Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Lost Technologies

I remember 
the Telephone.
There was only one
in our house,
a shiny 
black plastic contraption
enthroned on a little table 
in the living room.

Everyone
was at its beck and call
since it was attached
by a wire to the wall
and was therefore
the very opposite
of mobile.

Making a phone call
was a whole ritual.

First you lifted the receiver,
smooth and heavy in your hand,
from its cradle
on mother Telephone’s
little ears.

Holding the earpiece 
to your ear, 
the mouthpiece 
to your mouth,
you listened,
and the dial tone
come buzzing out
like an endless swarm 
of mechanical bees.

At that point
it was easy
to get entranced 
but eventually
you remembered
your friend’s number –
one of the many 
seven-digit numbers
etched in your memory –
and with your free hand
you began to dial:
Davenport
851-1283.

The dial, a plastic disk
mounted on mother Telephone’s face,
had ten finger-sized holes
ringed like eyes around
a round white nose
where your own 
proud number 
was displayed: 
Davenport
851-7637.

Each finger hole
had a different digit 
peering through it,
all in ascending order 
except for that weird zero
at the end –
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 –
and you dialed
your friend’s digits
by inserting the tip
of your index finger
into each proper hole,
one by one,
and pushing the hole around
listening to the clicks
until the disk 
came to a stop.

The whole process 
took some time,
since after dialing each digit 
and before dialing the next,
you had to remove your finger
to let the disk spin back
to its starting point 
where with a final 
click
it came to a stop:
8 – Push – whir – click
5 – Push – whir – click
1 – Push – whir – click
2 – Push – whir – click
2 – Push – whir – click
8 – Push – whir – click
3 – Push – whir – click

Finally
when you were done 
you waited
listening to the spooky silence
of the telephone lines
vibrating in the empty wind outside 
until at last 
came the ring:
rrrrring rrrrring
silence… 
rrrrring rrrrring
silence…
rrrrring rrrrring
silence….

And you knew
that if anyone was home next door
someone was hurrying
to answer the phone…

“Hello?”

It was the voice of Ruth, 
your friend’s mom, 
who looked like Betty Crocker –

“Hi, this is Trudi, 
can I talk to Diana?”

“Oh, of course dear, 
just a minute…”

More clicks
of a different sort
as she clicked away
on her high heels 
to find her daughter.

In a silence broken only 
by a single bark 
from their orange dog Tristram 
you waited
while Diana 
in her bedroom
looked up from her
Nancy Drew mystery
put it down
and came out 
to her own family’s
Telephone –
also black plastic
also enthroned
on a little table 
in the living room

“Hello?”

“Hi 
do you want to play
Indians?”

“Sure.”

So you told your mom
you were going out to play,
grabbed a spoon 
from the kitchen drawer,
dashed outside
slamming the screen door
behind you,
and ran barefoot 
through the weeds
down to the vacant lot
below your house.

There you and Diana
and crawled into the jungle
of poison oak 
to dig clay from the ground
with the spoon
and make little Indian pots

Those pots 
never held water
no matter how long you left them
to bake in the sun –
but that 
you knew 
would be the province
of another technology
yet to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost Technologies

Trudi Lee Richards

Author, poet, Spanish-English translator; Activist and community builder. Member of the international Community of Silo's Message (www.silosmessage.net) and its Portland, Oregon and Red Bluff, California communities (www.RedBluffPark.org) Published work includes "On Wings of Intent, a biography of Silo," "Soft Brushes with Death, a Jorge Espinet Primer," "Fish Scribbles," and "Experiences on the Threshold - with Silo's Message." Also publisher and editor of "Human Future," an independent review published in San Francisco, California, from 1989 to 1996. Mother of five grown kids/stepkids and five step grandkids; Long ago graduate of Stanford University; Lives in Portland, Oregon.