A crowded restaurant. The place is full of teenagers. Everyone is on their phones. Nobody is talking. I am here with my cousin’s 13-year-old son.
He is playing on his phone when he asks, “What was it like before smartphones?”
“It was different,” I answer. “Very different.”
“Different?” he replies, whilst wrapping up his current text. “Different—like—how?”
“Well, for starters, we had real conversations.”
“What do you mean?”
I mean we actually talked to each other in complete sentences. Using audible voices. And eye contact. And body language. It was our only option for interpersonal communication other than the United States Postal Service.
“What about phones?” he says, still staring at his phone. “You mean you never called each other phones when you were kids?”
We did. But it was a lengthy process. Allow me to explain:
Let’s say you were going to call your friend, Tater Log, to finalize important weekend plans. Plans which would involve wholesome activities that included, building a fire in the woods, attaching baseball cards to bicycle spokes, and confiscating Biblical magazines from someone’s father’s dresser
First, you would walk into the kitchen, lift the 8-pound receiver on your family’s heirloom rotary phone, and you would actually DIAL Tater Log’s phone number, using a rotary dial. You would dial the number from memory.
Correct. We had hundreds of phone numbers memorized. Hundreds of thousands, actually. We even memorized the local bank’s phone number which, every time you called, would tell you the current time and temperature.
“Why did you need to know the time? Didn’t you have clocks?”
You have to worry about America.
So, anyway. When you called Tater Log, his mother would answer first. Which meant you had to answer a string of complicated parental questions about (a) how your mother was doing, (b) how your granny was doing, and (c) how everyone in your direct ancestry was doing, including…