Can’t Cut That Last Cord by
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Prompted By Cutting the Cord

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I have certainly come a long way with technology in my lifetime. We even dropped our landline in our move to a condo in 2020. But I’m not sure we can cut that final cord and break up with Comcast. Streaming without cable is where I may have to draw the line. There are only so many tricks an old dog can learn.

I have cut lots of cords in my lifetime as technology changed, but I’m still afraid to let go of that last cord that enables me to understand how to operate my television.

When I was a kid, social media consisted of listening in to other folks talking on our party line. We had one dial-style telephone in our flat and shared it with another “party” or maybe more. Telephones were off-limits to children. The phone was meant for short, important communication and could only be used if no one else in the network of shared users was talking on it. Of course, like most other children with party lines in their homes, I eavesdropped on those conversations.

My parents viewed the telephone similarly to how my kids and grandkids view texting. State your business quickly, communicate your message, and disconnect. Of course, the reasons are totally different. For my parents, the phone was an amazing but expensive form of communication. Long distance calls were costly and thus had to be short and convey important news. Someone was born. Someone died. Even when the price of these calls outside of your immediate neighborhood came down, my parents never adjusted. When I called them on Sunday afternoon from college, and later from Chicago to Detroit, my father would terminate the conversation after three minutes. After all, it was long distance.

For my generation, technology improved, people lived further apart, and the phone cord became my lifeline. The rotary dial of the single phone in my parents’ home was replaced by push button phones still tethered to the wall in my own home. The cost of making local phone calls was part of the regular phone bill, and I spent far too much time talking to my friends about issues with our kids, Watergate, good books to read, and whose kid was reprimanded by the very strict fifth grade teacher. The isolation we felt as parents of young kids was relieved by these rambling conversations, mostly as we prepared dinner. That was definitely phone-a-friend time.

In those days, I had a long phone cord that enabled me to reach boxes of Kraft mac and cheese, fish sticks, and frozen corn to feed my children (don’t judge) while my conversations fed my brain. My friends from that era and I think it’s a wonder our children grew into healthy adults. We laughed that our phone cords were so long and stretched out that we could reach into our family rooms to monitor our kids while we tucked the phone under our chins and just talked. My children were likely watching TV or fighting, and my conversations were frequently interrupted by a “hold on” as I dealt with their needs for Band-Aids, arbitration, permission to visit a friend, or just a bit of attention. Then, I returned to my need for communication with another adult.

After contemplating my phone habits as a parent, I guess I should be less judgmental about my kids being on their cell phones when their kids are clamoring for attention. As one of my daughters often reminds me, she is now middle-aged and capable of choosing her own phone habits. I guess she learned from the master, me, that being on the phone is part of parenting. I get it.

But here’s the thing. Once the phone was no longer tied to a specific location, everything changed for her generation. Constant communications and interruptions have extended far beyond dinner prep time. They can take place anywhere and anytime. In the car. At the zoo. On a beach vacation. Over a family dinner. And they are not just lifelines between friends. More often, they are calls related to her job that she knows she will have to return later if she doesn’t deal with them at that moment.

I think I’m pretty tech-savvy for a 77-year-old. I have evolved from email, which folks of my generation still embrace, to texting if I want a response from someone young. Lately, I’ve taken to texting people to tell them I sent a longer email that I hope they’ll read. After some initial resistance, my boomer friends and I are now texting each other all the time. Most of us find phone calls an annoying interruption. I have finally accepted the true beauty of texts. Convey the information quickly. Answer with an emoji. Done.

I have come full circle from the days when the umbilical cord of my old kitchen phone connected me to my friends. Like my parents before me and my kids and grandkids, I now avoid long conversations. They cost me valuable time. So, I have cut lots of cords in my lifetime as technology changed. But I’m still afraid to let go of that last cord that enables me to understand how to operate my television. I know logically I can stream anything I want without my old friend Comcast. But emotionally, it feels like a bridge too far. Maybe that’s a cord I’m just too old to cut.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Love the photo Laurie!
    I too had a long cord on the kitchen wall phone and I remember talking while cooking dinner – or did I ever regularly cook dinner ? Who remembers, lately the mind is like a kitchen sieve!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Though not quite your age, Laurie, we are from the same generation (thought we never had a party line in our house). Long distance calls were VERY expensive! I called collect and asked for a cousin who didn’t live with us when I got safely back to Brandeis at the end of each holiday so my father knew I had arrived. I would only call cousins or friends if I was n an airport, passing through on business.

    But cutting the cord to Comcast means paying monthly for every streaming service we wish to watch and that can get expensive too. We still watch network TV, including local news. We are definitely not ready to cut that cord.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I think we had a signal like that too. It would be a collect call for someone not in my family, and they would refuse it. The streaming thing is frustrating, but we decided not to feel too bad about things we were missing and limit ourselves to a few. I know we could watch everything that’s on Comcast but this old dog won’t be learning that new trick.

  3. pattyv says:

    Laurie, you brought back such memories for me. Yes that phone was our number one life line, sometimes spending hours on it, especially during child rearing stage. My family and I are all local and I laugh as I remember my mom getting an attitude if we didn’t phone in every night. Isn’t it funny how that could aggravate you, and yet you’d give anything to be able to phone her now.

  4. Khati Hendry says:

    You are so right about texting young people! They never look at an e-mail and don’t answer a phone call, and it’s not just young people any more.

  5. Dave Ventre says:

    It really wasn’t that long ago that long-distance calls were considered special and pricey. I remember a TV ad where a guy wanted to inform his parents that he’d had a baby, but didn’t want to pay for the call. So he’d instructed his parents to refuse the call. When he called, he said it was from “Bob Wehaddababyeeetsaboy.”

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