Oh, and in those days, you had to stay in a relatively small area to speak to someone because the handset had a cord attached to the phone. The biggest downside was that people had to speak privately to other human beings.

Jeez, how things have improved, huh, kids? Now, the entire world is one enormous phone booth where we get to listen to everybody's loud, boorish, and meaningless conversations every minute of the day.


Another great thing about phones today is the number of options you have.

In the Phone Age, you had two options: 1. Call, and 2. Hang up. Now, we have options coming out the ying-yang.

After my family moved into our new home, for example, we signed up for a phone service plan. It came with the standard 743 options, including Caller Make-Them-Talk-with-a-Funny Accent, Caller Interrupt-Every-Time-They-Begin-a-Sentence, and Caller Call-Them-Back-in-the-Middle-of-the-Night. I think as part of that package we also received the National Homeland Security Dialing Scheme.

Whenever someone called, they didn't get the usual stuff, such as a member of my family or our answering machine or my pretending to be a visitor from a foreign country. Instead, they encountered an automated voice that interrogated them.

Callers got a message that went something like this: "You are not on the approved calling list. At the tone, please state your name."

"Um, Mom?"

"We're sorry, we don't have a listing for 'Um, Mom.' Please state your full name."

"I am Jim's mother. This is crazy. What's going on here?"

"Thank you. Please wait while we search our files.

"We're sorry, we don't show a listing for a Mr. or Mrs. What's Going on Here. Thank you for calling. Goodbye."