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Lines of Communication

Author Shelley Fraser Mickle
Air Date 1/20/2000

Lines of Communication Transcript

The day my brother and I decided to make homemade walkie talkies, I was nine and it was 1953. Ordinarily we didn’t have much to say to each other, and what we did say wasn’t always nice. But when we got on our tin cans, things between us changed. He would get on one side of the yard behind a tree like Sergeant Joe Friday, and I’d get on the other, hunkered down near a bush like his good-natured sidekick. And the string that we’d anchored by a knot in the bottom of our tin cans would be pulled tight between us.

“Can you hear me?” he’d say. “Pretty good,” I’d say back, talking into my tin can, and then I’d put it to my ear. “Well, what’s going on over there?” he’d ask. “Not much,” I’d report, and then say, “there’s just a bird right over my head in this bush.” “What’s he doing?” my brother wanted to know. And I’d tell him, “just sitting there,” then I’d add to myself, “thank heavens.” Because I knew if that bird decided to drop something onto my head, my brother would have that fact spread all over the neighborhood faster than walkie talkie string could take it. “Here comes Mom to hang out the laundry,” he’d report. “What’s she got on?” I’d ask.

When my brother and I had finished talking, I think we’d learned more about each other and our family through those tin cans than we did without them.

So now I like to remember that whenever I see someone on a cellular phone, either in a restaurant or in a car besides me, I like to think that they’re actually talking to someone they ordinarily wouldn’t. I hope this is true for surfing the internet and getting on the world wide web, too. At least the names they’re called, “net” and “web”, are leading us to believe that we are all being woven together and becoming closer.

In fact, the world is changing so fast that keeping up could worry me to death. But I’ve decided not to let it. So now whenever I pull onto the information highway, I have my rearview mirrors shined up, so I can easily remember when talking into a tin can could give me a thrill.

Sometimes when I get on one of those telephone menus, I don’t even tell the truth, Because usually the last choice always is, “if you’re on a rotary phone, stay on the line and someone will answer.” At times I really am on my old rotary phone, which I am keeping for sentimental reasons. But other times, when I am on my quick dial and am lying, it’s just that I’m hungry for the sound of another unrecorded voice. I’m also thinking back, too, about how much fun it really was to send a message over a string tied into the bottom of a tin can.

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