Saturday, July 4, 2015

Oh No, Not Our Landlines!

Dear George,
It seems that our state legislators are drafting a bill to allow telephone companies to get rid of people’s landline phones.*  You’d think the legislature wouldn’t have time for such matters, what with their anti-abortion and anti-voting rights initiatives, but the big phone corporations have been lobbying vigorously because they make larger profits on their newfangled devices.  About three-quarters of Ohio households have landline phones, and 17% rely almost entirely on their landlines for phone calls.*  What are these decent, salt of the earth people supposed to do?

When we call friends who are in their sixties or seventies, we almost always chat on our respective landline phones.  But when we call young people (i.e., people below fifty), they often don’t even have a landline.  This is a puzzling generational difference.  I like to think it’s because the older group has a greater amount of accumulated life wisdom.  Or there could be other factors too.

I’m a landline guy because that’s what I grew up with.  In fact, our family’s landline was attached to the closet wall by a sturdy black cord.  Having a cord on your landline phone is best.  If your phone has a cord, you can always count on it to be in the same place.  Since it runs on electricity, you never have to worry about the battery running down.  Another advantage of landline phones is that you can call other people’s landlines when you know they’re not at home and talk to their answering machine instead.  If you actually want to talk to somebody, it’s also better to call on a landline because the mother answers sometimes, the father sometimes, or sometimes one of the kids.  It’s more of a family thing. 

I only own a cell phone because Katja insisted on buying me one years ago.  It’s very complicated and tricky. I only call five or six other people on it, so it costs about a dollar each time.  I misplace the phone regularly, or the battery goes dead.  When I silence it at the movies, I usually forget to turn it back on.  Even when the volume is on, I often don’t hear it because it’s in my pants pocket. 

I also don’t like the idea of taking a telephone with me wherever I go.  That’s way too socially accessible.  I could just avoid answering calls, but then people would suspect that I’m intentionally screening them out.  Probably the biggest limitation of cell phones is that you rarely get calls from worthwhile groups like Rand Paul’s Super PAC or Mothers Against Drunken Children.  How are you supposed to know where to send your money?

Sometimes people ask Katja and myself why we keep our landline since we each have a cell phone.  That’s a silly question.  We keep our landline because we’ve always had one.  We use our landline when we’re in the house, and we use our cell phones when we’re not in the house.  That’s just common sense.  And it’s comforting to have double the number of telephones.  I must admit that now I would find it difficult to give up my cell phone.  I get nervous when I leave the house without it.  It’s important to have it available when danger lurks, e.g., if your car gets trapped in the flood waters. 

Whatever the case, if the legislature allows companies to terminate landline services, a lot of Ohio residents will be upset, myself included.  In that eventuality, I’ll probably purchase a second cell phone and tie it with a string to the kitchen counter.  At least I’ll have a modicum of security.


  1. This was fun, and funny. I was surprised you didn't bring up the bad old days of party lines. But that would be so 20th century, and few of your readers, I imagine, would be able to relate.

    Mary McKenney

    1. I did include our party line in an earlier draft. That was probably the best landline feature of all.