I wonder as I wonder

May 21, 2023

At the risk of composing a sermonette about the world today, I wax quixotic about the state of human interaction. I wonder as I wonder! Most people would rather be boiled in oil than talk on the telephone, but then there are those rarities who love to hear themselves talk forever. I have never been a great telephone talker. Yes, I have even been averse to people so narcissistic that they don't take the cue when the conversation has gone on too long.

I have used every excuse, both true and untrue, to get some people off the phone. Everything from, "It's 90 degrees and I just got home from the grocery store, and I have ice cream in the car," to falling completely asleep on the sofa while listening to a gossipmonger talkathon.

However, the opposite side of this problem is a Luddite like myself who has a practical need to really talk with someone. Most people much prefer texting to taking or returning a call. So I have to rely on my husband Jeff, aka my scribe. He has complained about this, and even sought well-deserved compensation, and I have to give in and cajole him to help me out. It's better to pay and get what I want while putting a smile on his face.

Then there are "How's kids?" as I call them. This is because Pinky, the hostess and co-owner of an upstate Indian restaurant we used to frequent, who I'm sure is the perfect mother, would always greet us with the inquiry, "How's kids?" Our "How's kids?" never pick up their phones, and I almost always have to leave a message, which may or may not be answered for days, if ever, and I am not a frequent caller to boot. Keep in mind that telephones are now kept in one's pocket or right next to them 18 hours a day, unlike the phones attached to the wall that I grew up with! But there are no "How's kids?" living in our basement! In fact, I don't even have a basement, which is a good thing.

To continue with my essay on wonderment, people say all kinds of things they don't mean. Recently I caught an episode of the TV show "Friends." It was a well-written script (TV writers deserve all they can get) in a fast-paced, conversational tennis back-and-forth way. The group was talking about things people say that they really don't mean; euphemisms, they're called. Phrases like, "I'll call you soon," "We'll get together sometime, LOL," are sometimes vague excuses for not acting on these promises and getting away from commitment, as expressed by the somewhat innocent character played by David Schwimmer, who seemed to believe that people really meant what they said.

Anne Frank believed that "people are really good at heart" and the world was just going through a phase, like her strained relationship with her mother in that era of World War II and being confined in a garret.

Right now, as I write this column, I sit alone watching "Jeopardy." Jeff has gone golfing upstate, and I can't reach him on his cellphone. He's like one of those mysterious men of another age, like those atavistic surveyors and frontiersmen who like to be free from the tether of too much chatter. I'm pretty good at "Jeopardy" and like to show off, but if you're in a forest and a tree falls, does anyone really hear the sound? So, my answers go un-admired and unacknowledged, like most of my phone calls.

Communication devices are more at hand than ever now. I can even remember party lines and rotary phones that had a curly cord or were attached to the wall, and you had to stand up, perhaps knocking over several knickknacks, to talk. I remember a wooden phone booth in the lobby of the El Fidel Hotel in New Mexico where I deposited a dime and made a collect call to my parents every Sunday evening, but now the "fingers do the walking" instead of talking it seems. The Digital Age has dawned, and someday humanoids will be like aliens, with no ears, long-tipped fingers, and bent-down necks reaching for their devices to communicate with each other. LOL!

  • Pam Bounds is a well-known artist living in Milton who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine art. She will be sharing humorous and thoughtful observations about life in Sussex County and beyond.

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