January 7, 2018

More Than A Number

I recently realized I have lived through major events that occurred before a lot of people today were even born. Kind of eerie! Actually, it was the second Twilight Zone* moment of my life having to do with aging. The first occurred about 30 years ago when a clerk at a Sears catalogue order pickup desk called me “Ma’am.” Not in a being polite to a customer sense, but in an “You’re old enough to be my mother” sense. I wanted to say, “I’m not that old.” But, I was thrown off when I looked at him. He looked barely old enough to be eligible for a Work Permit. Neither did any of the clerks in the department. They looked 12 or 13 years old at the most; but here they were working at Sears delivering my telephone order. (Always the online shopper!)

At that time, I had ordered undershirts for my elementary aged kids, appalled that I couldn’t find them in the store. “We don’t have a demand for them, so we don’t carry them in the store,” I was told by another pubescent-looking clerk. My mother had always dressed us in undershirts during the winter when I was a child. That and a daily dose of cod liver oil kept me and my siblings regular and healthy. When I became a mother, I was forced to consult the more than 300-page Sears Fall/Winter catalog for the essential undershirt garment. The catalog arrived with great expectancy by U.S. mail every August. In October, the Christmas Wishbook would arrive followed by the gigantic Spring/Summer catalog around March. As time went on, Sears would send a post card in the mail and customers had to go to the store to pick up the catalogs. By this time, the front half of the catalog showed clothing and when it was turned over and upside down, the back half showed household items. But, I digress!

My most recent encounter with the Machinism of Time occurred when I got into an argument about telephone numbers. I was saying that I remember when telephone numbers were a series of letters and numbers. For example, when I was a child, our telephone number was MAyflower-2486. A person who I thought was old enough to know better said that was not true. He began to argue that telephone numbers were always seven numbers until area codes were added.  After about two rounds of “No they weren’t” “Yes they were” I stopped arguing but not before asking why he thought letters appeared with numbers on the dialpad of a phone. Leaving him dumbfounded, my mind drifted away from the conversation, and back to a time when a black rotary telephone was kept on a special table in the livingroom of my childhood. It was stationary. How sometimes I could pick up the receiver and hear Miss Willa Mae, who lived across the way, talking to someone. And, how I was taught to immediately hang up until the line was clear.  I remember neighbors who didn’t have phones coming to our house to make important calls or receive calls from relatives “down South.” I remember our first yellow “princess” phone and a wall phone in the kitchen with a cord so long that we could walk all over the kitchen and even wash dishes at the sink while holding the receiver between our shoulder and neck. I remember when everything became modular and all I had to do was buy a phone and plug it into the jack on the wall. I remember my decorator candlestick phone that looked like an antique but was actually a push button phone. And, of course, I remember my first cell phone which must have weighed two or three pounds. Which brings me to today when making telephone calls on my cell phone is what I do the least. Instead, I spend countless hours checking my e-mail, looking at Facebook or YouTube, surfing the Internet, and text messaging my friends.

Everything is beautiful and amazing in its time. It’s even more amazing that I can remember the telephone number of my childhood. During different eras of my life I have retained the telephone numbers of at least two or three dozen people in my mind. But, don’t ask me anyone’s telephone number today. All I do now is say to the phone the name of the person I want to call and it takes over from there. The only numbers that I can remember with semi-accuracy these days are my blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and of course, my age.

*The Twilight Zone – A television series on CBS from 1959 to 1964 depicting characters who encountered paranormal events and were said to have crossed over into “The Twilight Zone” when they dealt with them.