I hit my babysitter in the head with the phone on the day that Elvis Presley died. I remember it vividly; well, I should, that’s the first and last time I ever did violence to someone. (Well, to another girl, but those slapped male faces and drinks over one or two male heads will have to await another day.) It was the day Elvis died, or maybe the day after . . . but still. I was sitting on the counter in the kitchen, and she was yapping at me about something or other, but all I could do was stare at the tv because they were talking about Elvis being dead. When she flipped the television off, I grabbed the phone and bopped her on the head with it. This made her very unhappy. In fact, it set off a whole chain of unhappiness that circled its way back to me. I went to bed very unhappy that night.
That was the beginning of my love/hate relationship with the telephone. As I got older, I went through the teen years just like any other girl–with a phone stuck to my head and that bouncy curly phone cord (remember those?) all pulled straight in places and bent wonky in others. My friends and I would sit on the floor in a circle around the phone, and we’d take turns calling the “foxes,” and asking them if they “liked” us. It was very tense and exciting, so we giggled a lot. And ate chocolate. I think I may also have engaged in a few phone pranks in my day–you know the ones: “Do you have running water? . . . better catch it before it gets away! giggle giggle thunk” (that last is from the phone dropping on the carpet because we’re so giddy at our own wit to hold onto the phone and replace it in the cradle).
And then phones were ringing and buzzing and beeping and flashing at work, and I didn’t care if I never answered another phone. That was the dead phone period of my life right before the cell phone became popular. It wasn’t always, of course, and I held out to the end before I broke down and got one. I don’t think I’m a fan of change to begin with, and then the idea that I could be reached all day every day no matter where I was. Yuck. Not my favorite concept ever. But I got one. For safety. Right? I mean what if my car breaks down (and believe me, this was a very real possibility back then)? Or what if I need my way back then roommate to pick up some Cheez-its on her way home? Very important stuff.
Once I had the cell phone, all bets were off, I ran up the most extreme bills and cried over them until they turned to paper paste. Then I got wise and started turning it off unless I really needed it. And that’s pretty much how it’s stayed to this day. Off. I do have different ring tones for people I know, but as they either know I’m not going to answer or that the phone will be off, no one ever calls, so I never hear my fancy ring tones. Or I’ll forget to turn the sound back on after I go to a meeting or whatever. And it’ll stay off for days, sometimes until the battery runs out. I don’t notice because I only remember to turn it off if it starts making those noises it makes when people call. I’m good with text messages, though. Well, when I get them I respond right away; I just may not get them for a couple weeks, depending on the state of my phone (off, on silent, battery dead, plugged into the wall and forgotten).
I’m not like other women. I don’t really like to talk on the phone unless there is some reason for doing so: to thank someone for a marvelous gift, for example, or if there’s national news of some sort or if I’m watching a tv show and know that someone else is and we talk during commercials or if someone died or if I need a pizza. I talk to my parents on the phone more than anyone else, and as much as I love them to pieces, I just don’t have much to say on the phone: “I’ve been working and blogging. You?” And that’s about it. Sad. I don’t know if it’s all connected to my early memories of being forced to talk to everyone on holidays: oh, do talk to Aunt Maybelle and Cousins Tom, Dick, and Harry, and don’t you want to say “hi” to your second cousin on your dad’s mom’s side? Ick. No. I don’t. In fact, I still don’t. Maybe those memories keep me from being normal and enjoying talking on the phone? Or maybe it’s a curse visited on me by that long ago babysitter?