Alexander Graham Bell calls his momma — I'm assuming — on the device he invented in 1876. ##Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Phone Home

Voices say so much more

By Hilary Berg

Recently, I took one of those cheesy quizzes on Facebook. Actually, there was only one question on the test, and the app answered it for me. The query? “What does your name reveal about you?” Since Mark Zuckerberg already knows everything about me — and my dogs — why not?

The results were somewhat accurate, especially the one about my dislikes, which declared: I do not like talking on the phone.

Since I was old enough to hold one — tangled cord attached — I’ve avoided the phone. As a kid, I remember taking the original personality quiz — inside Seventeen Magazine. Invariably, there would be a question about your hobbies; one of the choices: talking on the phone. A hobby? Really? My disdain for the device made me feel so uncool.

However, with the advent of texting, talking on the phone has changed for me. While I’d prefer messaging, there are times speaking instead of typing is more appropriate and often more satisfying.

Such was the case when I interviewed Dick Erath for this month’s Q&A. Normally, I send questions through e-mail, allowing people to answer on their own time. Most appreciate this approach because it gives them a chance to organize their thoughts. Dick explained his typing wasn’t great and, besides, he’d rather chat. No problem.

After reassuring myself the recorder was working properly, we settled into our conversation. First, I asked what he was up to on this beautiful, unseasonably dry day. Dick responded, “Well, I’m trying to fix the hot tub; it came with the house.”

His honesty and warm voice instantly put me at ease. I’ll admit, I often get nervous striking up conversations with the old Oregon wine guard — impostor syndrome, anyone? — but this communication felt so relaxed and informal, it was like speaking with my dad. From that moment on, I released my shoulders from my ears and thoroughly enjoyed our exchange.

I feel grateful having spoken at length with Dick, now in his mid-80s. I’m also thankful for the resulting sense of connection.

To all you fellow phone ninnies: I encourage you to break out occasionally and lift that receiver. Recent family news — a cancer diagnosis — reminded me of its importance.

If you have an inkling to pick up the phone and connect, don’t hesitate. You never know when a conversation will be the last.

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