Go ahead and admit it - with great pride and your head held high… you’ve been spending more time on the phone lately, haven’t you?
It may be one of the single greatest positive acts that has resulted from the coronavirus pandemic. People have definitely been talking to one another on the phone, more than they had been in any of the recent past.
And all this talking, it got me thinking... about Lucy Ricardo...
Because Lucy always spent massive amounts of time on the phone.
I’m a huge ‘I Love Lucy’ fan. I have been, my whole life. My grandparents turned me onto it, and when I think of Lucy, I think of them. I have memories of being with my Papa and Grandma - in person - in their house, with Lucy playing in the background.
While we visited, and talked, and laughed, and cooked, and baked, and played games, and read, and celebrated holidays, as well as a whole heck of a lot of regular days, Lucy tended to be there right alongside us.
And whether you’re a fan or not, my point about Lucy is this:
She spent a lot of time at home. Inside her house.
She wasn’t quarantined. There was no active plague. But she was at home, a lot.
But home, or not, she always seemed to get herself into some sort of trouble. Big or small. There was always a crisis, many times of her own making, that needed solving.
And with problem solving comes communication. And so she was always on the phone. Trying to solve one problem - while creating many others in her wake.
Lucy talked so much on the phone that it might have well been her speciality... Her art. Her unique talent in life.
But I also tend to think she used the phone simply to help pass some of her time - in between and amongst those many problems, of course.
And Ricky was always making fun of her for that time spent. He’d be reading the paper, and she’d be on the phone - for hours at a time. Ricky couldn’t understand it! He couldn’t fathom how a person could spend so much of their time talking into that odd-shaped device? And most of the time it was all just chit-chat. Lucy gossiping with her friends. Rumors spreading, and lots of laughing. And always getting herself into scrapes - of varying degrees of that trouble I mentioned.
And a lot of those phone calls were between her and Ethel Mertz. Her best friend, landlord, and close neighbor. They lived one floor apart in the same apartment building - directly above and below one another - for years.
And even though they lived so very, very close, they spent hours on that telephone, with each other.
After hours - of gabbing away - as Ricky might say, one of them would come to the realization that they needed to borrow a cup of sugar from the other. They’d then hang up the phone, and go up or down the single flight of stairs, to get the cup of sugar from the other, in person.
And Ricky would then be even further confused… thinking - why couldn’t they have talked in person that whole time?
So today, while people are keeping some seriously major distance from one another - they have been seeking new ways of communication. And it’s almost like people have re-discovered the phone, and what it’s original intended use was for.
Cause it certainly wasn’t originally intended to get your news, your emails, your social media notifications, or to play video games. It was to talk, using voice.
Maybe a lost art?
Because people just don’t really do it anymore.
Instead, people rely almost solely on the following:
Tweets. Texts. Telegrams - oh wait, we don’t have that one anymore, do we?
Snaps. Tagging. Email. Private Message. Facebook. Insta. Video. Zoom. Stories. Etc, etc. etc.
Digital communication - and a lot of written digital communication - rules.
But on the worst days of the plague, when I was still out and about and working, I noticed something I hadn’t seen in a very long time… And I heard something I hadn’t heard in a very long time either.
And that was the act of people talking to another over the phone. And this is what I heard them saying into those devices...
“I love you.”
“How are you?”
“Is everything ok?”
“How are you feeling?”
“Where are you right now?”
“I’ll be there soon.”
“What can I bring you?”
“Hang in there.”
“I love you.” - I mentioned that one already.
But you know what?
I heard that one so many times, it was most definitely significant.
And if I wasn’t out of the house during the plague, I might not have believed what I heard myself.
As now many articles have been written regarding how phone calls have made a real and significant comeback during the pandemic… Stats, numbers, and charts giving authoritative proof to that numerical statistical change - I only needed to see it first-hand, in my own little corner of the world, to know how true it really was.
With people’s necks constantly bent down, eyeballs looking at their phone screens, for years upon years now, then quickly adapted into actually seeing their heads up, and talking from their mouths, and listening from their ears, the change was real.
Maybe talking on the phone has become so rare that the act of doing so has become an actual gift - to another. A gift of time… Especially today, in this ever-innovative, fast-paced, and digital age.
Tweeting… and texting... it’s all so very fast, so instant, and so non-commital of a person’s time, that a quick bubble of letters and numbers and symbols and emojis has seemingly replaced real, verbal communication, enmasse.
But a phone call means commitment too.
In a way the digitally written word does not.
A phone call means really taking that time and sitting down - to chat - with another - one-on-one. Devoting one’s personal time and voice and ear to another human, for a specified chunk of one’s time.
While the written word, and the internet, is, as they say - permanent, or cannot be taken back after it’s out there in a sense, the phone call remains something permanent as well.
Because it means you gave that time away to another person in a way that cannot ever be taken back. You cannot recall it. You cannot hit the Delete button. You cannot erase it. You cannot unpin it. You cannot wipe it. So the phone call has, in a pandemicy kind of way, become a valuable, and non-regiftable, present.
And not to say that there are numerous societal benefits to texting and instant messaging, but the phone call is now special in its own way.
With entire generations currently growing up on social media and digital communication being the norm, the phone call is seemingly less and less important to society as a whole.
But, just like war, plagues have a way of changing things... Of amending the trajectory of society. And, thus, the way people communicate. For better and for worse. And while most all of the plague lies in the worse category, for obvious reasons, there are most definitely some good aspects of global change that have developed out of this crisis...
And that is the clear and present fact that people the world over have started talking to another once again.
And I got in on the act myself, too.
Talking on the phone is actually one of the things I had been praticing myself these past few years of living far away from friends and family.
I knew that, with moving away from everything and everyone I knew, I would need to rely on the phone more so than I had in the past, to stay in touch with those I love.
So over these past few years, after my move to The Sunshine State from Illinois, I had already been trying to be in better, one-on-one communication, with many, many people.
But the coronavirus ended up only strengthening that resolve further.
During the course of this virus, it sometimes feels as if I spoke with more friends and family from afar on the phone than I had in the whole time since I moved away. And I think maybe that feeling is actually true.
I have reached out to loved ones, and they have also reached out to me. All, over the phone. No, it wasn’t email. It wasn’t Facebook. It wasn’t Instagram. And it certainly wasn’t TikTok or SnapChat.
Crisis does bring people closer together. And sometimes a text just doesn’t count. Sometimes hearing another’s voice is all the more important, and valuable, in a time of fear, loneliness, crisis, confusion, and loss.
And whether we lost someone we know personally, or not, during these past months of crisis, we all lost a whole heck of a lot…. of a whole heck of a lot.
Life is changed.
And it’s up to us to Adapt to those changes. Modify. And Proceed.
And it is now my call to action - to you, fellow humans out there in InternetLand - to pick up that cellular phone. Today. And call someone you haven’t talked to in a while.
Flip through your digital Rolodex. Choose some digits. And talk.
Use this long, holiday weekend… And maybe spend a long while on the phone with that person.
And maybe even if that person lives just around the corner from you.
Maybe even if they are your Ethel, and you are their Lucy.
Even if they live so close to you that you can reach out your arm, maybe by standing on your own balcony, stretching less than six feet apart, and swap with them a cup of sugar - in exchange for a stick of butter, or a cup of flour. Even if you are that close. Pick up the phone. And give them a call.
Let that cup of sugar be your excuse if need be.
Because while the entire world keeps on changing, and keeps on spinning, some things just never change… Plague or no plague…
There’s still more problems that need solving…
And Lucy and Ethel still need to gossip… And there’s still another celebration on the way - another cake to bake - and yet still another cup of sugar to borrow. ~
*Have you picked up the phone more so lately, during the coronavirus? Who have you called recently that you haven’t talked to in a very long time? I’d love to know. Drop me a comment down below:
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