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NEptune 4-3030

It’s hard to believe but the home telephone is going the way of the transistor radio and the pet rock.  Nobody uses it anymore.  Your kids call you on your cell.  And when they’re home they wouldn’t think of answering the phone when it’s ringing.  They could be standing right next to it and they won’t even glance at the thing.  They know it’s not for them, so why bother.

And you can’t really blame them.  Chances are, the call is from a telephone solicitor, scam artist, robot or from no one at all.  Sometimes you pick up the phone just to stop the ringing and when you say hello there’s nobody there. I think there are 800 numbers that just call your house to see if you’ll pick up the phone and then if you do they’ll sell your number to another company.  We found one.  Selling a sucker’s number right here, a human being still picking up the phone!

Man, times have changed.  When the home phone first went out of fashion it signaled the end of era, when battle royals regularly erupted with the sound of the ring.

Sheesh, in the old days, before caller ID, siblings would lunge for a ringing phone. There was a chance that a boyfriend or girlfriend was calling and, god forbid, if a sibling picked up the phone.  The horror! 

An older sibling might start a conversation or give the caller the third degree.

A wrestling match might break out or there’d be death threats uttered in a strained whisper: give me that phone or I’ll kill you. 

A lot of homes only had one phone and no extension as a second phone was called.  You were lucky if the phone had a long cord so you could stretch it and find some privacy in a nearby bathroom or a stairwell. And those were the days when there was no call waiting. Somebody would tie up the line for hours and you just knew your friends were trying to call but they’d be getting that incessant busy signal.

If we siblings weren’t fighting over the phone we’d be fighting over something else and if my mother were talking on the phone she’d be glaring at us, threatening us with her eyeballs.  She’d never tell someone on the other end of the line to hold on.   She’d glare and then sometimes make a fist and sometimes mouth “When I get off this phone….”

Those were the days of the rotary dial.  You’d have to dial a “9” and then have to wait for the dial to swing all the way back before dialing the next number.  Sometimes you’d try to speed it up by dragging the dial with your finger.  That might   save you a tenth of a second.

And those were the days of telephone exchanges, which seem like a lost language to young people.  They can’t even quite grasp how a rotary phone worked never mind trying to grasp the idea of Nightingale 5, Granite, 4 Neptune 4 or Cloverdale 8. 

The only reason to hang on to your landline is because cell phone reception can still be as bad as the old walkie-talkies.  But reception is getting better.  We don’t even need landlines for when the power goes out.  Most of those old copper lines have been replaced by fiber optic networks. When power goes out, chances are your landline is gonna be out, too.

As Miles Appelman says, “Only geezers use telephones.”   And even the geezers, myself included, are starting to get sick of the old phone and the bill that comes with it. Still, it’s kinda weird.  Watching a thing die out.  But when’s the last time good news came on a landline?

Yep, it might be time to hang up. Though come to think of it – it won’t make much sense to say hang up any longer.

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