Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Random Musings: Selfies, old phone exchanges and laughing gas

I went to the dentist this morning and after they put the nitrous mask on my nose and left me alone for a minute or two I did what any 21st century American would do. I pulled my phone out, took a selfie and posted it to Facebook.

"At the dentist, huffing NO2. Hahahahaha!" said the text that ran with the photo. Then, in my gas-addled state, I added the hashtag "#comfort_care_dental," thinking I might get a discount (no dice) but also wanting to show the world I'm in the know when it comes to social media.

The entire staff were greatly amused, but I couldn't believe it doesn't happen all the time. Don't we live in the selfie age?

A few years ago I was playing guitar and singing at local coffee house when a group of teen-agers came in and plopped down on the sofa. For the next 45 minutes, all they did was take pictures of each other with their phones.

Elizabeth Taylor never took a selfie. All you needed to do was call BUtterfield 8.
I can handle being ignored. I don't like it, but it happens all the time. But this was annoying, and I was strongly tempted to razz them from where I was sitting. In the end, I just kept on, but it was my introduction to the selfie mentality.

Have I become like them? Actually, yes. My wife tells me I'm as bad as any kid when it comes to my smart phone -- pulling it out every two minutes, looking at it, ignoring the world around me. It's rude, she says, and she's right. If I have a meeting, I have to leave my phone in the car. I feel kind of like Marlon Brando did when he threw cheeseburgers over the fence trying to convince himself not to eat so much (it didn't work).

Remember when the only phones in your world were the ones at home, at work, and the ones that cost a dime to make a call?

Remember when phone numbers had two letters at the beginning? The prefix to every number in Idaho Falls was JA, for JAckson. "Jackson 3-7393" sounds like a Wilson Pickett song, but it's the number I've had for more than 30 years.

According to the Telephone EXchange Name Project, Blackfoot was SUnset, Rexburg was either ELmwood or ELwood and Rigby was SHerwood. There is a database where you can go to look up any town or city in the U.S.A., which makes me so glad we have the Internet.

Here's the cherry on top: A chart of Ma Bell's officially recommended exchange names. According to it, my smart phone number, 821-1285, should begin with one of the following: TAlbot, TAlmadge, TAylor, VAlley or VAndyke. Even though I like the last one best, I think Taylor rolls off the tongue best. "Hey man, call me at Taylor 1-1285."

I've wandered away from the subject of selfies, but that's OK. The past has so much to give us that's weird and fascinating. Could we marry the conveniences of the present with everything from the past that makes us smile? Or does the past make us smile because it's the past? In 50 years, maybe people will think of selfies as fondly as I do of my old phone number, Olympia 5-9822. I doubt it, but who knows? I don't expect to be around to find out.