Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)
TITLE: Little Black Box
By Lisa Keck
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It’s less than 12 inches square. Certainly not very big yet I learned of its great power at an early age. Perhaps the first lesson I learned was its ability to make a grown, independent woman jump. It would ring and Mother would stop what she was doing to walk over to its appointed place in the dining room to pick up the receiver which made the ringing stop.
Sometimes she was rendered speechless. Whatever question came through the earpiece caused her to say, “There are ears in the cornfield.” So this little black box with the numbers arranged in a circle that was supposed to encourage talking made Mother come up with a code for ‘I can’t talk now.’ Go figure. I don’t recall her ever saying that to someone in person.
The little black box could wrack the nerves of even the strongest teenager as in neighborhoods all over the country, the same scene played out. Susie was supposed to ask Johnny if Bobby liked Bettylou. So there sat Bettylou waiting for Susie to call. If any other family member got near the telephone she would give them such a look to make them think twice and they’d usually walk away.
We traded in our rotary telephone in my late teens. Mother didn’t like the pushbutton off-white one as well. But no matter the color and no matter if I never use a rotary dial again telephones also yield the power to interrupt: dinner and life. Dinner being interrupted is pretty insignificant but I remember the first time the little black box interrupted my life.
I was fifteen and it was four in the morning. I knew the telephone call was about my father. He was gone. Ironically almost 25 years later my home telephone would ring at four a.m. This time my father-in-law was gone. I’ve decided it’s never good news when the telephone rings at that hour because both times turned out to be major life interruptions.
Looking at its distant cousin (the one born without a cord that seems to always be displaced) that little black box of yesteryear seems clunky. But no matter what other family members look like and whether land-line or cellular the telephone still has great power. It is the power to let you share your life with someone else.
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