Do you still remember your childhood phone number?
Do you still remember when people only had one phone number?
Do you remember when you had to remember phone numbers?
Do you still remember when there wasn’t call waiting and caller ID?
Do you remember life before cell phones?
I do, but it gets harder every day. I remember my childhood phone number. I also remember Kelly’s childhood phone number, but that’s the number I called more than any other, even my own, so it makes sense. I wonder if she remembers mine?
At any rate, when I was in the sixth grade, my parents moved us out of the city, to the suburbs. This meant a new address, new phone number and many other “new” things. It was transitory, but not terrible. Kelly and I devised a system to scam the USPS in order to send each other letters. (Do you remember writing letters?) In time, the new became the regular and it was another step toward realizing that change happens and we always adapt.
Technology has changed a great many things in life, many for the good. One of the most startling changes, I think, is the telephone system. Fewer and fewer people have landlines now. Cell phones are everywhere. No more “I wasn’t home”, it doesn’t matter, your phone goes where you are. When I bought my house, it never even crossed my mind to get a land line. It would have been great to get my “own” home phone number, but I guess that is what my cell number is for.
Still, my parents had a phone. It was the second of my childhood numbers. I remember the third, the second line my parents put in. The “kids'” line. My friends could call me there, but they didn’t call the “parents” line, that was for the adults, their friends, and, I suppose, the bills and crap that come with kids and a house. When we got the second line, I thought we were rich. People on television had two phone lines…not us. I always felt cool telling my friends, this is my line–not my parents’ line.
Eventually, the second line went away. I don’t know if it was financial or just unnecessary, but eventually it was gone. Then, from that day on, the number from home was just the one. My second childhood number. To this day my parents still have that number. It is number one on my favorites list on my cell phone. It is far and away my most called number.
My parents, like most people, have gotten cell phones. My dad only a couple years ago, he was a stubborn hold out. Not only did he get one, he actually uses it. He calls me from it all the time. He said he likes that the numbers are stored in it, so he doesn’t have to remember anyone’s phone number.
Today, I got an email from my mom. She and dad are canceling the land line and living off their cell phones alone, like many of the rest of us. It wasn’t a surprise, I’ve been encouraging it for some time. It seems ridiculous for two people to pay for three phones. But, the email came and announced that the cancellation is happening tomorrow. Just one more day. I was seized with the sudden urge to call the number several times, just because I won’t be able to anymore. Mere moments after digesting that info, my mom called me at work. From the soon-to-be discarded land line. I had a moment of “oh, this will be the last time this number shows up on my work caller ID” and it was.
It seems ridiculous to obsess over losing a phone number (“It’s just a number” – Mom) but it seems sad. Like letting go of another piece of childhood, of youth, of my past. I also received the renewal notice for my license, it is coming up at my birthday. I’ll finally be changing my address–it’ll no longer have my “home” address, it will instead carry the address of where I live. (Yes, it has been over a year in my house and my license still shows the old address, get over it).
They are bits and pieces, tiny moments we take for granted. You probably never think about a phone number, until you’re smacked in the face with it being gone. With all due respect to my mother, I think numbers are more than just that, they are connections, ways of keeping us in touch with the ones we love. I’ll still be able to call my parents, I’m not losing them, or losing touch, but the thought of never calling that number again is sad. It is a piece of my history and it is time to let go.
Technology has replaced the staid practices of my youth, and that’s okay. I’ll always have the memories and one day I’ll be playing one of those silly games with my grandkids and I’ll rattle off my “landline” and I’ll have to explain what that was. The same way my parents told me about party lines. Maybe this is just a rite of passage.