Conversation Gone the Way of Dodo Bird
Telephones used to hang on the wall, usually near the kitchen.
If you were on a party line, your call would ring maybe two times so you would know the call was for you.
Often, a neighbor would be listening in to monitor your conversation. Everyone knew someone was listening in so they were careful about what they said.
Contrast that scenario with today. Most people have a cell phone, which they carry with them, and most people talk loud enough on the phone so everyone from a block away can hear them.
Folks don’t seem to care about privacy anymore. If they did, they wouldn’t talk loud enough for others to hear them.
When my grandkids and kids come to visit us, everyone congregates in the family room so we can catch up on the latest news. Alas, that’s not what happens. All of them, and I mean all, immediately whip out their BlackBerries or other contrivances and begin thumbing in phone numbers or other data, completely ignoring everyone else in the room.
It appears they have no interest in anything we may want to say to them, and they have no interest in telling us anything.
Occasionally, Richard and Sallie Groner invite us over for a dessert get-together. We, along with six or so other couples, congregate in the family room, get comfortably seated, and begin talking.
There are no cell phones or other gadgets to interrupt us, and we share stories of the past and discuss whatever may be on our minds. Everyone there has been in this area a very long time, and I’m continually amazed at how much is remembered about how this area used to be.
We listen to whoever is talking and comment without interrupting, of course. Things move along in what I call an old-style Southern, easy way with the trappings of good manners and consideration.
I remember when I was a young boy sitting with my grandfather on the front porch in the evening and listening to him and his neighbor friends tell stories and talk about happenings of the day.
I stayed very quiet and hoped no one noticed me and told me it was time I was in bed. I don’t remember the stories, but I remember the setting and the time, place, and how easy and congenial everyone was.
Unfortunately, those bygone days will never come back. They’ve been replaced with electronic gizmos that allow one to instantly converse with friends and associates all over the world at a moment’s notice. I’ve noticed that most of the talk is about subjects of no consequence and consists of mindless chatter about nothing.
I look at Facebook and can’t believe the things people say on it. The personal intimate comments go everywhere and nothing seems sacred.
Some of it is downright embarrassing to an old codger like me. I know, some will say, “Well, don’t look,” but I look forward to seeing the pictures of my little granddaughters on Facebook and can’t help but see all the clutter in between.
It’s the same attitude those who talk loud on cell phones have. Some will say, “Well, don’t listen,” but how can you not listen when someone is talking loud enough to be heard on the next block.”
Now I must confess that Pat and I have a basic cell phone that allows 50 minutes a month and calls must originate in North Carolina, or we have to pay a pretty big penalty. We’ve had our phone ever since I got stranded on my boat, and the motor wouldn’t start. When I yelled at boaters nearby and waved my arms at them in a plea for help, they waved back and kept going. The next day I got a cell phone.
And it’s only for emergencies, not idle chit-chat!
Robey Howard is a local writer.
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