When I was in my last year of The Brownies and aiming to get my Golden Hand badge, part of the test was to make a phone call; a far cry from this week’s news of a major revamping of badges with Rainbows, Brownies and Guides encouraged to take part in new challenges involving app design, entrepreneurship, “speaking out”, upcycling or vlogging.
But my little task was still a big challenge for me. We did not have a telephone at home and it was about this time that my friend and I were sent up the road to the phone box with some coins, a set of instructions and a mission; to phone my father at the office. To this day I have no idea what was so urgent that could not wait till he came home from Waterloo with all the other commuters. My friend was sensible and two years older than me, but still we did not achieve our task; the mysteries of Buttons A and B defeated us.
Meanwhile, back at the house of a complete stranger, a respectable middle aged woman, my task was to phone Brown Owl. I was as terrified as anyone going for a driving test or important job interview; I failed, probably the only Brownie in history to have to do a re-sit for her Golden Hand.
A letter in the paper the other day suggested we had forgotten how intrusive the telephone was, how wonderful emails are and how infuriating people are who refuse to use them. I heartily agree, emails were made for me. I have never liked phone calls; they always come at the wrong moment, or the phone stops ringing just as you race in from the garden with muddy hands. Hands free phones are a help, but still interrupt your favourite programme.
I admire people who efficiently get on the phone the moment something breaks down or a letter arrives in the post requiring action; I’m more inclined to write on my list of things to do – phone insurance co. ring boiler repairs. When it comes to personal calls I procrastinate… they might be cooking/eating their dinner, feeding the baby, making love, watching Eastenders, I’ll call later… later they might be having an early night… I’ll call tomorrow…
Emails can be written any time and the receiver can read them when it suits and not be caught off guard; with time to think of a good excuse not to come to your coffee morning. The other advantage is to message all your friends, club members etc at the same time, but there is always one person in every club or group who does not do email and constantly complains ‘Why can’t you just ring round.’ We should not rush to judge; how many decades passed between the phone being invented and everyone having a telephone in their homes? Even people who are on the internet forget to check their emails and miss important messages.
Technology rolls on rapidly; we don’t use our mobile phones as phones, but to read our emails. Emails themselves are being superseded by What’sApp and Facebook Messenger. How easy it is to message six people at once on the other side of the world and send them photos. On your computer you can follow Facebook and have several message boxes open in the corner of your screen…
And then there’s Skype and FaceTime etc which bring us round full circle to actually talking personally to someone. Ironically ‘Televisionphones’ have been invented, but they are not the screens attached to our immovable house phones that we once imagined. Now we can wander around in our pyjamas showing relatives on the other side of the world what our new house looks like.
But emails are so useful if you wish to avoid eye contact or awkward conversations.
The first story in my latest collection ‘Someone Somewhere’ starts with the words ‘I got an email from him…’ an enigmatic message is the only clue to a lost son…