please write, don’t call: my love-hate relationship with telephones

“The telephone, which interrupts the most serious conversations and cuts short the most weighty observations, has a romance of its own.” ~ Virginia Woolf


Rrrrring!!Β  Rrrrrrring!!

Oh, it’s for you. πŸ™‚

Oil on canvas by Raymond Logan

by Edward Field

My happiness depends on an electric appliance
And I do not mind giving it so much credit
With life in this city being what it is
Each person separated from friends
By a tangle of subways and buses
Yes my telephone is my joy
It tells me that I am in the world and wanted
It rings and I am alerted to love or gossip
I go comb my hair which begins to sparkle
Without it I was like a bear in a cave
Drowsing through a shadowy winter
It rings and spring has come
I stretch and amble out into the sunshine
Hungry again as I pick up the receiver
For the human voice and the good news of friends

~ from Counting Myself Lucky (Blacksparrow Press, 1992)


I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with telephones.

I love the way the old ones look, from candlestick to wooden wall crank to trimlines to princess phones. Remember rotary dials and party lines (okay, maybe you’re too young for that)? The point is, there was a sense of design to old telephones along with their utility.

And the best people talk on phones.

How does it feeeeel?

When it rings, you just never know who wants to speak to you, only you.

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you.

Sometimes it’s good news,

sometimes not so good.

You can flirt on the phone,

act all business-like,

pretend you’re really interested in what the other person is saying even when you couldn’t care less.

They can’t see your funny facial expressions!

You never have to dress up to talk on the phone. You can be firm, authoritative, and persuasive even in your shorts.

We can’t go on together with suspicious minds.

If you’re in the mood, you can even have a right neighborly chew-the-fat chat.

You can ask someone out or even propose.

Heck, as long as you have a tuxedo and the right calling plan, you can phone anyone long distance, over time and space. Amazing!

Everyone, but everyone, uses the phone, from Presidents

to Paddingtons.

Yes, even the Queen.

Is it tea yet?


There is just one leetle problemo.

I do not like talking on the phone.

Me, busy?
No, not busy at all.

I hate how the phone interrupts whatever I’m doing: Pay attention to me me me! Pick me up! Stop and talk to me NOW!!

No, you didn’t call at a bad time.

Nine times out of ten it’s a robocall, an annoying credit card alert, a “can you hear me okay?” scam, someone asking for a donation, usually with that annoying opener: “How are you today?”

I was just fine until you called me.

Beechwood 4-5789, you can call me up and have a date, any old time.

I admit, this is pure introvert behavior. Introverts hate to be interrupted, jolted out of deep concentration, expected to instantly transition into polite conversation. I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled — sorry, I am too grumpy to make small talk.

Don’t hang up, no, don’t you do it now, don’t hang up!

I suppose I’ll always prefer the written word to the spoken one. Keep those emails and snail mail letters coming!

But back to the romance of telephones. Please permit me to wax nostalgic.

We still have our landline; a good backup in case of power outages and jammed networks and such. We have several different phones connected to it; they remind me of simpler times when a phone wasn’t a camera, calculator, flashlight, map, weather report, internet browser, jukebox, photo editor, personal shopper, address book, talking personal assistant, and mailman rolled into one.

Jasper likes his Miami phone.


Our kitchen wall phone

Yes, in the old days, a telephone was solely about one person talking to another. It wasn’t a status symbol, it didn’t foster bad manners (why do people assume we want to hear private conversations in restaurants and other public spaces?), and it didn’t blow up and catch fire.

Bedside table phone


Everyone has a phone booth, right? Where else to change into your Superwoman costume?
Our payphone takes quarters. Nice way to make some pocket money.


This little egg phone sits next to my desktop. Judy Moody likes the earpiece that goes with it.

Once upon a time when I was a teen, how I longed for that phone to ring! Will he ever call? Remember spending hours and hours on the phone gabbing with your girlfriends? Oh, the angst, high drama, and gossip burning up those lines!

Let’s face it, the telephone is a vehicle of seduction, and will forever remain a direct line to love won, love lost, and everything in between. There are many great pop songs to prove it, too.

Hello, it’s me.
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet
To go over everything
They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much healing.


If you’re feeling sad and lonely
There’s a service I can render
Tell the one who loves you only
I can be so warm and tender
Call me, don’t be afraid you can call me,
Maybe it’s late but just call me,
Call me and I’ll be around.


Rikki don’t lose that number
You don’t want to call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Rikki don’t lose that number
It’s the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home


Sound familiar? Ah, good times. Enjoy reliving a few more romantic ups and downs via these telephone tunes, and behave yourselves, cause I’ve got your number. πŸ™‚





Rrrrrrring!! Rrrrrrrring!!!

It’s for you again!

Vintage WWI poster by Z.P. Nikolaki (1918)



Ditty-licious Michelle Barnes is hosting the Roundup at Today’s Little Ditty. Ring her up; she’s a cool operator. While you have her on the line, check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week. πŸ™‚


“Middle age is when you’re sitting at home on a Saturday night and the telephone rings and you hope it’s not for you.” ~ Ogden Nash

Copyright Β© 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

50 thoughts on “please write, don’t call: my love-hate relationship with telephones

  1. Especially, groovy to see Miss Ernestine from the omnipotent Phone Co.

    Every telephone & caller you rang up & dialed into this creative memoir, such as your egg phone, phone booth & landline & of course – Mr. Wonder (He can phone me anytime!) – are not to be hung up on.

    It is a love/hate relationship between me & the dials/number pad.
    Would be amiss without it when needed, curse it when I forget to turn down the ringtone to silent. That is one improvement from the old style for those who don’t want interruption.

    I just wrote to say I LOVE this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with you. Love the written word much better! In fact, I just wrote a short story for my writing class from the perspective of a letter, that underused mode of communication. However, I have to admit that I miss those adolescent gab sessions with my friends. Great blog!


    1. In adolescence there was a lot of time to gab on the phone, but later in life, not so much. Also, as I get older, I have less patience for chit chat sometimes. But of course phones are indispensable in emergencies.


  3. Yes, Jama!! I am a total and complete screener! And I cannot stand the sound of a ringing telephone (it’s as bad as TV commercials). My husband set up our answering machine so that it doesn’t ring, and in order for us to hear it, people have to press #s. Solicitors just hang up ;). It’s perfect!!


    1. For some reason our answering machine rings even when I program it not to. Very frustrating. I’m thinking of buying a new one.


  4. This post made my Friday, as your Poetry Friday posts always do, Jama. Those photographs were just too funny – the one of Elvis is my favorite. I have telephone phobia, I’d much rather text.


    1. Yes, talking story in person is a good thing. I’m better in a one-on-one situation, though. Never liked big parties or sitting in meetings.


  5. I loved this! It sums up my feelings exactly. My family jokes that I can do everything on my cell phone except use it as a phone (true). We also still have a landline. I remember the extra long cords that stretched to another room. I also don’t understand those who are on the phone talking through their entire grocery shopping trip. I can’t imagine having that much to say let alone everyone in the store hearing it. (eep!)


    1. Same here — can’t stand people talking in stores or in doctors’ waiting rooms! Everyone can hear the conversation of course — and nobody wants to. It’s very inconsiderate. Those long cords were great; felt like quite a luxury at the time. πŸ™‚


  6. Yes, I spent my teenage years on the phone. That was one of my main hobbies, but I am much less interested in talking on the phone now. I love your photos, Jama!! So many classic shots. I love your house, too. You have the most interesting things.


    1. It’s weird but as a teenager I had a lot to say, now I don’t. Maybe it’s because I spend more time now writing everything down. It was fun to find those old photos. I was surprised how many there were of celebrities talking on the phone!


  7. I truly enjoyed it. I’m am extremely introverted and telephones aren’t my best friend, but it does have thrill the way it would ring back then and would allow you to connect with people. I especially loved the phone during summer break and i couldn’t meet my friends. The phone then was a welcome connection. However with mobile devices, i have grown to dislike phones. I keep mine in silent and try to leave it somewhere far unless necessary.
    This post was fun, the poem, the pictures and your thoughts on telephones. πŸ™‚


    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Iphigene! It sounds like most of us liked the phone when we were younger and it was good connecting with friends that way. Mobile devices are too intrusive, even when they’re shut off — because in the back of your mind you’re wondering what you might be missing. Modern society is addicted to phones and screens. Why must we have our phones with us at all times?


  8. What a great post, Jama! I am no phone fan. In fact, Field’s poem struck me as odd. Not the poem, itself, of courseβ€”it was lovelyβ€”but a poet? who’s an extrovert?? who likes to get phone calls??? Say it ain’t so!!!! I agree, though, phones do have nostalgic charm… like our kitchen wall phone growing up, with the cord that was long enough to extend into the bathroom for those *private* conversations! And I’ll have you know, we DID have a party line when I was young. I remember on a number of occasions having to walk three houses down to tell our neighbor that their phone was off the hook. Ah memories.


    1. Glad I’m not the only one who remembers party lines! Never had to walk three houses down, though. πŸ˜€

      Now that you mention it, I also thought it was strange for a poet to like getting calls — but maybe it was just a persona he created and the poem wasn’t really autobiographical. Yes, that must be it.


  9. This was such a fun post! I love your phone booth.
    I, too, hate, hate, hate, HATE talking on the phone. I am not all that fond of talking (to business folk, etc.) in person, but it seems that the world is not into using couriers and just writing messages. Alas.


    1. Wouldn’t it be nice if people used couriers to send messages all the time? I don’t think I’d mind that at all. Or those missives with sealing wax delivered on horseback πŸ™‚ No, maybe I take that back. One would then have to answer the door to receive the missives. Wouldn’t like that either. A hermit’s life for me . . .


  10. So utterly awesome, Jama. “I just called to say I love you”! The first time someone said that to me was on a phone! This week I just mentioned how nostalgic I was about phones, spoke about the excitement when I got my first “LONG” cord so I could have PRIVACY! Long time ago. In college, we had a kind of phone booth in the hall, and had to sign up for times to make calls. Sometimes there was terrible angst about this! Maybe that why we spent more time with each other rather than on the phone! Thank you for this lovely, made me smile all the way through, post. “It rings and spring has come!”


  11. That is TOO COOL that you first heard those words on the phone. Perfect! Yes, those were the days — those long cords for privacy. We didn’t have a phone booth in our dorm, just a regular phone in the lounge, which was shared by about 10 girls. I don’t remember many conflicts over using it, and whoever happened to be in the area picked up if it rang. We also spent more time being with each other than talking on the phone. The dorm was one long slumber party.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m afraid I long for a phone call. From an agent in love with my book. From a distant relative leaving us an undisclosed family item. From my mother, just to hear her voice one more time. From my great-Aunt Ada, ditto. For the rest, let it ring, let it ring, let it ring! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You sound like a much more extroverted person than I am. And a lot more patient. I admit there are a few, very few, people I don’t mind talking on the phone to, but not for long periods of time. It’s good to hear voices of those who live far away.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t like cell phones, particularly smart phones, but understand that they may be necessary. I do like the older style phones from the ’20’s through ’40’s a lot, though. I also have no idea how to talk to answering machines – they have led to some of the most awkward one-sided conversations I’ve ever had. πŸ˜‰


    1. Well, with an answering machine you are talking to a recording — I don’t know many people who are good at that. It’s kind of a misnomer to call a smart phone a phone — they’re actually small computers, and calling is only one function on it.


  14. I, too, hate talking on the phone, especially nowadays when the little iPhone doesn’t conform to the shape of my ear and slips down to chin and makes it hard to hear and be heard. Text me, or better yet, email!

    I love all the photos you found, Jama. I’m curious about the JFK shot. What do you think that blur of pink is, in front of Jackie’s wedding photo?

    Here’s my favorite, “hello” song:


    1. Oh, that’s a good song!! Thanks for the link. πŸ™‚

      I wondered the same thing about that mystery pink thing. It looks like the shape of a snow globe or something.


  15. This is fabulous! And I’m with you on that love-hate phone relationship (only I’d be heavier on the “hate” since the phone has become the main tool of scammers and spammers). So glad for call display! I do love your little egg phone.


  16. Oh, me too! I hate the phone! It’s a real phobia. And the worst time for someone to call me is before I’ve had coffee in the morning…

    Thanks for including the Stevie video! I like the Todd Rundgren song, too.


    1. The early morning or late evening callers are the worst. It’s never really important either. Thought of you when I posted the Stevie video! πŸ™‚


  17. I’m not too young for party lines. We had six on our party line growing up. Many times it was a challenge to place a phone call and resist the temptation to listen in. But my parents taught us to be polite and to respect privacy so I resisted the temptation to repeatedly click the phone so they might hang up and I resisted the temptation to listen in.

    I guess I have a love-hate, too. But maybe I have more love in my love-hate than you do. I do love old phones. And seeing the variety of phones you have was really a treat. But I love my smartphone, too. I think it helps me avoid a lot of phone calls due to having texting and email readily at hand. And I can screen calls easily. If the number isn’t in my contacts, I don’t answer. We have a landline but we never answer it. It goes to voicemail. Most calls are telemarketers and few leave messages.

    My extra dose of love for my phone comes from the fact that my son, parents, and three sisters all live miles away. We communicate often by phone. I really look forward to their calls.

    As always, such a fun, fun post, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least I’m not the only one who remembers party lines. I never listened in; the conversations didn’t sound interesting enough to me. I do remember others impatiently clicking while I was talking. Rude!

      Smartphones are quite a wonder. I’m sure I don’t do 1/10 the stuff that it’s possible to do. I’ve refrained from loading my phone with too many apps because I don’t want to feel obligated to use them. Keep it nice and basic. The camera is very handy and texting can be enjoyable, but by no means I am one of those people who has to check their phones every minute.

      I guess I like old phones from a design standpoint — with some I can’t turn off the ringer or if I have to press numbers in response to a recording not all of them can do that.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Jama, I am several days late to this telephone party….thank goodness for a snow day that gives me extra reading time! Oh, so fun looking at your incredible photos of phones and all the different ways telephones have shaped our culture and our lives. I wonder just how much time it takes to put one of your incredible posts together?! They are stellar and so entertaining. Thank you for this delightful….chat.


  19. Oh, Jama, we are kindred spirits! I love the thought of the phone, but when it actually rings, and I have to TALK to someone, all bets are off. I’ve been known to get in the car, drive to a place of business, and ask my question in person just to avoid making a call. (much to my husband’s chagrin!) =)


    1. I knew you were a kindred spirit, Bridget! I’ve never actually driven anywhere to talk to someone in person vs. talking to them over the phone, which means even though we both don’t like phone calls, I’m lazier than you are. πŸ˜€


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