Monday, July 29, 2013


Ingrid called to relay her safe arrival home.
Called to the phone, I was pleasantly surprised
By a land line, with cord attached to wall!
Staffan mentioned being tethered by the telephone,
Being unable to move more than several meters.
After a laugh, phone memories came in a flood.

While staying with her aunt in Wheaton, MN,
Toward the end of WWII, my mother met my 
Adoptive father when she operated a switchboard,
Taking his calls from atop telephone poles.
Dad worked for Northwest Bell his whole adult life.
After school, we sometimes received a call from poletop.

My grandmother in Wheaton had a wall phone with
Ear piece connected by cord. When we heard voices 
We were supposed to hang up to give privacy 
To other people already talking on the party line.
When silent, we turned the handle to get the operator's 
Help to use 3-digit numbers to call family members.

Before long distance was commonly used, when I went 
Back to college, for example, I called collect, 
Asking for myself as evidence of safe arrival. 
When long distance first became universal, NW Bell
Invited employees and families to test the system
By talking for three-minute intervals with distant family.

Calling a roommate inside for a phone call, she rolled
Her eyes, motioning me to bring the cordless phone to her.
Playing telephone with a friend's four-year-old daughter,
She with pink plastic phone receiver, I with thumb and pinkie
Splayed from ear to mouth, she surprised me by saying, "Beep!"
As she hung up the phone, rather than my expected, "Click!"

Light-weighted phones fall from tabletops and from pockets.
Metallic ring tones seem disembodied and hard to locate.
Cell phones continue to require inquiry, "Are you still there?"
As social media invades almost all lives, the expectation
For rapid and instantaneous communication ratchets up.
Phoned e-mails and text messages bounce around the globe.

I appreciate intimate connection with others: 
Face-to-face, voice-to-voice, heart-to-heart. 
For me, machines interfere with real relating.
I like soulful conversations, looking in people's eyes,
Watching non-verbal communication for signals.
For my time and money, keep me tethered, please.

Ann Beth Blake
(c) July 29, 2013

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