She attended a few dinners, a few parties, a few dinner parties. She was social and sparkling, even if she wore ugly shoes. She ran into old acquaintances, made a few new ones, smiled, laughed and talked, and more importantly, listened. What, after all, do most people do than love to be listened to? She smiled and nodded reassuringly, understanding deeply, and uncharacteristically, patted a few people’s shoulders, forearms or hands, even reached out to hug them casually before leaving and moving on to the next engagement. At the airport, she had casual conversations. She talked to a couple on the plane coming back. She made eye contact and smiled at strangers, if their eyes met.
For once she did not feel awkward. For once she did not feel mangled. She did not even feel pulled by her normal extremes.
All she could think, with this flood of faces and voices, is that she only wanted one face and voice. The one that had become most important by far. Others played their roles, but it was this pivotal and important face and voice that had paved the way for this equilibrium that let her move through the world without feeling awkward, mangled or extreme.
Technology has erased some massive inconveniences and hurdles. I doubt anyone would argue with this. It’s funny that I am not even going to go in-depth enough into the topic to highlight how very many advances have been made in so many fields, and will restrict my rambling only to the topic of immediate communication. I am thinking mostly about the once-exorbitant costs of local long distance phone calls. I don’t know if this has changed on the surface, i.e. does the local phone company still charge insane rates if you just pick up the phone (assuming you have a landline at all) and dial? Do you need to have signed up for some special plan to make all calling free or next-to-free? I mean, these are stupid questions that I don’t need to know the answers to – the whole landscape has changed to such a degree that the answers to these questions are moot.
Years and years ago, in my youth, I got into a small amount of debt because I was talking to people who lived in the next county: the most expensive kind of long distance at the time. I once knew someone who got into considerable (tens of thousands of dollars) debt because of just-out-of-range local phone calls (i.e., out of his local (free-of-charge) calling area). The funny thing, back in the “old days”, is that there were a lot of solutions for calling state-to-state or even country-to-country that made it quite inexpensive and economical to do. Early in the 1990s I think I was able to phone England or even Australia for less than calling over to the next county in my home state. You can see how this might lead to insane phone bills. Users were gouged constantly but had very few alternatives, other than perhaps, getting in the car and driving to see the person they were calling (it was after all local long distance, so most of these calls were probably to people within a 50-mile radius).
When I think now about all the money that we had to pay for these ridiculous phone bills, I can only laugh. I don’t need to rattle off all the free, instant, mobile and convenient ways we can pretty much call anyone in the world now. It boggles the mind, though, how comparatively fast this shift took place, even though it didn’t seem back then like it would ever change. We were just going to be held in the grips of the telephone company’s monopoly forever.