We often forget that our memories are proof of how the world has evolved. That we are all walking historians carrying a piece of the collective human experience. Perhaps walking into a new decade of my life made me wax philosophical, but there’s no denying that change is all around me. That some of the things I witnessed and explored as a child are already obsolete or extinct.
For example, I vividly remember a time when all it took to call a person was dialing 7 digits. No area code required much less a country code – unless you had family overseas or in the military. The only other means were the singing and traditional telegraphs. Cellphones and the internet were expensive, inaccessible, and only used by rich Wall Street guys or government officials. Letters took weeks. Payphones were everywhere!
Our sacred lifeline: A random combination of numbers, gifted to my grandparents by the Puerto Rico Telephone company 50+ years ago.
The tack tack tack of the rotary dial channeled our hopes, dreams and fears through thin copper wires 24/7, 365 days a year. For better or worse, the voice responding through the receiver would be ambushed by uncertainty, greeting formally to avoid being impolite. The subtle relief of a fellow introvert palpable once they recognized the caller. More often than not, the invisible host would be happy to greet you or eager to console you; to confirm that you were safe and sound despite the circumstances.
Weddings. Divorces. Births. Deaths. Quinceañeros. Graduations. Promotions. Crank calls. Collect long distance calls. Hurricane check-ins. Every single family milestone was planned, discussed or celebrated through the always reliable, self powered, old school telephone. If the original wall unit could speak, it would recount stories of hope, heartache, and perseverance. As the base evolved from analog to digital, the number dialed remained the same. Even after the area code was added, and international calls became the rage. Even after everyone started carrying mini computer phones in their pockets, it refused to become irrelevant.
The magnificent seven were and are a valued and trusted steward of our family.