The Coast News Group
Small Talk

Sometimes e-mail just doesn’t cut it

Even as I sit at my computer, I need to send a shout out to Alexander Graham Bell. I stepped away from the gifts of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and went old school this week.
The morning after Thanksgiving, I climbed back into bed armed with my address book, and gave in to what we used to call the “Black-Cord Syndrome.” Like many things in the 21st century, that description doesn’t apply anymore since phones no longer have much in the way of cords, black or otherwise.
Having a decent phone conversation cannot be done in haste. It takes 10 or 15 minutes just to get through the basics. Then one question leads to another until you have pretty much solved all the world’s most pressing problems. It was as satisfying as a good dinner party with no dirty dishes to do.
Through great luck, everyone I called was just unscheduled enough to indulge in a lengthy conversation. It was about 11 a.m. in Atlanta, and my college chum had tasty tales to tell of the successful pumpkin pecan cheesecake she had made the day before. Talk of children led to talk of the news from Dubai, the state of her garden, and the lowdown on any mutual friends.
It was noonish in Maine when I connected with my extended family there. The parents of my son’s freshman-year roommate have become dear friends over the past three years and I count that as one of life’s enormous gifts. You sign your child up, hold your breath and one time out of 10,000, they don’t just get a roommate. They get a best friend and a second family who lives somewhere nearby and wonderful, to boot. Besides, those conversations always give me the real dirt into what my kid’s been up to.
My next call let me vicariously watch a terrific storm roll in at a small horse ranch south of Reno. I love that where this friend lives, their storm warning is the critters — dogs and horses — doing laps around the house. She was sitting by her window, watching the weather come over the mountains, perfect for a thorough catch-up by phone. Did I mention this woman has made me laugh until I cried since 1969? Now that’s a friend.
My final call was to a former editor, younger, much hipper friend based in Hawaii with her Marine husband and three children under 10. If you are feeling the least bit inadequate, you’ll want to steer clear of this woman. We talked of her art shows, grant writing, life on the island, newspapers and, of course, children. Just listening to her energizes and exhausts me simultaneously.
I keep in intermittent touch with these folks via the Internet or the occasional silly card, but I had forgotten what a joy it is to hear their voices, ask unexpected questions and get an immediate answer that leads to three more questions. Every one of them had interesting, meaningful, hilarious, fascinating things to tell me. They made me think and laugh. When I hung up I felt like I’d gotten a big warm hug. I was very much in need of a big warm hug, but truly didn’t anticipate getting it via the phone.
I have to admit, as we chatted I kept wishing for ol’ Scotty to beam me over. Still, from beneath my down comforter, I got to make sure they knew how thankful I was to have their friendship, and to remember exactly why I love them all so. That will have to do for this decade.