, and my friend, Charlotte, call that number anymore anyway. Out of breath but lifting the handle on the second ring, my child cheerily chirped, "Hello." Then she said, "Hey Daddy. I don't know. Hold on." Putting her palm over the receiver, she whispered to me, very seriously, "Mama, Daddy wants to know if the refrigerator is running."
"I don't know," I answered, adding, "but if it is we better catch it."
Removing her hand from the receiver, she said, "Mama doesn't know. Let me check." She walked across the room, stretching the phone cord to its limit, and opened the refrigerator door, carefully observing the interior. Then she swung open the freezer door to inspect. With cold air rolling into her face, she said, "No sir, it isn't running."
My husband went silent on the other end of the phone line, considering whether the fridge really wasn't running, and the ramifications of that bad news, and the strange coincidence that he would call and ask about it at the moment it pooped out. This call was not going as expected. After a minute or so of enduring her father's interrogations, my daughter explained, "Well, the light is on, but I don't hear that hmm, hmm sound."
Sensing the man's angst, I instructed, "Tell Daddy it is running."
"But you said you don't know," she countered. "And I don't hear that hmm, hmm noise."
"Just tell him," I insisted.
She did so. Relieved, her daddy finally followed through with the punch line, to which she quizzically responded," I better go what?"
Again she listened. Her father deconstructed the joke blow by blow and elucidated on how it works and shared with her how back in his childhood - without texting or YouTube or MySpace -- it was what kids did to entertain themselves on Saturday afternoons and at sleepovers.
"Oh," she said, letting out a courtesy giggle.
Yes, the traditional telephone has gone the way of the Polaroid, taking with it the amusing prank call, just as the analog TV took decorative rabbit-ear antennas to the grave.
And the only thing I really mind is that big unpainted square of wall behind its demise.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny . She lives in Thomson, GA. Contact Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her web site, www.IfMama.com.)