I remember as a child sitting quietly in the family room of our Outer Banks cottage as neighbors would file in to place phone calls to relatives. My late fraternal grandfather was a physician. And our cottage was the only one within a quarter mile with a working phone. At my grandmother’s invitation, after breakfast each day, neighbors stood in line to touch base with the world as I sat back and quietly listened.
It was the house phone. It was plugged into the wall and enabled us all to stay plugged into our world.
The house phone was central to our family experience. It’s where happy and sad news was delivered and town gossip was relayed. The house phone would ring and people would “run” to “go get the phone.” If it was important news, we would all—my mom, dad and sister—stand there waiting anxiously to hear more.
I remember how my maternal grandfather would call on Saturdays before 10 am when rates were the lowest. My sister and I would wait in line at the house phone—centrally located between the kitchen and the den—to talk to him. He paid by the minute so the conversations were short but we were able to meaningfully connect.
Just yesterday I made the fateful decision to terminate our house phone. For over 19 years, we’ve maintained the same phone number. Coming to the conclusion to end the contract was easy. But the act of disconnecting the phone last night got me thinking about how the role of the house phone has changed so dramatically in such a short amount of time.
In my lifetime, the phone has evolved from what was once a central point of connection, tethering people together. And now, phones are devices that everyone owns. As a family of five, sometimes I find that we’re sitting in the same room, each on our own device, gaming, texting, snapping and posting. It makes me miss those times when the phone would ring, conversation would abruptly end and everyone would jump out of their seats to answer it.
So, goodbye old house phone. You’ve served your purpose. And you served it reliably well. You brought us all sorts of news—both good and bad. It’s time for you to retire now.