It just so happened that Tink and I had gone to the Dairy Shake to grab lunch. We were talking about cell phones and landlines.
Without going into a long tale, I’ll just say that there is a phone company that has the ability to ruin two or three of my days, monthly. It’s always a long rigamarole.
I had run across an article that said the legislators of some states had voted to allow the discontinuance of landlines if the phone company wanted that choice. I am in great hopes that this is an internet rumor. For I shall never — never — shed our landlines willingly.
We do make quite a few business calls to Los Angeles. This is quite fine if someone answers on the landline at his office but most people take the calls through their cell phones while waiting in the horrendous L.A. traffic. It is, more often than not, a miserable experience. The calls echo, drop, or have loud, constant static.
Someone is repeatedly saying, “I’m sorry. I didn’t get that. What did you say?”
“When my cousin, Mike, and I were seven and made a phone line with tin cans and hay baling twine, our connection was better than that,” I said one day when we hung up from a conference call to L.A. in which the call had disconnected, twice. And it had only been a two-minute conversation.
My sister announced that they had moved into “the modern era” by giving up their landline and would only be using their cell phones. Here’s the first thing I always think about when someone says that: The day that Mama dropped dead from a brain aneurysm, the landline connected us to emergency services within seconds. In times like that, seconds matter. You don’t want to be waiting for the call to find a tower to complete. Or — and this happens to me about 30 percent of the time because we live out in the country — a message pops up that says, “No Service.” Maybe herds of cattle move the wrong way and block the signal.
Here’s another reason to keep your trusty landline: You never know who will call and what a blessing it might be.
At Mama’s house, we have the landline with the same phone number from 1957 when it was a three-party line. One afternoon, I was working at Mama’s when her phone rang.
“Is this Ralph’s phone?” a man asked.
“Yes, it is.”
He started laughing. “Well, I’ll be. Sometimes, I go down through my phone book and see which numbers from way back still work. They shore ain’t many of ‘em.” It was my cousin, Don, so we had a nice little catch-up session about the family and what all was going on.
The timing of the next call that came to Mama’s house was amazing. I had just walked in from lunch with Tink, where we had discussed phone services, and was picking up my laptop to work. That wonderful, old ringing sound filled the air and I walked to the kitchen, picked up a corded phone and said, “Hello?”
An old man with the voice that sounded like aged gravel tumbling against each other, asked, “Is this Ralph Satterfield’s house?”
“Yes, it is.”
“May I speak to Ralph?” he asked.
I took a tender breath and explained that he had passed away several years ago. The man choked up.
“I was afraid of that,” he replied.
The man then introduced himself and told me that Daddy had “put me to work at his garage on South Bradford,” somewhere back in the fifties. The man is now 94.
“I worked for him for years. No finer man did I ever know.”
At the kitchen table, I sat and listened while he told me stories and unknown history.
If I hadn’t had a landline, I would have woefully missed that precious conversation.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “Mark My Words: A Memoir of Mama.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.