m wood pen

freelance illustrator: have pen, will travel

so here goes.

i am beyond out of words, and feel rotten about it.  no matter what i do: push on my temples, don ‘writerly’ outfits, play inspiring classical music, hold a well-worn book in my hands, i have not felt one iota teeny tiny spark of inspiration to blather on about.

it’s not like i don’t know what’s behind this brain clog.  i’ve been working like a dog, drawing and drafting and creating and meeting deadlines, java overload to the point that the caffeine didn’t even do anything anymore except help us to run out of sugar and waste water on a dishwasher filled with coffee mugs. all of those creative juices: gone.  spent.  kaput!

the good news is that i’ve wrapped up a super cool project (hopefully available soon in a store near you), submitted more work towards two really fantastic projects, and had a getaway weekend.

fantastic to report is the fact that, during this crazy work mode i’ve been in, the children have become domestic governors, totally capable of now running their own households.  that’s the good thing about being a single mom with a work deadline: the little critters learn to fend for themselves, one of those two birds with one stone sort of situations.  i go on strike, i tune out and draw and fret and pace and go back to draw some more, and they take over the fort.

it’s this that has me thinking at the moment.

noel just commandeered the job of going to at&t (well, corey went along for the ride) to fetch this neat keen new space-age looking device.  best of all, it was free.  even better, to my discerning eyes, is that it’s really very attractive.  good design, we’ve established, can make or break a day.

so, the nice people who are running alexander graham bell’s company (some say, into the ground), sent us several brightly colored postcards, urging us to dash over to their shops, for a free gift.  redundant, i know, it just bugs me when people use this expression so i am trying to make a point. clearly, there must be trouble at old ma bell’s headquarters, as this satellite sort of device could easily sell in a shiny new box for at least a hundred dollars.  and they were offering it to us for free…!

we knew instantly that we would add “go to pick up the thing at the phone store” to our chore list.  it isn’t a very well kept secret around here: our cell service sucks.  an awful expression, i know, but it’s just the best one to convey our hated telephone life with dropped calls (oops, don’t hurt your toes!) and fuzzy reception.  most frustrating of all, obviously, is that we all own these groovy fancy iphones (hallie even has the 4th one, lucky), the best gadgets ever to make their way into our pockets, but the temptation to fling them through a plate glass window or into the open fire of the gas range became way too compelling.  dropped dropped dropped dropped calls!

so, as i sat here in the living room with a nice cup of coffee, a nice sleeping cat, and a nice new tumblr site, i watched noel fuss around with the fancy at&t gadget.

the thing of it is, i am totally capable of setting it up myself.  further, i was even able to set down my laptop (i mean, all i was doing was playing around on tumblr and uploading photographs…) and hop over to join him in the task.  release him…set him free from the icky percolating rage-inspiring task of setting that thing up.

instead, i leaned back, decided to start writing this, and enjoyed the show: what a good growler he is, and what an imaginative stringing together of swear words!  it seems mean, i know!  but the best way to raise these kids is to just let them figure stuff out for themselves.  as the muttering was building, i watched as he shoved large pieces of furniture around in search of an outlet, and flinging empty boxes about.

my mind began to drift…

i was grateful to at&t, as i was sure that this special machine was going to solve our telephone problems.

our house is cool but small, with absolutely zero privacy.  it’s actually hysterical, the whole making a phone call debacle, which goes something like this.

there are officially three areas in our house where, if standing perfectly still, reception can be had and a connection established.  thus, calls to the dentist, doctor, school, you know, those boring places but the sort of conversations that can be overheard, were made from either the southern portion of the kitchen, the hallway near the mud room, and the deck outside of our front door.

if any one wants to make the kind of call that needs privacy (love interests, best friends for some really good gossip, or any illegal doings), we can try making a call from the green bathroom (not the blue, lousy reception), or again, outside on the deck.

winter, spring, summer or fall.

it’s a totally natural occurrence, deep in a blizzard, to see one of us stand up, grab a down coat and wool cap, and step outside.  i’m laughing now, it’s so bad but so funny!  sort of a pioneer approach to handle modern communications.  no questions, just don’t forget your scarf.  and close the door behind you, it’s cold out there!

of course, i started to confound the telephone situation a few years ago when, after careful research (sit and listen to house phone ring and notice that absolutely no one got up to answer it), i decided to cut off life with a land line.  gone, out, done, no more, asta la vista telemarketers!  it was an empowering moment, making the commitment once and for all to our four cellphones and the power of the individual, and saying goodbye to our home telephone.  forever.

which then, more drifting off in my mind while noel worked away on the shiny new age antenna thingy, reminded me of my life with telephones.  real telephones.

everyone my age, older, or a dip younger, knows how andy griffith, aunt bea, or barney fife made a phone call.  tap on the handset holder, right?  then they’d ask the operator (what was her name? martha?) to connect them to so-in-so, floyd, goober.  connection established via voice and machine and live hard wires, and miraculously, you’d be talking to someone across town (no doubt with the operator listening in).

when i was young, this telephone scenario was just a step dated for me.  we were in the modern world, and our phones had dials, curly cords, and came in a bunch of fun colors.  harvest gold. avocado green.  a sweet pale blue.

dialing a phone actually meant that you had to turn the dial, select the numbers, place the call.

if no one answered, you called again later.  if someone did answer, you had to introduce yourself, wait forever, and then, if lucky, actually speak to whoever it was that you were calling.  the worst was if you had to leave a message, with a person, who had the potential of being totally unreliable.  what if they didn’t write down your number correctly?  what if they lost the note?  what if they had lousy handwriting?

there were no guarantees.  you put a lot of faith in the hands of the little sister, big brother, babysitter, gramma, whoever it was that answered the family phone.  somehow, it all seemed to work, right?  the telephone business is still going strong, and through those advances (push button dialing! answering machines!  cordless phones!  voicemail!), we’ve all managed to keep in touch.

i’m sad, now that i see how quickly this came and went.  yea, sure, i’ve got my very own iphone in my pocket.  it’s the neatest gadget, that we know.  but my kids, just on the cusp of the end of those old days of using a telephone, probably don’t have one bit of real appreciation for how amazing this new techno world is.  but also, more importantly, i wonder if they know how those old days created a world where you did have to trust more.  you did have to put yourself out on the line more. just the emotional mountain climb of asking someone out on a first date was a laborious amount of sweating, and waiting, being screened by whoever answered the phone, coming up with the courage to actually speak to the girl and ask her out!  all in front of the audience of your family, conveniently perched near enough to hear every word!  right?

now, it’s a text.  wanna go out?  wanna meet me?

boring.  where’s the build up???

so, i can’t do a thing about it, but i can keep dialing up some darling old movies that show the world as it once was, a bit slower, a bit simpler, a bit sweeter.  if my kids are at all sentimental like their old ma, they’ll see, they’ll know, they’ll understand.

2 thoughts on “hello, operator

  1. Clara says:

    You crack me up…even when you “have nothing to say “you have do much to day.

  2. michelle says:

    Up until about six years ago, my dad still had a rotary dial phone! We also had a “party line” and if you were real careful and quiet you could be a “creaper” and listen in on other people’s conversations!

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