I’m fine with change. No. Really. I am. I embrace technology. Honest. Except for group texting. I’ve even grown comfortable taking the time to put five or six of those little faces at the end of a message. I learned early on from my friend’s mistake—she wrote a sympathetic response to an email about a death in the family and signed it LOL, thinking it meant Lots of Love. She never did that again. Old people can learn and grow.
Generally speaking, people just don’t seem to get you when you’re twice their age. I went to the doctor a while back for a routine check-up and they had a new PA who started over-pronouncing all her words in a loud voice, like I was deaf and senile. I finally had to set her straight. “Hey, I just gave the keynote at a leadership conference in Antwerp. Let’s get on with this.”
But, here’s the thing. I was watching a Bette Davis movie the other night. So, we know that was from the 1930s or 40s. And she was smoking her head off, the way Bette Davis always did—walking across a room with those long dramatic strides. Walking and puffing. She was anxious because she was a very bad person and she was in a spot. The phone sat on the table. Where is he and why hasn’t he called? Something’s gone terribly wrong. Should she call or not? She decides to call. She picks up the receiver and we listen to the purr and click, tension building with each turn of that rotating dial. The phone rings at the other end. She stands there twisting the phone cord around her fingers, praying he’ll answer. But the phone just rings and rings. How else can she reach him? She can’t. What else can she do? Nothing. Our hearts are pounding.
Now, I can’t help imagining what that scene would have looked like, first of all, without the cigarette. I’m not a smoker, but you have to admit how cool it looked in those old black and white flicks, before we knew better. Remember “Now Voyager?” Paul Henreid puts not one, but two cigarettes to his lips and lights them both (the cigarettes, not the lips)—then gives one of the cigarettes to, who else, Bette Davis. That was one of the all-time romantic gestures of its day, especially when the smoke curled up between them so enchantingly. (Okay—forget that smoking gave her so many wrinkles she was playing in horror movies at the end of her career.)
Anyway, imagine that she picks up the phone and instead of the slow purring, she just pushes these little buttons and we hear boop-beep-beep-boop-boop-beep-boop. Such a silly sound. Talk about losing the moment.
And, what if she knew exactly how to reach him because he had a cell phone. “Where are you,” she would ask. Imagine, in 1940, calling someone up and asking where they are. Where else could they be? They’re answering the phone, right? They have to be in a house or an office of some kind, on the only phone that’s there…a hard line, which will no doubt, at some point in the movie, be ripped from the wall. And, by the way, no answering machines either, thank heavens. Casablanca: “This is Rick. Leave a message.” Sacrilege.
Think of all those old “stranded” movies. Peter Lawford and Esther Williams alone on an island. Pretty romantic, unless they had cell phones. I can just see them running helter-skelter, yelling, “OMG, no bars!!”
It’s not just the old movies. What if the Glenn Miller orchestra had to play Pennsylvania Six Five Thousand with an area code.
Change be damned–some things simply ought not to be tampered with.