David Wolf

Who talks on the phone?

In the olden days, on the rare occasions when I phoned my mother overseas, I would shout every few seconds: ‘What…??? Can you hear me…?”

In those pre-historic days, the phone was fixed in one place. You had to sit or stand next to it. You needed time. The phones were horrible. First, you couldn’t get a dial tone. Then the lines were always busy. Often, lines got  the background. There was noise, static… You spent half of the conversation shouting, hoping that you will be heard or asking the other person to repeat what they said…

Phone calls were no fun, they demanded a lot of time and patience.

Then there was the army. I spent many hours and days shouting into the wireless radio: “Can you hear me? Over…”   ((האם שומע? עבור…  Many many times I got no answer. Communication was terrible.

Back then, in those distant days, there were also letters. You wrote them with ink, on paper. You had to think well, before you wrote, since every correction created an ugly stain on the paper. You needed to sit down comfortably, get organized with good writing paper and pen and make sure your hand was relaxed so your handwriting would come out reasonably good… You needed to plan ahead how much you want to write. If you write one or two sheets of paper, you already know the amount of stamps you need and you already have them at home. But if you use a third sheet of paper, you’ll need to go to the post office to have the letter weighed…

Writing also required a lot of time and patience.

Then came modern times. Phones started working the way they were meant to work. You would be talking to someone at the other end of the world and be amazed… are you sure you are really there? You sound like you are right next to me!

You could get a phone installed in your house quickly and no longer needed to wait for years. The price of phone calls dove and a phone call to your family abroad is no longer something you do only when someone is born or when someone dies…

But then, things changed again, with the arrival of the smart phones.

Why bother sitting down for a phone conversation when you can talk “on the move” while walking, driving, shopping, taking a bath…? Why waste time sitting down when you can have those intimate, “tete a tete” conversations while walking in the mall, sitting on the train or waiting at the doctor’s waiting room?

Why bother writing a letter when you can “text”, in a short, telegraphic manner, with spelling errors and emojis that “save” you words? Why bother sitting down to write when you can text while walking, jogging, driving, praying or sitting on the dentist’s chair? Before, you wrote entire sentences. Now, one emoji is considered very eloquent…

Talking and writing have become obsolete…

And on the rare occasions when talking becomes inevitable, when I talk to my daughter on the phone while she’s driving, eating, taking care of her kids, shopping… again I find myself shouting, every few seconds: ‘What…??? Can you hear me…?”

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…”

(The more things change, the more they stay the same…)



About the Author
David Wolf writes about his experience of being a second-time husband and father. He has a daughter from his first marriage, and, with his second wife, has accrued three daughters, two sons-in-law, one grandchild and twin 8-year-old sons. He is a social worker in a mental health department and in private practice in Raanana.