“Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”
That sentence is attributed to Graham Alexander Bell on March 10, 1876 as he made the first two-way transmission of clear speech through a device that was to become what we know as the telephone (far sound). How exciting far sound must have been back in the day.
A hundred years later in the 1970s when I was growing up it was still of interest if the ‘phone rang and engendered sufficient curiosity in our household that it would be picked up and answered 100% of the time (if we were in). After all it could be Important.
How then, has it come to pass some 35 odd years later that I have taken out the batteries of the handsets to the landline? Well it started like this. When the phone rang we would all stare at like a hand grenade had been thrown in the room. Who could it be? Back in the day it would only be someone with far off sounds, or someone you would like to talk to (mainly). Now it could be, well, anyone. And actually the percentage call would be that it wouldn’t be important, and it wouldn’t be anyone you wanted to talk to and it would probably be someone trying to sell you something that you didn’t want. And still don’t if you are thinking of calling me anytime soon.
The landline and its number is like the double agent in the house. You think it is your employ, but if you get onto enough cold-calling direct sales and marketing lists it will start working against you. You can be relaxing away and the phone rings. You answer, being as it might be your mother. It’s not. It’s someone trying to get you to answer pointless questions for a random survey, sell you life insurance, tell you your library books are overdue (recorded message), the man in Northern Ireland who wants a pint of blood off me, a double-glazing firm, a pebble-dashing firm, an energy supplier, a cancer charity wanting a direct debit and so on and on and on until you are scared to answer the two-way far sounds device. Send me an email I can ignore please.
So why bother with a landline? Because my grandmother, Helen, called from her landline; because she knows this number. Sometimes I sit on the stairs and call her number too, the last digits of which she has had since I was born and is one of the few phone numbers I know off by heart. But now my grandmother won’t call because she died in the summer. Her phone number no longer exists and, for now, I have taken the batteries out of my phone handsets because it’s easier that way.