Georgia – On her mind: Deciphering modern Morse

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By Georgia Green Stamper

I’m learning the Morse Code. I got the idea from a movie I saw this summer. In one of those light-bulb-flashing-over-my-head moments, I realized this could bridge the communication gap between my young adult children and me. They only communicate by texting now, and with my clumsy old thumbs and last century spelling, I’m left out of the conversation. Re-invent the telegraph, I say, with its finger friendly dashes and dots in plain old English!
 I’ve spent as long as 45 minutes trying to type something on my itty bitty iPhone screen that conveys, “yes, I can meet you in 15 minutes for lunch say where?” When my thumbs finally end up with “yex whrrz?” they text back, “LOL we missed u at lun TTYL.” They’re sweet like that, always sending me “lots of love” even though I can’t text worth a cent. I’m sorry I missed going to that new restaurant, TTYL, though.
Why didn’t you just call them, I hear you asking. ROTFL!!!  I DID, but they no longer answer their cell phones. Their ringers are turned off, because OMG!!! talking on the phone is so last century, and RBTL (one has to have boundaries in the contemporary world, not be a slave to a ringing phone even if your BFF is calling much less your NP.) BTW, they don’t have landlines either because in their POV only a spendthrift would waste money on that.
This is not the first time in my life I’ve been disconnected.  I spent my childhood in a world without telephones because the corporate magnates thought it unprofitable to build lines across the hilly, rural areas of Kentucky. People don’t believe me when I dredge up these details from my past – TMI my girls might say - and I agree that my childhood does sound like something out of “Little House on the Prairie.” At times, I have trouble believing me too.  
We lived within 45 to 60 miles of Cincinnati, Lexington and Louisville, in the center of what politicians now like to call Kentucky’s Golden Triangle, but there were only 3 telephones in the community. Back in the 1920s, a co-operative had raised money to build a phone line, and those who bought in were allowed to join the secret society of phoners. If you missed out at the beginning, you were forever shut-out. People bequeathed their plug-in to the party line in their wills.  The closest phone to us was at the Natlee store, and I don’t recall anyone in our family ever using it except to call the doctor or an ambulance.
We did have postcards, which, now that I think about it, were an early version of texting. For a penny, later two, you could drop a few lines in the mail and the recipient would get them – I know you’re not going to believe this – the very next day! Aunt Bessie would send a message on Thursday that she’d like to come over for dinner on Sunday. Mother would write back, “Great, see you then.” It was an efficient system if one’s handwriting were legible.
Ma Bell finally relented sometime during the late 1950s and brought telephone service into the countryside for all who wanted it. Overnight, a big black dial-up phone wired us into the 20th century. In an arrangement that discouraged  young love, ours sat on a table at the end of the living room sofa, next to the television. When a boy rang me up, Daddy refused to relinquish his nearby easy chair or turn down the TV, even if the poor fellow was calling long distance from a pay phone and dropping quarters in every couple of minutes.
Privacy didn’t matter anyway, I guess, since we were on an eight family party line. Someone was always picking up a receiver somewhere along the road, then clicking it down, impatient to use their phone, or to eavesdrop on our stuttering conversations.
As time went on, we added something called extensions. That meant we could have a phone in the kitchen and in the bedroom as well as the living room. Extension phones, especially in a color other than black, became a status symbol. In our first place, I went with beige receivers because in those days I was on the cutting edge of home décor.
Cordless phones were the next big breakthrough. This meant I could talk on a phone anywhere in the house. We bought a six-phone packaged set, and I knew I had achieved the American Dream. Our three daughters loved talking on the phone back then. Of course, everyone they wanted to talk to was a long distance tariff call away. I spent hours sorting through complicated long distance plans trying to get the most minutes for the dime.
But all that was before texting. Now I am reduced to communicating with the family on one tiny phone that stays in my purse near the backdoor so I don’t forget it when I go out. It can’t be heard anywhere else in the house should it ring, which of course it doesn’t, since text messages only go bonk, once, briefly. Some nights, after I’ve been working upstairs at my computer all day, I’ll find a whole string of text acronyms from the girls, and finally an all caps scream of despair, “W R U?”  Well, I want to say, I’m right here by my beige, cordless landline phone at my computer which, BTW, receives email.
This is why I’m learning Morse Code. IMO every thing old is new again, so I’m going back to the 19th century and show them what classy texting looks like! THX for listening and B4N. XOXO & LYLAS, Georgia.