Our family is among members of a shrinking minority. We still have a landline phone in our home. We also have two tiny palm-size black cellphones, which are constantly being lost in the living room cushions. Those little cells are handy, but as I say, they are always kicking around the house or in someone’s pocket. We have a smartphone, too, a tricky device that none of us seem to understand.
According to a U.S. government report released a few months ago, 50.8 homes and apartments had only cellphone service in the latter part of 2016. That is a scary report because when I try to reach someone by landline phone, half the time the message I get is, “That telephone is no longer in service.” Obviously, they’ve switched to cell.
Seniors are more likely to use landlines. It’s probably a habit. In our home, we have a landline anchored to our kitchen wall just above a small TV set. It is a feeling of security because we know it’s always there when we go to answer its ring. Landline phones never get lost.
IT'S IRRITATING and inconvenient when it’s important to reach a cell number from a landline and you don’t have the number. Last week, I tried to reach a friend to offer “Happy Birthday” greetings. The phone voice responded, “That number is no longer in service.” I felt that was irresponsible because I had just found the number, in black and white, in a phone book. That person had obviously just switched from landline to cellphone. I wonder how many greetings they missed that afternoon.
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On the other hand, the thick telephone books of today would get a little thicker by adding cellphone numbers alongside landline numbers. A little asterisk could be added alongside the cellphone number. Or, separate cellphone books should be issued for a fee. It might make someone a few unexpected bucks.
It’s a worry that when our great-grandchildren get old enough, they will look at the landline phone in our kitchen and ask, “Grandpa, how do I use this thing to call home?”
I GREW UP on the landline phone. I remember the number, “Walnut 1661.” The landline phone was not portable beyond length of the cord and thus not easily movable from its place on an end table alongside the upright piano. The family store had a brief number for business purposes so the customers could place their order quickly. It was “Kenwood 65.”
I cannot shake the landline. On my office office wall, I have a genuine 1940s-1960s pay phone. Kids visiting my office ask, “What’s that?” They are mystified by the three slots at the top for nickels, dimes and quarters. I always drop a dime in the 10-cent slot and they love to hear the little “ding” sound.
It's like when they hear the little bell when reaching the end of a line on my old Royal typewriter.