The New Party Line
When I was a very young girl, my grandparents lived on a farm way out in the middle of nowhere. (The same farm where my parents live now, still out in the middle of nowhere.) I remember that they had a party telephone line, shared with the Humphries their nearest neighbors who lived about a mile down their country road. As I remember, Mom and Mrs. Humphries both like to talk on the phone. At Mom’s house, I remember very few times when Mom would pick up the phone and not hear Mrs. Humphries discussing whatever the latest news was with whoever it was that she gossiped with. Mom would politely interrupt, letting her know that she needed to make quick call please, and the hang up the phone with a “Hrumph!” Maybe later.
Back in the day (a day my children never knew and would never believe), news spread quickest by word of mouth, via telephone. If there was a death, a wreck, a national event, or some juicy gossip, people picked up the phone and started making calls. It was (and in some settings, still is) an incredibly effective way of getting the word out. Even now in my current church, we know in the church office who we need to call to get certain news spread quickly, especially among the older members who don’t utilize email or texting.
Today, there are very few things I hate as much as talking on the phone. I carry my phone with me always. It is within an arm’s reach pretty much 24/7. However, my phone is a Blackberry, which gives me multiple options for communication. Hands down, I prefer email, text, Facebook, and Twitter instead of the old-fashioned phone conversation.
Yesterday morning, I woke about 15 minutes before my alarm went off. I rolled over and grabbed the Blackberry off the night table and checked for the day’s temperature. It’s springtime in the South, which means that choosing the appropriate wardrobe for the day is a challenge. One day we’ll be in the mid-70’s and the next in the low 50’s. I still had a few minutes before it was time to get the children up, so I checked in on Facebook.
“Prayers for the people in Japan.”
“Lifting up the many victims in Japan.”
“For the people of Japan, O Lord, hear our prayer.”
There were at least a half dozen similar status updates. Each told me something horrible had happened overnight in Japan, but none gave the details. So where do you think I went next to fill in the blanks? News websites? Television news? No. Twitter.
A quick scan of the feeds on Twitter filled in the details: powerful earthquake, giant tsunami, nuclear plant meltdown fears, not many confirmed dead yet, but no doubt there would be many as the count came in. Some tweets gave links to images, others to news stories.
So there you have it. In the 15 minutes before getting out of bed, without talking (in person, anyway) to a soul, without turning on a television or checking the local paper’s website news feed, I gathered more information than my heavy heart wanted to know.
Not even Mrs. Humphries could’ve done better than that.