Life Without Technology Has A Pretty Nice Ring To It

January 27, 2007|By JACQUES KELLY

I foolishly ignored an ominous clicking sound on my home telephone line two months ago. Finally, on the afternoon of Jan. 15, the phone line went dead, and it remains that way. Some people might go crazy with no ringing, but I've enjoyed the winter silence. (We'll discuss my consumer experience with AT&T another time.)

I prefer to blame the squirrels in the backyard. I envision them munching on the phone wire's insulation and making luxury apartments out of the alley utility poles. A couple of years ago, they invaded the back part of my property, and I had to hire a no-kill exterminator to evict them. Of late, they've been lunching on expensive spring bulbs planted last fall.

My father wanted to lend me his cell phone, but I declined. I don't want to make that transition. I come from a family that doesn't do well with technology. I also ride a lot of buses and have grown to detest idiotic cell phone chatter.

(Several years ago, I ended my cable television service, and I have been pleased with the result. When people ask whether I miss certain public television shows, I respond by noting that I am now up to about a new book a week from the Pratt and love every minute of reading. I've got a pile of classic movies recorded in my cable days and stored in my cellar. Do I play them? No.)

Not all my people treated a phone as I do.

My mother held court on the telephone at night, which was her time of the day. She too was a reader and had a stack of Anne Tylers and other authors ready.

In the days when you could buy an early edition of this paper about 9 p.m., she liked to consume her morning Sun about 10 at night, in between her numerous phone calls, where I think she fielded more information than the paper contained -- or at least as much. She also did in about a pack of unfiltered Luckies at this part of the day.

My grandparents, who were born in the 1880s, did not operate the phone with much ease. My grandmother, Lily Rose, actively avoided phones and used one with extreme caution. She also shared an aversion to elevators -- and would not step on an escalator, ever.

Her sister, Cora, made the calls and loved to chat it up. I've been chuckling at all the old family correspondence I've been reading of how Cora called my mother's friends to inform them of my birth, as well as of the arrivals of my four sisters and brother.

Phone service and customers were far different in the 1950s, when it was still considered something of a luxury. My South Baltimore grandmother, Mary Louise Kelly, had a party line she shared with a neighbor.

I loved this grandmother's visits to us. She never bothered to call ahead; she just arrived, with a big shopping bag of goodies. Mame, as we called her, really needed no telephone. She knew everyone -- and they knew her.

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