Ma Bell’s Great-Great-Grandchildren

How many of you have given up your telephone landline? Keep your hands up if you’re under 40.

How many of you have given up your telephone landline? Keep your hands up if you’re under 40.

Just as I thought, people who live in a landline-free home are relatively young. It’s not surprising. Young people don’t even use their cell phones for talking anymore: they text each other. And younger people are not intimidated by a world where each individual has their own phone number because the numbers are all programmed into their cell phones. If, however, they need to make a call on someone else’s phone, they are up the proverbial creek without a paddle!

The most obvious benefit to a landline is that you only need to memorize a single phone number in order to reach everyone who lives at a particular residence. At eleven digits per phone number, memorizing multiple people’s numbers can become challenging quickly, particularly as you get older.

If age has not yet robbed you of your ability to memorize new data, but you find yourself unable to remember multiple numbers for a single household, the problem might be psychological. For instance, if your grown child, who never really liked you, insists that you check in once a week, you may persist in calling her home number, hoping that your grandchild will answer and you’ll be able to talk to someone who is truly happy to hear from you. If you called your child on their cell, you’d have to talk to them.

And what about emergencies? The landline connects you to the outside world (unless you have my mother’s service provider and live on her street, in which case the phone is often dead, but that’s another post). Cell phones, on the other hand, need to be charged. Mine chirps periodically to indicate that its battery is low. I dread that noise. It signals to the others in the house that I am irresponsible. If my cell phone were a Tamagotchi, I would have killed it long ago.

Unlike men, women do not always wear clothes with pockets; that is why we carry a purse. My cell phone lives in my purse. I don’t, however, carry my purse around the house with me. If my cell phone rings during the day I am unlikely to hear it, or else I will get to it too late to answer it. I have several landline handsets in the house. There is always one close at hand.

Since young people no longer actually talk on the phone, I predict that there will be a resurgence of text-only devices. We’ll revert to carrying pagers. No one will use phones at all anymore. It will be quieter, but we’ll free up our memories for more important things, like where we put our car keys.

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