The indispensable Block called me on my cell phone today to say he takes issue with my affection for old hardwired landline phones. Now, yesterday I didn’t specifically say the old phones are intrinsically better, but he knows me well enough to hurdle to correct conclusions. He had even found the also-indispensable Virginia Heffernan’s NYTimes column mourning the end of the analog phone and disagreed with her too, saying that we are taking magic for granted.
Fair enough – if someone had told me in high school that by 2002 everyone would walk around with (semi)working telephones in our pockets, I would have felt robbed for being stuck with Yars’ Revenge and 15 lbs. of trig homework. And acne and inopportune vasocongestion. But I digress.
Virginia’s column is lyrical and gorgeous, however, I would add something to her argument: the essence of the old telephone is the handset, the thick, heavy half-moon that cradled in your neck and endured anything. Block asked me about household wireless phones, and I told him they were better than cell phones, but they weren’t heavy enough, and the interference can be just as crappy.
How many times have you been on a wireless landline and accidentally hung up on somebody with your own ear? Or blasted the “9” button with your clavicle? Forced someone to listen to you accidentally redial their number in their ear several times over?
The telephone has one job: to recreate the act of conversation between two people who would have been face to face. In that regard, a cell phone fails miserably. You can’t relax for long on a cell call – the heat starts to wither, you can’t shove it between your shoulder and your ear for multitasking, and eventually you start wondering if you’re irradiating your brain.
Yes, I know there are bluetooth earpieces, but then you’re adding ANOTHER THING that can fail, have bad reception… not to mention the “pairing” issues, keeping it charged, and finding the fucker when you need it.
In my teens I overdosed on two things: Fig Newtons and talking on the phone – and now I don’t like either very much. But maybe I was looking at it wrong. I’d still love to talk to you on the phone, even for hours, if we all still had old analog handsets that allowed for endless ruminating. I need a heavy beast of a telephone with heft enough for big ideas.
dig the aqua blue wall phone I installed in our hallway here in CA