KIRBY: No phone; no problem

Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices — just recognize them.


— Edward R. Murrow


My parents just finished one of their quietest weeks in years.

The big storm had knocked down a tree that took out a telephone line, that prevented them from getting phone calls on their land line for seven days.

They said a nice man from the phone company dropped by the house to apologize for the inconvenience, but they assured him they would be OK because they both had cellphones.

And they were.

They told me so when I dropped in the other day to help Mama celebrate her 86th birthday.

Almost immediately after the storm, they said, both noticed the lack of ringing to disrupt TV re-runs of Columbo or Andy Griffith. There were suddenly no unneeded solicitations from call center telemarketers. There were no political or marketing pollsters wanting answers from two devoted voters. There were no sales pitches to two modest consumers who pay their bills on time.

In fact, Mama said, the biggest disruption had been that the church “prayer-request” calls hadn’t been able to get through because they use the familiar land-line number my parents have had since Nixon was president.

In the solitude that followed, my folks said they began to consider getting rid of the old phone line as just another expense for a service they didn’t need.

But then … they said they realized they sort of missed not having it.

They liked being on call from old friends and elderly neighbors. They liked still being in the phone book.

And they really missed those church calls.

I found out that they don’t mind the sales or “robo-calls” as much as they said, or as much as I thought. They will actually listen patiently to the callers spinning their spiels, before politely declining, thanking them for their call and hanging up.

Sometimes my father will playfully engage them in an imaginative debate on the value of their product or the waste of his time. It is often entertaining.

It seemed to bother them when the phone calls quit coming. They would take turns calling the house number from their individual cellphones to see if it was working again.

When the phone line was finally fixed and service reconnected, they let everyone know with the same enthusiasm you would expect with a return to electrical power or a grandchild’s visit.

I guess the older you get, the more you value familiarity.

And the older I get, the more I know I don’t know.

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