By Steve Galea
I bought a cell phone later than most. If the truth were to be told, I thought they were going to be just a passing trend.
I was certain the old phone inventors would compete by adding a compact Polaroid camera to their products. Or a blender. Because, frankly, a blender has as much to do with a phone as a camera used to. Either of those things, I thought, would have rendered the cell phone redundant.
I was wrong though.
Cell phones quickly rendered our old land line phones obsolete.
But I will say this. It wasn’t about cameras or even blenders. It was about mobility.
And we land line users were the ones that drove phone designers to this.
You see, there was a time when humankind was perfectly happy with short, coiled phone cords between the phone base and receiver.
Admittedly, those were simpler times. Back then no one cared about missing incoming phone calls or being out of touch. In fact, that was preferable. We knew callers would call back later if it was important enough.
We also did not care that our phones were incapable of placing all the accumulated knowledge of the world at our fingertips. We were happy that some things in life, such as the exact speed of a fart, remained a mystery.
My how times have changed. (It’s 10 feet per second!)
I believe it began when our sisters got boyfriends.
You see that’s when the need for actual mobile phones began.
For unless your sister had a phone in her room, she would try to pull the phone receiver and cord away from the family as soon as her boyfriend called. My own sister would practically pull the phone off the wall in order to position herself as far away from prying ears as possible, whenever her beau called.
I’m not sure why she didn’t want us in on the calls. My brother and I had good relationship advice to offer. And it’s not like we were mean to her boyfriend “The Squirrel.”
Regardless, fathers, like my own, eventually realized that the phone and wall it was attached to could only take so much, so they started buying longer phone cords. And the market obliged.
It was harmless at first. It started with 10-footers, so your sister could take the call, which sometimes lasted as long a 26 hours, into the next room.
Eventually, however, as the bond deepened, longer cords were required. It seemed like a good idea too. I mean, there was a point where my brother and I would have gladly contributed cold, hard cash towards the purchase of a 240-foot cord, if that’s what it would take to keep us from hearing the hours-long, “I love you – I love you more” exchanges that were the low point of these relationships.
But as much as long cords solved these problems, they also caused problems of their own.
Which is to say they left a wake of destruction in their path. Table and floor lamps, flower vases, end tables, anything on the coffee table, small children, cats and other curious pets – all these things and more would get knocked over or caught up in the vortex of cord that ran between the phone base and receiver.
It got to the point where phone cord technology had reached its limits of safety.
I remember seriously considering gnawing my arm off after getting caught in a 20-footer when no one was home. It wasn’t that long after, we decided to cut the cord.