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By Jack H. Smith
Three Forks Voice 

COLUMN: The Rotary Phone


September 4, 2019

I'll be the first to admit I spend too much time on my phone and really need to put it down a lot more. It's very addictive and I can certainly see why kids who have been raised with phones spend so much time with them. It's all they know. I'm old enough to remember using a rotary phone so I should know better than to spend hours with my eyes focused on a tiny screen, especially after looking at a computer screen most of the day.

I really wish the younger generation could have experienced the rotary phone and the days before personal devices. There are a few little things I wish they could have seen and most of it deals with a much different world of human interaction.

While it may sound silly in today's world, I think what used to be the best test of a budding romance would be a road trip. I'm not talking about a place that would be easy to get to either. Instead a trip that would require a map. There was no in car navigation or Google Maps to lead the way. Two human beings would have to work together to get to their destination and it could get ugly. I've seen some of the worse fights in my life involve directions and it could easily end a relationship. It would often times involve sitting at gas station in a stalemate. One person would want to go inside and ask for directions and the other would refuse. This could often times go on for hours. Only the strong survived. It's sad to not see this anymore because it really was a great test of how two people could really get along. These days instead voice their frustration to the navigation system.

I really wish the younger generation could also have seen what it was like at a restaurant even 15 years ago. The next time you out eating take a look around the restaurant. There will certainly be people having great conversations, around 50 percent of the people will be on their phones. It's a sad state of affairs. Going out to dinner used to be a time for couples or families to connect and now many just sit glued to their screens until dinner comes. We usually leave the phones in the car when we eat out and the results are great. I spent a lot of time in my early 20's waiting tables and it was a different world than it is today. There was always a nice buzz of chatting in a restaurant and sometimes there is a weird silence. The only increase in the volume now is when somebody takes a phone call in public which can be weird for everyone else in the establishment. I'm not sure why in people in 2019 think they need to scream while they are on a cell phone, but it happens all the time. The worst is at the airport, grocery store, or restaurant. Unless it is an emergency, I don't think people want to hear someone else on the phone. This used to be reserved for the rotary phone in the house. Not someone at the table next to you ruining the meal because they feel the need to discuss their upcoming doctors' appointment. And it's worse when people will put it on speaker phone.


Speaking of the rotary phone, I can vividly remember my grandparents' having one in their basement. It's ring was as loud as the whistle of a train and it seemed to take about five minutes just to complete a call and good luck if you were calling long distance. As a teenager I would sit in their basement trying to muster the courage to use that phone to call a girl and have that first awkward conversation or later one that could go on for hours. That is something that many kids don't have today. Too much of getting to know someone is now through texting or other social media and that takes away a lot magic of growing up.

Anyone can type how they feel or how they think someone looks, but to say it in person or on the phone is a whole different ball game.

A little human interaction is never a bad thing and something I would love to see more of.


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