Monday, March 21, 2011

Here Today...

I read an article in the Times about how people no longer call each other on the phone, but use e-mail instead.  If they do call, they first arrange the call via e-mail.

So true.  Somehow we have all gotten the feeling since e-mail became available that to call people up on an impulse is presumptuous.  Now, if I call without obtaining prior permission via e-mail, I make sure to ask, the minute I identify myself, "is this a good time?"

Spontaneous, non-business phone calls have gone the way of drop-in visits.  Remember those?  I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of impromptu visitors who have come to the door in my adult life.  But when I was a kid, family and friends of my parents used to drop by all the time. 

In Spain, whether the visitor was a family member or a life-long friend, he or she was always ushered into the living room.  We were amazed, in our first years in the U.S., when people would follow us into the kitchen, leaning against the counter and chatting away while we made them coffee.  In Spain, you could visit your aunt weekly for decades, and never see her kitchen.

I remember certain visitors eliciting some covert eye-rolling on my mother's part.  I remember resenting having to interrupt my homework or get off the phone to go into the living room to greet them.  But a lot of visits turned into impromptu dinner parties, my  mother saying, "Why don't I make some omelettes?" and all of us welcoming the respite from daily routine.

With the entrance of women into the workforce, however, the spontaneous visitor first became endangered, then extinct.  What's the use of knocking on someone's door when only a lonely dog will answer?  And it would take one heck of a visitor--perhaps an archangel in human form--to pleasantly surprise a woman who, after a day in the office, is trying to hold on to sanity while sauteing onions and supervising the kids' homework.  Curiously, some people still say "come see us sometime," but who would be crass enough to take them up on it?

During the long era of phone calls,  I fixed many a dinner with the phone jammed between ear and shoulder, the long cord following me from stove to fridge, while on the other end I could hear my caller banging pots and pans in her own kitchen.  Now the phone, even with the advent of cordless sets and cell phones, has gone the way of drop-ins.

Instead--who'd have thought it?--we type messages to each other, and a whole edifice of etiquette has sprung up around e-mail, regulating whom to message and how frequently, the appropriateness of forwarding, the rules of attachments.  But who knows how long e-mail will last?  I  hear its death-knell on the pages of Facebook, which has already supplanted blogging for many people.

First there were impromptu visits, then phone chats, then e-mail, then Facebook.  This very minute, legions are abandoning Facebook in favor of Twitter, which eventually will itself be deemed slow and cumbersome and replaced by the flash between synapses recorded by implanted devices and instantly conveyed to a preselected list of "friends."

11 comments :

  1. Boy, are you gonna be surprised when I show up on your doorstep one day. (Notice I am typing this warning, not calling you.)

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  2. I love this post!!!! Do you think eventually people will lose their voices, except to shout at politicians or like politicians?

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  3. See what I mean? (But stay, and I'll make you an omelette.)

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  4. mrb, first the voice will go, then the fingers....

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  5. "In Spain, you could visit your aunt weekly for decades, and never see her kitchen."

    that fascinates me. In my father's working class irish-american family, I think I was 8 or 9 before I ever went into my grandmother's living room. Everything, the whole life of her family, happened in the kitchen.

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  6. Bridgett, despite the great food that was cooked in them, kitchens were dark, unwelcoming, strictly functional spaces...sort of like bathrooms. In MY kitchens, on the other hand, I have, whenever possible, made room for a comfortable chair or sofa (no room for that in the present one, unfortunately).

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  7. we never had drop-in guests when i was a kid. with 12 in the house as it was, friends were discouraged from ever visiting. and if they did, there was a hard and fast rule: no strangers (i.e., non-family, no matter how well we knew them) upstairs.

    i love facebook. i am in touch with more people than ever--friends far and wide. i love the casualness of it--if i haven't spoken to someone in 10 years, it would be awkward to write a letter or call them up; there's so much ground to cover, so much to explain! but on facebook you can just drop into an existing conversation with no trouble at all.

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  8. all that said, i woudln't mind an omelette.

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  9. Laurie, I can tell you're fond of Facebook--and it's o.k. with me as long as your beautiful blog doesn't get shortchanged. And drop in any time--we always have a few eggs on hand.

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  10. Wow. Where to begin. Oh, omelettes. Lali's sre the best and if I'd known that I could get one by dropping in on her I'd have been sorely tempted to do so but wouldn't have because I never ever drop in on people. Every now and then someone drops in on me and the timing is perfect and it is a wonderful spontaneous mini-party - but if it had been the wrong time I would have had a meltdown.

    I still frequently make dinner with the phone jammed between ear and shoulder talking mostly to family, who call at will and talk at length, and I have friend who has a phone headset so she can get stuff done. I phone this friend a lot and usually get a busy signal. This is either a) the exception that proves the rule, b)a sign that civilization is dead, or c) a sign that civilization is not dead.

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  11. Phone sets may be the answer to civilization's woes.

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