Original 1950s phone by Curtin1.

photo credit Curtin1

Remember this telephone? When I was growing up in the 1950’s – 1960’s, one of these phones hung on our kitchen wall. If I could reach right into the photo, I’d still be able to dial my home phone number: Windsor 4-4587.  No area code of course. My grandmother’s was Rogers 4-3191. My dad’s business was Hopkins 7-1874. My cousin’s was Hunter 4-0015.

When I called my cousin I would dial her number — her house phone number, that is, because there was no cell number to call back then. If a person at her end was using the phone, I’d hear the *beep beep beep* of the busy signal. No notification that I was calling and no voice mail. I’d just hang up and call back later. If I did get through, I had no idea who would be picking up the phone. It could be my cousin, or her brother, or my aunt or uncle. It was usually the person closest to the phone. And they had no idea who was calling them. There was no Caller ID for them to check.

So what you had were two people – the caller and the callee – who had no clue as to who would be on the other end of the phone line. Now while you might say, today, that this process seems to be a time-waster, I would beg to differ.

Yes, I was calling my cousin, Sally, but how long had it been since I’d spoken to her brother, Richard, or my Aunt Marilyn or Uncle Morty? By having one of them answer the phone before Sally, I would have the opportunity, if I wanted to, to catch up a bit with the Marcus family as a whole, which could be an efficient, fun thing to do.

Fast forward to 2010. If I want to speak to more than one member of a family living in the same house, and they don’t have a land line (which is on its way out) it isn’t going to happen unless someone passes their cell phone around. Which occurs of course. But what’s more likely to transpire is that I’ll call my daughter, for example, on her cell phone, and if her husband isn’t there when I call, I don’t get to say hi to him. And I may not get to say hi for awhile unless I find a good time to call his cell phone or he decides to call me.

What we’ve done is eliminate an entire level of casual conversation and connection from our lives. There’s no serendipity here anymore. And while I’m not arguing against progress, I have to say that I miss that old equivalent of chatting across the backyard fence.

Again – I wouldn’t want a return to the days before Caller ID. Of course, back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s we weren’t subjected to tele-marketers, so it was less stressful to pick up a ringing phone. And I really prefer having the option to leave a message rather than being subjected to that angry –sounding busy signal.

But I wish I didn’t have to be so darn “intentional” when I pick up the phone. I can call, and reach, only one person at a time. Yes, there’s speakerphone, but I still associate that choice with the advent of tele-conferencing which makes me feel too formal. And yes, I can conference in more than one number at a time, but it still feels too much like an arranged meeting. Same with Skype.

It’s kind of like the difference between letting your kids out in the neighborhood to play for the day, as opposed to arranging scheduled play-dates. I accept that it’s a different world now than when I grew up, but I loved being able to naturally live more in “flow”.

So what can we do to allow more of that natural flow into our lives? How do we create the conditions that encourage synchronicities to be abundant? Intention does play a part here, in that we have to “intend” for this to come about. We have to be open to living at least part of our lives in a less programmed, more fluid way. We need to understand that unplanned connections are essential for things to unfold in a way that we didn’t see could happen.

There is such joy to be found in spontaneous connection. You know how you feel when you come across that special book or movie that you never realized was so powerful and moving? Planning is good, but there is much goodness out there which can’t be planned.

One wonderful creation that didn’t exist in my younger years is the internet, and in particular, Facebook and Twitter. I’m beginning to think that these may be the “party lines” and even land-lines of our parents’ generation. They provide a way of tuning into the larger picture and making connections that probably wouldn’t be made without the advent of social media.

I do look at that phone above with nostalgia. But, truth be told, I’m glad that I can now make a call without putting my finger into a hole and dragging it around the dial. I’m glad not to be holding a receiver that weighed so much. Of course, there was one big advantage to that big ol’ telephone on the wall compared to today’s iphone: You couldn’t lose it.

4 Responses to "The Joy Of Spontaneous Connection"

  1. jamie

    February 2, 2010

    What a great article, Sunny – a sense of humour, great insight and wonderful memories. I remember with great fondness the yellow phone I got for my 16th birthday. Even if I was sharing the line with everyone else in my family, it was still exciting to have a way of connecting that was just mine.

  2. Sunny

    February 2, 2010

    Thanks, Jamie.I know what you mean about finally getting your own phone. I think my first one was a pink Princess. Whoa!

  3. Tina

    February 2, 2010

    Our landline is still attached to the wall but it does have an upgrade of push buttons. We have not elected to have caller id – we are either available or not depending on our mood and that of Kate and Izzie. While we do use the digital voice mail box rather than an answering machine, it happened because we share our lives with children who at one time were very light sleepers – so no busy signal here. We do have a cell phone, 1 cell phone, but we don’t always know where it is and chances are it is on vibrate instead of a ring tone (mostly it serves as our alarm clock and flashlight). I like being slightly disconnected, not always on. And if you are lucky, you might call our home on a day when Kate answers the phone to share a little sunshine!

  4. Sunny

    February 2, 2010

    Tina, you are definitely not a slave to technology. You make it work for you and I look forward to experiencing the serendipity of having Kate (or one day Izzie) answer the phone. Just like in the good old days. 🙂

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