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Trusty landline phones will be missed

Updated: October 23, 2013 6:33AM

About 20 years ago, I had a cellular phone that probably weighed close to five pounds.

It was a clunky thing in a large case, and I paid $9.99 for a service plan. It traveled in my clunky car for emergency purposes. Whenever the car broke down, and it often did, I used that phone to call tow trucks.

Since then, technology has brought cellphones a long way, and we have fallen hard for the crisp, colorful monitors of cellphones, but especially smartphones for their ability to keep us connected to the world almost all the time.

According to the Pew Research Center, 91 percent of Americans own some kind of cellphone and 56 percent of adult Americans own smartphones.

Cellphones are so popular that they are rapidly replacing old-school landlines. You know, phones that require something called a jack.

A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that nearly two out of five American homes had only cellular telephones in the second half of 2012, and the number rises to three in five adults in the 25 to 29 age group. The CDC tracks these numbers because it affects their survey samples for health statistics.

This means my beloved landline is facing extinction. I can remember every landline telephone number my family had growing up. My mom has had the last one for about 30 years. You probably know someone like that, a family member or friend whose phone number is etched in your memory because of its longevity.

Cellphones have a transient feel. For all their handiness, they can be elusive. Lightweight and sleek, they can disappear at the bottom of a bag or fall between seat cushions. The landline, on the other hand, is a fixture in a home.

Of course, it’s no longer cost-efficient to have a cellphone and a landline. When people ask incredulously why I still have landline, I tell them I need its reliability. The landline doesn’t drop many calls, I say.

Truth be told, I am nostalgic about the landline the way some are about their record-playing turntables.

I have had the same landline telephone number for 18 years. And I’m going to hang on to it for as long as I can. Or at least until cellphones come with much longer battery life and fewer dropped calls.

This was reinforced two months ago when my sister collapsed at her home from a heat stroke after running a half-marathon.

She had ditched her landline years ago and was too sick to tell me where her cellphone was to call 911 (my phone was in the car).

Thus began a search for a phone. My husband handed me his smartphone, but on that day it was as temperamental as a cat. The call went through, but I couldn’t hear the emergency dispatch operator and didn’t know if the operator could hear me. It was one of those “can you hear me now” moments.

Thus began a search for another cellphone. And the next one worked fine, but in a more dire situation, we would have lost valuable time.

My sister recovered in the hospital. So did my husband’s phone. He smacked his display screen hard with the palm of his hand to get it working again.

It has been more reliable ever since, but I still don’t trust it.


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