Dec
21

Cell phones save lives

By

When I was first living in Venice, back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, cell phones were just beginning to catch on. It seems strange — insane — to think of it now, but there were still few enough to justify making passing comments such as “Buy! Buy!” when someone ostentatiously walked by, talking into this little gimcrack.

Now, of course, we can’t even metabolize  simple sugars without them.

One night, in those distant years, we were walking home along the Fondamenta San Basegio. All at once we were startled to hear a woman’s voice suddenly, very loud, right behind us.

Mothers: omnipotent, omniscient, omni everything, even before they got cell phones.  It was sorcery; now it's just electronics.

Mothers: omnipotent, omniscient, omni everything, even before they got cell phones. It used to be sorcery; now it's just electronics.

Cominciate a mangiare,” she stated firmly, striding past us.   “Fra due minuti saro’ a casa.”   [“You all start eating, I’ll be home in two minutes.”]   She turned down the Calle de l’Avogaria and was gone.

We went left, over the bridge.

“Wow,” I said.   “Good thing she had the cell phone.   What would have happened if we were still back in the old days, when people couldn’t phone to say they were almost home?”

“The family would have starved,” Lino answered immediately.   “There they are, all sitting around the table, with their knives and forks ready.   But Mom isn’t home!   What should we do?   Should we wait?   Should we start?   Where is she?   What’s gone wrong?”

He was in full sail now.   “The police will finally break in, but it will be too late for most of them.   The grandfather will already be dead, because he’s the weakest.   He couldn’t hold out.   The little boy will be barely alive, but that’s only because he was sneaking bits of pasta on the side.   The rest of the family will be strewn about the table, unconscious.  

“‘What happened?’ the police will cry.

“‘We couldn’t start eating,’ somebody will gasp out, barely able to talk.   ‘Mom wasn’t home yet.’

“Thank God she had the phone.”

Fathers are also good.  Somebody gets two extra points for getting their little boy a hobbyhorse and then letting him ride it to wherever they were going.  I didn't know they still even made them.

Fathers are also good. Somebody gets two extra points for giving their little boy a hobbyhorse and then letting him ride it to wherever they were going. I didn't know they still even made them.

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Categories : Venetian-ness

Comments

  1. You’re a pretty funny writer. I appreciate that. In situations like you describe I prefer texting, though. It takes the emotion out of it and just passes on information. If you need to have a long, animated conversation then, yes, use the phone. But, to say, “I’m almost home” this would easily work well in a text.

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      Thanks for the compliment. You’re right, except for a few factors: First, this was 1995 or 1996, and it’s entirely possible she was talking to the home landline because this was the primordial days of cell phones here. (I believe people still occasionally talk on landlines.) Second, being a mother, she almost certainly was expecting or desiring (or not) some response from whomever she was speaking to — just my theory. I don’t know if she followed her “I’m almost home” with “Make sure the dog is tied up” or “Go see if Grandpa’s still alive and get him to the table,” or whatever. Lastly, there are plenty of people (you may find this odd) like me who text only to avoid talking to the person, which means that texting is a kind of negative thing to do. Writing and sending a text doesn’t have to take more time than a call; the main benefit, in my view, is that it costs less and means you don’t have to bother with listening to whatever the person wants to say to you in reply, which has to be pretty obvious to the person to whom you sent it. And anyway, you can’t be sure the person gets the text in a timely fashion (or ever). I’ve had a number of situations where I’d texted some bit of emotionless, though important, information, and it turned out the person didn’t see it when it mattered because of a hundred different reasons. If I need to be sure I’ve made contact with someone, it’s hard to improve on talking. And, though this paragraph may not be the best example, I have been known to be extremely succinct in conversation.

      • You’re right of course that high important messages in general need to be delivered by phone in most cases. I’m thinking of my step daughter who is a teen who has a cell phone and she will only text. This is because she’s in a joint custody situation and her real dad and step mom are over bearing and micro managing. So in order to “be stealth so that they won’t hear” we have to text. It’s not ideal but it works as well as it can. I think recently, at least where I live, texting is not perceived as negatively as it used to be. It’s more neutral. For instance the coach on one of my soccer teams sends out a “group text” instead of a group email to inform about game time. Sending individual texts or making phone calls would be burdensome, so it’s just neutral and informational in this situation.

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