From My Aging Eyes

from my aging eyes,

the boy I once was looks out—

hardly changed at all

portrait-of-boy1

I was born before D-Day, before V-E Day, before V-J Day.  If you don’t recognize those occasions, you’re most likely younger than I.  World War II was the single biggest event in the lives of the generation before mine, and the year I entered the world, it was still raging on.

When I was born, I joined almost 2.5 billion other souls on the planet.  In North America, the average cost of a house like the one we eventually lived in was $3600, and the average annual wage was only $2000.  My future father-in-law, then a callow twenty-one-year-old, earned $800 that year, the first time he filed an income tax return.  A new car, for those who could afford one, cost about $900, and the gasoline to fuel it cost fifteen cents per gallon.  A bottle of Coca-Cola cost five cents.

1943_ford_coupe

Among the people born in the same year as I (and you’ll recognize their names more readily than mine) were Arthur Ashe, Robert de Niro, John Denver, Bobby Fischer, George Harrison, Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, John Kerry, Billie Jean King, Peter Marsh, Jim Morrison, and Lech Walesa.  Seven of them are no longer with us.

Major world leaders included William Lyon Mackenzie King here in Canada, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Franklin Roosevelt, Jan Christiaan Smuts, and Joseph Stalin—many of whom didn’t like each other at all.

Among the popular films my parents went to see in the year I was born were For Whom the Bell Tolls, Heaven Can Wait, Lassie Come Home, The Titanic, and the winner of the Academy Award, Mrs. Miniver.  Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller were music icons of the day, and Oklahoma opened on Broadway.

oklahoma2

Some of the most popular books published that year included A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene, and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Ted. A. Lawson.  My favourite (which, of course, I was not able to read until six or seven years later) was Thunderhead by Mary O’Hara.

The New York Yankees won the World Series that year, the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, and Count Fleet won the Kentucky Derby, but both the U.S. Open in golf and Wimbledon in tennis were cancelled because of the war.

Invention, spurred on by the wartime effort, saw the development of the aqualung, the Colossus computer used to decode the German Enigma encryption, the ever-popular Slinky toy, and silly putty.  The Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb, which cost almost two billion dollars, was well underway.

atom bomb3

Nachos were invented the year I was born, and remain popular to this day.  The ABC radio network began broadcasting that year, launched by the founder of the Life-Savers candy company.  The Philip Morris tobacco company unveiled an ad that, for the first time, acknowledged smokers’ cough, although they blamed it on other cigarette brands.  The chairman of IBM conceded that “…there is a world market for maybe five computers.”  And a Swiss chemist discovered the hallucinogenic properties of LSD—presumably on a trip.

I was born well before the following technological marvels we take for granted today became commonplace:  duct tape, television, Tupperware, credit cards, waterproof diapers, transistors, defibrillators, supersonic aircraft, cat litter, the Zamboni, crash-test dummies, aerosol paint, teleprompters, airbags, barcodes, heart-lung machines, WD-40, zipper storage bags, automatic sliding doors, radar guns, computers, hard disk drives, silicon chips, videotape, lasers, spandex, artificial turf, the Pill, LED’s, Buffalo wings, 8-track tapes,  CD’s, space travel, personal computers, the internet, and smartphones.

I was not, however, born before the Wright brothers first took flight (as my sons-in-law are wont to claim).

brothers-wright3

But hey, lest this looking-back convey the impression that I long for the good old days, whatever they were, let me assure you that such is far from the truth.  In fact, as I approach my seventy-fifth birthday, I look forward to the changes yet to come—just as I marvelled at those occurring during my life so far—and with the same boyish enthusiasm as ever.

As Dylan so memorably wrote and sang, the times they are a-changin’.  But somewhere inside this gnarly old man, there still resides the precocious boy who spawned him, surprised he has not changed.

closing in on my

diamond jubilee, the

man is still the boy

man and boy1

          Have a happy birthday, old man!

 

Sure-Fire Cure for Insomnia

Sleep apnoea!  Really?  Me?

Apparently so, according to a recent visit I paid to a sleep clinic.  During five hours of REM sleep, the two dozen probes affixed to various parts of my head and body recorded ninety-two times where I stopped breathing for periods of up to forty-five seconds.  Who knew?

apnoea

Remedies will have to be explored, of course.  At one time in my life, I had trouble falling asleep, but no longer.  Now, it would appear, my problem is trying to avoid expiring while in slumber-land, because of a shortage of breath.

I waken sometimes with my wife hovering anxiously over me, checking to see if I’m still inhaling and exhaling.

It’s all so bothersome.

When I used to lie awake for hours after going to bed, my breathing was perfectly fine—ranging from slow and regular to quick and fitful, depending upon the thoughts and images running through my hyperactive brain.  Given that I had to rise early for work in the morning, it was the wakefulness, not the breathing, that was the problem.

Along the way, a wise (but somewhat snide) friend offered me the perfect solution to those sleepless hours. “Pretend you’re interviewing yourself for a TV talk-show,” he suggested.  “As the host, ask a series of questions, and then, as yourself, answer them.”

interview

“How will that help me get to sleep?” I asked, unmindful of the wicked gleam in his eye.

“Because nobody, including you, could stay awake if they had to listen to you being interviewed!” he cackled.

Despite his merriment, I thought the idea had possibilities, and so I set about trying it whenever sleep proved elusive.  At first, it had the opposite effect, however; I was so busy thinking of questions to ask myself, my brain went into overdrive.

With practice, though, the questions began to come more easily, and the answers flowed.  And sure enough, listening to myself proved a soporific boon.  The veils of Morpheus descended on me much more rapidly than ever before.  I don’t recall that I ever made it through an entire interview before falling asleep.  Insomnia was banished!

But now, in addition to the vexation of sleep apnoea, I am bothered by the fact that, as my friend predicted, even I cannot last through an interview with myself!  Can I really be that boring?

Speaker boring

So, I determined to find out.  As an avid reader of the magazine Vanity Fair, I always enjoy the quick-hit interviews with people of renown that are found on the final page of each edition.  It occurred to me that, if I could be asked those same sorts of questions, perhaps I would prove to be a stimulating subject.  Surely, I reasoned, listening to myself would not be a sure-fire cure for insomnia.

But you may be the judge of that.  Here are the questions, with my answers—

When and where were you happiest?  I’m very happy now, but my fondest memories are of the years when we were raising our two young daughters.

What is your greatest regret?  I don’t have many—life is too short—but I suppose it would be that I didn’t listen more carefully when my parents were talking about their hopes and fears.  I could have been more attentive and receptive.

What is your greatest fear?  Living beyond the point where I can be mentally engaged and productive.

What talent would you most like to have?  Playing the honky-tonk piano…well!

What is your favourite occupation?  Writing.

Who is your favourite character in fiction?  Travis McGee.

What quality do you most like in other people?  Two—integrity and a sense of humour.

What quality do you most like about yourself?  An ability and propensity to see others’ points of view.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Certainty.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  Impatience.

Which living person do you most admire?  Stephen Hawking.  I don’t understand most of what he says, but I admire his courage and strength of will.

Which living person do you most despise?  Any fundamentalist or ideologue, of any political or religious persuasion, who would seek to take away someone’s liberty, personal dignity, and sense of self-worth.

What is your motto?  It changes from time to time, but a recurring favourite is ‘Don’t believe everything you think!’

What is your idea of perfect happiness?  Spending eternity in the loving arms of my wife.

How would you like to die?  Quickly…but not soon.

What is your current state of mind?

Mr. Burt? What is your current state of mind?

Mr. Burt?  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…..

sleeping

 

Secret Valentine

(first posted 12 February 2016)

In a recent telephone conversation, one of my granddaughters reminded me that Valentine’s Day is coming round again.

She didn’t ask if I would be her valentine again this year, as I have been for most of her six years, which would have been nice.  No, instead she mentioned that she’d be giving a valentine to every one of her classmates at school.

“Every one of them?” I exclaimed, mildly astonished.  “Don’t you have, like, one special valentine?”

“No, Gramps,” she replied.  “That’s not how it works.  In grade one, you give everybody a valentine.  All the kids do.”

galore_valentines_kids

I wondered how many youngsters there were in her class for whom she was planning to buy a valentine card.  After all, how many valentines can a six-year-old handle?

“How can one person have so many valentines? I protested.  “Being somebody’s valentine is supposed to be a special thing.  Won’t people wonder why you’re giving everyone a card?”

“Gramps! You don’t understand!  They won’t know who gave the valentines to them.  Mummy’s going to help me print ‘Guess Who?’ on all of them.  My name won’t be there.”

“Okay, wait a minute, l’il guy,” I said.  “Let me get this straight.  You’re going to give valentines to every kid in your class…”

“And my teacher,” she cut in.

“And your teacher,” I continued.  “But, you’re not going to put your name on them, so nobody will know that you gave them a valentine.  I don’t get it.”

“Oh, they’ll know, Gramps.  Everybody knows.  They just won’t know which valentine I gave them.  That’s the fun of it.”

That’s the fun of it?  Back when I was a kid, the fun of it was in deciding whom I would ask to be my special valentine.  To which little girl would I dare to offer a valentine card?  And who would accept it without laughing?  Or worse, not accept it at all?

shy boy

There was a certain delicious risk involved back then, a risk that made the whole exercise worthwhile.  After all, asking someone to be your special valentine meant you were sort of sweet on her (or him, if you were a girl).

But, times change, and so do valentine cards.  Now, they don’t ask someone to be your valentine; instead, they proclaim ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’!  They’ve become indistinguishable from birthday cards, for goodness’ sake.

Anyway, I wished my granddaughter well with her plans.  I harboured the faint hope that perhaps I’d still receive one from her—with her name on it!

Afterwards, I kept thinking about our conversation.  Anonymous valentine cards made no sense to me.  But, my granddaughter had stated, “They’ll know…”

Well, who’s to say?  Maybe they will.  It occurred to me that I’ve always sent anonymous, loving wishes to my own two daughters—back when they were growing up, and even now, as they raise their own children.  I never thought of that as silly.

good night

At night, after they were asleep, I had the habit of whispering in their ears, to tell them how much I loved them.  They hardly stirred as I did it, and they never mentioned it the following day.  And, every day now, when thoughts of them cross my mind, I still send little messages of love their way.  I always believed that, somehow, they would know I was telling them.  Anonymously, as it were.

So, maybe my wee granddaughter is right.  Perhaps it isn’t such a ridiculous notion.  In fact, I’m even hoping to receive a valentine this year from ‘Guess Who?’

I’ll know.

guess who

Write Lots

write, write, and rewrite—

write until it doesn’t sound

like writing at all

writing

Haiku is a very short form of Japanese poetry, altered over time to fit the demands of the English language.  The essence of haiku is represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a break between them, a kind of verbal punctuation mark that signals the separation, and colours the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.

Traditional haiku consist of seventeen syllables, rendered in English in three phrases of five, seven, and five syllables, respectively.  The lines usually do not rhyme, although many haiku composers try to rhyme the first and last phrases as an additional challenge.

A three-word haiku poem is extremely difficult, but a lot of fun to attempt.

Here are some more samples by me, a keen neophyte, accompanied by pictures for my own pleasure—

nightmares waken me,

phantom fears that something lurks—

banished by the dawn

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comes dawn, the new day,

rising full of hope unspoiled,

banishing the night

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shoulder to shoulder,

a capella voices raised—

united in song

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shore birds by the pond

visible in dawn’s first light—

stalking careless fish

IMG-7850

unrelentingly

under-appreciated—

mediocrity

mediocrity

And a final one—

write lots and often,

share most of it with readers—

prose and poetry

Creative-Writing-Tips-9918

Addressing Sexual Misconduct

Over the past several months, it appears the floodgates have opened on revelations of sexual misconduct, some reaching into the highest corridors of power.

But these are revelations only.  The actual offenses have been going on, largely unreported, for longer than any of us would care to admit.  And that makes it all the more important to take action whenever such allegations surface.

metoo

Some twenty years ago, during the last decade of my working career, I held three senior positions:  superintendent of personnel in a large school board, and then chief executive in two different school jurisdictions.  During that time, I had to deal with a dozen cases of reported sexual misconduct by employees.

The range of offenses included sexual harassment, sexual interference, sexual assault, solicitation of sexual favours, and the exploitation of students in the making and distribution of child pornography.

All the perpetrators were men, either teachers or business/operations employees.  Their victims included adults and children of both genders.  In all but two cases, those children were under the age of seventeen.

Of course, that number of offenders constituted but a tiny fraction of the total of dedicated and professional staff we employed.  But any number is too many.

64156147-sexual-assault-word-cloud-concept

Four of the situations resulted in criminal charges being laid against the wrongdoers by police, and all went to trial.  The remaining situations were dealt with internally, involving an array of sanctions ranging from formal reprimand to outright dismissal.  In two cases, after investigation by police and child welfare authorities, the accusers subsequently retracted their allegations and the accused parties were absolved—although with some collateral damage to their public reputation.

In all three jurisdictions we had clear policies in place to affirm the right of every student and every employee to a safe learning and work environment.  Those policies included a reporting mechanism available to any persons who felt they were victimized, or on whose behalf a report was made by a concerned third party.  They also spelt out procedures by which designated managers would shepherd each case to its conclusion.  In every case but two, proper procedures were followed.

Both those situations involved mistakes by two school principals (both of whom were acting in what they believed to be the best interests of their students, who were minors), who decided to investigate the reports of sexual misconduct themselves.  The policy clearly stated—in accordance with provincial law—that, in such situations, it is the duty of the responsible official to contact the police or child welfare authorities, who will handle the investigation.  The principals, whose performance records to that point were unsullied, erred badly.  They were subsequently charged, found guilty, and fined.  Duly reprimanded, they were eventually reinstated to their positions, presumably much the wiser.

One of the perpetrators in those two cases, a teacher, was subsequently cleared of wrongdoing.  The other, a custodian, was eventually charged by police and found guilty at trial.

The sexual harassment situations were investigated internally by my staff, and all parties were given the right to state their cases—although not face-to-face, unless the victims so chose.  In every case, the accused parties admitted to their actions, professed not to realize they had caused offense, expressed remorse, apologized, and vowed not to re-offend.  I issued formal, written reprimands to them and, following a suspension, they were also reinstated.  To my knowledge, there was no repeat of their behaviours.

mediation

In three of the criminal cases, one perpetrator pled guilty, two (a teacher and the aforementioned custodian) were found guilty at trial, and jail sentences were imposed on all of them.  In each case, the school board terminated their employment and I reported the two teachers’ names to the ministry of education, which revoked their teaching certificates.

The fourth criminal case was dismissed by the judge at trial, where he deemed the Crown had failed to prove its case under the law.  That teacher, however, was dismissed by the school board even before the trial, because we had sufficient evidence to determine that he had behaved unprofessionally, without regard for the welfare of the seventeen-year-old student with whom he had engaged in sexual relations.  Whether or not the criminal justice system regarded him as a predator who should not be near vulnerable young people, the school board certainly did.

I subsequently reported that case to the provincial college of teachers (which, by then, had taken over the professional disciplinary role from the ministry).  The college did not revoke the teacher’s certificate—perhaps because he had been found not guilty of a criminal offense.  Those are two decisions I disagree with to this day.

In the two cases where accusers recanted—after sensitive counseling sessions with child welfare authorities—the accused teachers were returned to duty after having been assigned to a central-office work-site during the investigations.  The publicity surrounding their cases, however, had the unfortunate result of leaving them unfairly tarred by the brush of public opinion.

In the wake of the recent spurt of allegations of sexual misconduct against prominent men—and based upon these experiences of mine—it strikes me that we must, indeed, pay attention to every accuser’s claims.  Yes, some may be spurious, some even outright false, but there is no question that such abuses do exist in our schools and workplaces.

victim

It seems to me, as well, that there is a difference between the exposure of such misbehaviours, with a concomitant imposition of suitable, punitive measures (call that the ethical bar, to protect the most vulnerable among us), and the higher standard required for criminal prosecution (call that the legal bar of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt).  Everyone is entitled to his or her day in court if charges are laid.  But sadly, some predators are never charged.

Even more importantly, everyone is entitled to personal safety in their schools and workplaces.  People in authority must listen and give a voice to those who feel abused and disempowered.  Under my watch, some perpetrators, even if not guilty of offenses under ‘black letter’ law, were indeed guilty of sexual misconduct.  And so, the employer had to act, even if the courts did not.

I’m not sure we did everything right in the situations I encountered those many years back.  Despite our best intentions, people got hurt.  But the one thing we did not do is ignore the pleas for help.

rape-victims

Nor should any of us now at this watershed moment in time.

Lust and Power

In a 1976 interview for Playboy magazine, the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, said, “I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”  This was in response to a question about his views on the Bible’s admonitions about adultery, and was a paraphrase of Christ’s teachings in Matthew 5: 28—“I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust in his heart has already committed adultery.”

carter

Many were aghast that so prominent a man would admit that, thereby damaging his political standing.  Others saw it as an honest answer from a pious man, acknowledging his imperfections.  Still others saw it as a cynical ploy—embracing both arrogance and humility—wanting to appear virtuous in the face of temptation, thus enhancing his political position.

Whatever it was, it is extremely unlikely Carter was the only man to have sinned in that fashion, although most of us would not choose to admit it.

There is obviously a difference between the so-called evil of lust and the widely-accepted blessing of love—but perhaps not so great a gap as might be imagined.  Lust is relatively easy to define: a strong, sexual desire; a sensuous appetite (regarded by many today as sinful).  Its blunt hunger can be satiated, at least temporarily, through participation in a sex act with someone else, or even alone.

Love is a softer sentiment, usually involving sexual attraction, but also embracing such emotions as friendship, protectiveness, tolerance, forgiveness, happiness, fulfilment, and mutual respect.  It is something that, although freely given, must also be earned.  In a truly loving relationship, the quest for love is never satiated, but yearned for, and given, all the more.

It cannot be disputed that the propagation of our species has relied upon the sexual attraction between men and women, their lust for each other.  If two people also found love in their coupling, that was a bonus.  Love for one another was not required in order to produce offspring.

Image result for free pictures of caveman and cavewoman

Biologically speaking, lust can drive a person to have sexual relations with more than one partner of either gender, and more than once with each.  And so it is with love.  There is no biological impediment to falling in love with, and entering into a loving relationship with, multiple partners—although obviously, no children will result from a union of partners of the same gender.

Over time, and for a multitude of reasons, monogamous marriages became the norm in our culture.  Although men and women could fall in love with more than one person, the law allowed us to marry but one at a time.  However, the standing of each person in the conjugal union was unequal.  For a long time, women were considered to be, if not the property of their husbands, at least subordinate to them.  Power resided with the men. That status has changed ever so slowly, only beginning a hundred years or so ago.

At the time the Dominion of Canada was formed, a decade before the birth of the great Republic to the south, our fathers of confederation and their founding fathers espoused equality for all.  But that noble ideal was to be applied only to the propertied classes—almost all of whom were male, white, rich, and protestant.  Others of different gender, race, wealth, and religion were scarcely considered, except as property, workers, or servants.

Money and power were all that really mattered, and both resided with men.

Thus, it continued to be possible for men who lusted after women (or other men, or children) to prey upon them with relative impunity.  Might makes right, as the adage has it, and fear can make cowards of us all.  For the victims, suffering the abuse in silence was often more palatable than facing the public shaming and loss of employment that would crush them if they complained—assuming they would have been believed in the first place.

Depressed Tenage Girl

Jimmy Carter was honest in his admission.  But I wonder, is it possible all men harbour such thoughts from time to time, even if only a relatively small number act on them?  I cast no stones at him.

I also wonder, does power corrupt only men?  Would women who come to power be immune to its seductive persuasions?  And would any act on them?

Sexual misbehaviour of any sort is unacceptable, a monstrous issue only now being brought to the broader public arena.  But I believe it is power, not lust, that is the driving force behind such behaviour.  Any of us might experience lustful feelings, just as any of us might fall in love.  But only the most powerful, the most arrogant, the most sociopathic among us would mobilize those feelings into unwanted actions, forced upon unwilling victims, solely for our own gratification.

It is as if the predators, when seized by a biological imperative, say to themselves, Because I can, I will.  And who is to deny me?

And so, it is time, as many are saying—time to expose and shame those who are found guilty of transgressions, time to re-assess the accepted perquisites of power, time to educate our young people as to what is deemed acceptable in social intercourse, time to redefine the relationship between men and women.

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It is more than time.

Wrong Number!

As a young man, I never used to like the telephone!  Oh, I knew it was a wonderful invention, a labour-saving tool, and a life-saver in time of emergency.  And I was aware that it brings old friends together and ties families more closely to one another.  I understood that it is, indeed, a modern marvel.

rotary_phone1

But I never liked it.  In the first place, I never felt at ease when I was talking to someone on the phone.  When I couldn’t see the person to whom I was speaking, it didn’t feel right to me.

In the second place, my phone always seemed to ring at the most inopportune moments; for example, when I had just sat down to dinner, when I was busily engrossed in some leisure-time activity, or (most annoying of all) when I was the only one home to answer it.  Although it was located in a central part of the house, I never seemed to be close by when it rang.

But, without a doubt, the worst thing about the telephone was the wrong number.  And it didn’t seem to matter whether I was doing the calling or receiving the call.  Wrong numbers were a pain in the neck!

Whenever I dialed a wrong number, I was immediately apologetic to the person who answered.  I knew that my own carelessness had put the other party out, and I tried to make amends.  However, my efforts were invariably met with some sort of angry or impolite response.  It usually began right after I realized I’d dialed incorrectly.

wrong-number-phone

“Oh…oh, I’m sorry,” I would stammer.  “I guess I have the wrong number.”

“Obviously!” would come the reply, followed closely by an abrupt banging of the receiver in my ear.

What bothered me even more, though, was when I answered a call from someone who had the wrong number, because I still ended up being the bad guy.

“Hello?” I would answer.

“Jenny there?”

“No, I’m sorry,” I would start to say, “but you have…”

“Where is she?”

“Uh…I don’t know.  You’ve dialed…”

“Who’s this?” the caller would demand, cutting me off again.

“It’s me,” I would reply lamely, “and there’s no one here by the name of…”

“What number is this?”

And when I would give it, I’d get a snarling rejoinder, like, “That’s not the number I want!”

I was never quick enough to miss that banging receiver.  Worse, I was left with the feeling that it was all my fault for even thinking of answering when the call was for Jenny (or whomever the person had asked for).

On more than a few occasions, I actually resorted to dirty tricks, more to avoid the unpleasantness than out of any malicious intent.

“Just a minute,” I sometimes replied when the caller asked for someone I’d never heard of.  I then laid the receiver by my phone, placed a cushion over it, and forgot about it.  After a few minutes, the caller would get tired of waiting and hang up.  When next I passed by the phone, I gently replaced the receiver.

off hook

Occasionally I would respond by saying, “Jenny?  She left quite a while ago.  She should be at your place any minute!  Tell her to call when she gets there.”

And I’d hang up first.

Or, more than once, I asked the name of the caller, told them to wait, then made a show of yelling for the non-existent person to come to the phone.

“Jenny!  Phone for you.  It’s Alice!”

After a few seconds, knowing the caller could hear me, I’d yell again, “No way, Jenny!  If you don’t wanta talk to her, you tell her!  Not me!”

Sometimes I could hear the caller bang the receiver down from ten feet away.

I never believed that any great harm would arise from these tactics, and it sure made me feel better.  I might even have taught those careless callers to be a little more conscientious when dialing.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered the best and most effective way to deal with those nuisance calls, and it was relatively simple.  It did take some measure of will-power, and it required a little practice at first to get the hang of it.  And I no longer had to spend time dreaming up new tricks.

When the phone rang, if I thought it might be a wrong number, I didn’t answer!

Brilliant!

Of course, with the advent of smartphones, all my reasons for disliking the phone have evaporated.  Now, I can see the person to whom I’m talking, so that excuse is gone.  I’m never too far from the phone to answer a call, because it’s always with me.  There are no wrong numbers, because the name of the caller flashes on my screen.

call

But the biggest reason I have for changing my mind is that, as I’ve grown older and somewhat less active, seeing old friends less and less often, I crave the connection with people.  Instead of willing that old black phone not to ring, I now yearn to hear the ringtones in my pocket.

And so, I confess a dark secret to you.  Now—even when I know it’s a wrong number, even when I don’t recognize the name of the caller, even if I’ve been happily reading in my armchair, or dozing quietly—I answer the call.  If it’s for Jenny, I don’t care anymore.  I have even chatted happily with many fast-talking telemarketers, who quickly become anxious to get off the line with what they must assume is a befuddled, old geezer.

I love the telephone!