Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Monday Musing, Powerless Edition

On Friday, just as I stepped out into the driveway on my way to picking up the Catbird at her job “in town,” a storm hit. A wicked streak of lightning landed to the right, on the other side of the hamlet. A moment later, another one landed somewhere over the hill across the street, and a cloud looked like it was boiling up and over that hill. The rain came, and the entire 15 minutes or so on the road into town I was treated to one of the most spectacular lightning shows I have seen in years. By the time we arrived home, the storm had slackened, but the damage was done: my wife and her friend who had come over to binge watch something (they hadn’t decided on what to binge watch when I left) were sitting in candlelight. The power was out.

You may know that I’ve written a novel called POWERLESS, which deals with a world after the power goes out. As the outage stretched on, I thought of that story. In it, the main character has a landline, a real old-school phone hardwired to the wall, with an actual cord that connects the handset to the rest of the device. An old-school phone like that is pretty handy in an emergency, because it always works. They operate independently of the power grid, so when the power goes out, you can always use it to notify the power company of an outage (and, in our case, the automated voice on the other end of the line will tell you how many customers in your area are out, and give you an estimate of when it should be back on–which can be a fast-moving target). It’s pretty good to have (note that cordless phones will not work in a power outage, because the base unit doesn’t work unless it’s plugged into an electrical outlet).

Sometime on Friday, I noticed my sister posted a note on Facebook that said her family no longer had a landline. Presumably, she, her husband and both sons have their own cellphones. She joins a growing number of Americans. According to the Chicago Tribune, more than 40% of Americans no longer have landlines. That story ran last summer, so it’s probably even higher now. I’m not sure it’s such a good idea, just from a safety perspective, thought that could be just because we exist in a cellphone dead zone.

See below

I wonder how the switch to individual phones changes the family dynamic. Growing up, we had two phones in our house, but only one phone line. My parents did not get an answering machine until long after we kids were moved out. Calling home could result in a busy signal–and there’s an entire generation of Americans that likely have NO IDEA what that is–or, if no one was home, the phone ringing and ringing forever. There was nothing worse as a teenager than waiting for an important call (and, when you’re a teenager, they’re all important, aren’t they?) while your sister is hogging the line. Now, there’s no need to fight over the phone. And as a parent, do you have any idea who is calling your kids? Or when? Devices bring us together, devices keep us apart.

***

On another note, today is the day. I don’t know if other high schools do this–I don’t think mine did, but we had 1,000 students to deal with, so probably not–it’s the Senior Walk, or as I think of it, The Running of the Seniors. Today, last period of the day, the seniors at the Catbird’s school will don their caps and gowns and parade through the halls, accompanied by the cheers of the underclassmen and the tears of gathered parents. It’s been a heck of a year, not always in a good way, but she is officially done. I am super proud of her, super proud of both my girls, and I can’t wait to see where life takes them from here–and my wife and I!

That’s about it for me, have a great week, all.

Note on the phone: the one in the picture is very similar to the one we used to have on our kitchen wall where I grew up. My Mom had a cousin who worked for the phone company who got us an extra long ‘strangler cord’ so we could have privacy. My bedroom was at least ten feet down the hall from the kitchen and I could stretch that sucker so I could stand inside my closed door to talk to my friends. Woe to anyone who was in the bathroom when I was on the phone. If they came out the door without looking, the cord would be stretched across that doorway, throat high. Good times.

5 Responses

  1. We changed our land line to voice over internet many years ago. It just became cheaper to do so. The phone LOOKS like a land line (since it has a cord and all), but if the cable goes out, so does our phone. So, what's to stop the power company from doing the same thing? If they lost their power, there would be no information or any way to report an outage, either.

  2. We had a strangler cord too – we used to talk in the hall closet! 🙂
    We gave up our landline almost 2 years ago and I haven't missed it for a minute – but I hadn't thought of the storm aspect!

  3. -Stacy–it's been a while since I looked it up, but I believe that the traditional, landline phone uses extremely low voltage and the power comes via lines that are separate from the electricity.
    -Jemi–if your cell is always charged and you live in an area that has reliable service, I'm sure it's fine. We live in a big blank spot on the coverage map!

  4. Congrats to your daughter on her graduation! I've been trying to get my hubby to stop paying the bill for our landline. He refuses and now I think he's right. Your book sounds awesome! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe for Updates

For announcements, alerts and special offers, subscribe to our emails.  Please note, you will have to confirm your subscription through an email to the address you provide.

Follow Jeff O'Handley

Jeff O'Handley ©2022 - All Rights Reserved.