The Game of Tellyphone
It was a beautiful Tennessee spring afternoon when I pulled in the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s farm. The hills behind their house this time of year were becoming bathed in pastel colors. Their white frame house, located among the landscape of the spring-colored hillsides, seemed to be part of an artist’s painting hanging in a gallery on the strip in Gatlinburg.
Aunt Sadie met me at the front door, wiping her hands on her apron, and led me to the back portion of their house where the old couple spends most of their time. There, sitting at the round kitchen table, was Uncle Sid and one of their two granddaughters, Pearlie Jane. Uncle Sid was working on a plate of cookies and sipping on a cup of coffee. He seemed to be in some kind of trance watching P.J. type text messages on a pink cell phone.
The teenager was about as fast with her thumbs on the phone’s keyboard as anyone I have ever seen as she texted her friends about teenage things. I could tell that Uncle Sid was as fascinated as I was with his granddaughter’s ability to punch the little buttons.
“Why don’t you ever talk to anybody after you punch in all those phone numbers?” asked Uncle Sid of his granddaughter. “I can’t believe somebody has a phone number that long.”
Rolling her eyes and giving a deep sigh, P.J. answered, “I’m not calling anyone on the phone. I’m texting my friends.”
“Who you calling in Texas?” the old man asked.
“I’m not calling anyone in Texas, I’m sending text messages to my friends at school,” she said.
Uncle Sid stopped dunking his sugar cookie and asked, “So you can use those little old tellyphones for something besides calling someone?”
“Yes sir,” P.J. replied. “I can call someone, send and receive messages in text form just like a letter and even take your picture with a built-in camera right from this cell phone,” now holding it up for Uncle Sid to see a picture of himself taken by P. J. earlier in her visit at the farm that day.
Being completely taken back by all the modern day features of P.J.’s cell phone, the old man asked, “Why would you want to do all of that? Seems like a lot of wasted time to me.”
“You need the cell phone to receive tweets. Don’t you Twitter, Grandpa?” P.J. asked her granddaddy.
“The only time I twittered was when I asked your grandmother to marry me, and that was so long ago, I’ve even forgot what that felt like,” Uncle Sid replied.
Seeing she had run up against a pretty tough match for a debate, she attempted to explain today’s social media to Uncle Sid. “We call all of these forms of communication ‘social media,’ Grandpa. We can find out what’s going on within a group of people of our choice by texting each other or using internet communications known as Twitter and Facebook. We now use our telephones to socialize – just like the president.”
Picking up another cookie and dunking it in his coffee, Uncle Sid said,
“In other words, you have a circle of select friends that you can talk to about nothing by either textin’ or callin’ on your cell phone.”
“That’s right!” P.J. answered thinking she had won her grandfather over to her side.
Uncle Sid got up from the table and walked to the hall tree in the corner of the room that held his old felt hat. While putting on his hat and walking to the back porch door, he stopped and looked back at his granddaughter still seated at the kitchen table. With a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Your Facebook thing sounds like what we used to call a party line around these parts. It was also a closed circle of friends listening in on what everyone was doing, and it kept us all informed as well. Your social media does perform a service I guess, but these days it seems like social media is another way of doing away with social ability.”
Uncle Sid then left the room to go check on things at the barn, but his final statements seemed to hit a nerve. P.J. put down her phone and went over to help Aunt Sadie in the kitchen.