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Letter from the Editor

How telephone technology has changed everything - from dating to bar talk.

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Grace Kelly didn't have a damn cell phone.
  • Grace Kelly didn't have a damn cell phone.

Last Thursday, I went to pick up a pizza and salad for take-out from my favorite pub in Overton Square. I like to order after I get there, so I can have a frosty beer while waiting. I sat on a barstool, bought a cold one, and dug into my pocket for my cell phone so I could check messages, emails, Facebook, Words With Friends, whatever. Imagine my shock and sadness when I realized I'd left it at home. The horror.

What to do now? Talk to somebody? The guy on my right was staring at his phone. The guys on my left, for some unfathomable reason, were talking about the actress Grace Kelly. They couldn't remember what country she ran off to to become a princess. I thought about breaking in and saying, "Monaco," but before I could, one guy pulled out his phone and googled it.

"Monaco!" he said.

What the hell did we do before we started carrying around the entire collective knowledge of the human race in our pockets? The evolution of the telephone has brought about an amazing transformation in human behavior in a very short time.

Consider: When I wanted to ask a girl out for a date in high school, I had to call her house! Then, without fail, a parent answered and asked who was calling. If you got through that gauntlet, the girl had to sit in the living room and talk to you while everyone pretended not to listen in. It was primitive and cruel, but it was a rite of passage, and we were probably better off for having had to deal with authority figures before attempting to make contact with the fairer sex. That's what I tell myself, anyway.

My daughter's generation had it a little better. With primitive cell phones, they at least had some privacy, though I remember well one of the most delicious parenting victories her mother and I ever had. My daughter called around her curfew one Friday night and said, "Hey, Mom, I'm at Kathryn's. Can I spend the night?" She was tragically unaware that her mother had that very day hooked up a fancy-schmancy caller ID to our home phone.

"You're not at Kathryn's. You're at Chad's," her mother growled. "You need to get your rear end home, right now, young lady. And don't plan on going out again for a month!"

Sweet Jesus, that felt good.

But those days are gone. My 17-year-old stepson has his own iPhone. He can text, send pictures, send videos, tweet, check Facebook, google, and read The Great Gatsby, on the darn thing. He can even make the occasional phone call to his parents with it ... should he be feeling nostalgic.

Bruce VanWyngarden brucev@memphisflyer.com

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