Apr 26, 2015

The community of a house phone/the art of conversation

10131. My family phone number at our house in Nordmaling, the small town where I grew up. It actually used to be 131 before Nordmaling needed more numbers. 10168. My best friend Ulrika’s number. 090-117884, my grandma’s numbers. She lived in Umeå, so that’s why the area code. 0934-10795, my cousins in Robertsfors. And their best friend family 0934-10793.
I have a replica of an old telephone in my kitchen. It’s in wood, big, with a little space tu put things in, underneath. It was the phone in the house most frequented when Trouble & Trouble grew up, as there is a comfy armchair next to it, and that phone is still working.
Opening the top of that little space underneath is a time machine. There is a note. Trouble 2 wrote it in 2nd grade. 147423, Henke and Hanna. 147010, Lars. 147554 Erik. 147231, Rickard. 147470, Johan. 147293, Jenny. 147274, Martin. 178241, Grandma. And there was a similar note in a notepad next to the phone in our Boyer Avenue home in Seattle.
I wonder how many of those numbers still existing, the families round the lake in our area. Are they all buried and replaced by individual cell phone numbers? Most of them I should think. Times are changing. And nothing wrong with that. But when it comes to land lines and house phones I am a bit philosophical.
Where would I start? That wood phone in our kitchen was the family communication center. Liaison center. Operations coordination. That’s where all the family decisions regarding socializing took place. We could all hear what was going on, at what time and with whom. Everything was out in the open. Stops and gos was something everyone were involved in. Conversations were overheard by nature which made the dynamics of the family more…dynamic.
My sons are still answering their (cell) phones with “hi, it’s Trouble 1” Well, of course not, but their real name, and for a very long time their full name. Something they learned at the family phone. Phone manners. They also learned how to chitchat with their friends parents and siblings. And their parents friends. Small talk. They learned the art of conversation. Because back at the time, the phone ringing was an adventure, you had no idea who would be at the other end, imagine!
I am absolutely positive being forced (or given the chance) talking to someone who isn’t the target for your call is a good thing. You exchange a few words, get to know something you didn’t know or listen to a familiar song. You connect briefly with someone who might not be your first choice and in that way socialize with someone outside your closest group. And you get to work on your conversations skills.
It’s weird. Public spaces have gone polluted with loud private conversations. The home though, has gone silent. Not only do members of a household only talk to their chosen people on private phones or other devices, but the talks are mostly written and mute to anyone else. And therefore secretive. And what happens to conversation skills when you are expressing yourself in brief on-the-target texts?
Some of the women in my choir got together Friday evening, and we came to talk about this subject. One told us she very rarely talked to her parents in law, because they only called her husbands phone. One was concerned about children who might need help from outside the family but couldn’t call for it since there were only the parents phone to call from. And then of course, we have the issue with bad connections and dead batteries if you would be in an emergency.
Not a lot of people are calling me on my house phone. Trouble 1 does, my aunts and some people from the village. I would never give it up though. A landline is a landline. Safe. And I want a phone number connected to my house. The identity of it. That’s the number I want my future grandkids to call me on. The grandma number in the grandma house.
My friend Agneta, who is one of the women in the choir, had read somewhere that a home nowadays is a transit hall. A lot of times families don’t even have dinner together, and the house is a place to drop off and pick up things on our way to whatever is on our schedule. So, what is keeping us together? 
I have mentioned to my sons that I wish they will have a house phone when they start their families. I actually think a mutual phone number can create a community. They are not reluctant. Maybe it has something to do with that big phone in wood next to that comfy arm chair in their childhood kitchen. And the note in the space underneath.

No comments:

Post a Comment