Pondering difference cell phones might have made

Published 12:58 am Saturday, April 6, 2013

Recently, I joined some lifelong friends on a three-day road trip. Like most people who’ve known each other a long time, we laughed at the old stories and got brave enough to tell some new ones, too.

We remember kindergarten in minute detail, but couldn’t name all of our prom dates. Five people, two proms, that’s only a maximum of 10 people. We could only come up with three, maybe four definite names.

Even though we all lived it, we also can’t quite figure out some other things about those ancient, pre-cell phone days.

“How did we communicate,” our friend John pondered. “Like I remember talking to you when I was leaving Montgomery after an FFA event. How did I find you?”

Well, even then, I mostly lived at the newspaper office. Brad and Karen were sure he’d called me there.

There were endless weekends hanging out at The Cabin, a sainted place of our youth on the banks of the Pea River. Sometimes we cooked supper. When it was cold, we built great, big fires. Sometimes parents were there with us. The crowd might be 5 or 6, or it might have been 25 or more. But the occasions always seemed serendipitous.

How’d we do that without today’s instant communication?

“Do you think our lives would have been better or worse if we’d had cell phones in high school,” John later asked.

Worse, we unanimously agreed, although I’m not sure why. If we knew to find each other at the cabin, our parents knew they could find us there, too. Heck, there was a phone there. The jailer even called us there one night and told us to quieten down … the inmates at the county jail across the river were sleepy and our music was too loud. If that sounds like Mayberry to you, I’m awfully glad that it was.

I think what bothers us most about the notion of having cell phones, is that even though we spent a lot of time at that very safe place in our very small town, it felt like we had the freedom that teens crave most. We didn’t want to be in constant communication with our parents and the notion bothers us even now as we hover at middle age. Growing up involves testing the boundaries. I wonder how teenagers do that now.

These days, when not on extended road trips, we rarely talk to each other, my friends and I. But we text, email and Facebook message.

I’m not sure that this communication is better than the apparent sixth senses we enjoyed oh, so long ago, but I’ll take it. These friends have lasted too long to have things any other way.