Does this Phone Make me Look Old?

“Let me curl up on the couch for a nice Zoom with my friend Sarah” said nobody. Okay, maybe someone with a friend named Sarah somewhere once said it.

When I want to call my friend Sarah, she doesn’t require an appointment and as matter of fact, clothing is optional.  I just curl up on the couch next to my dog, River, who seems to enjoy the fact that I’m no longer arting at the counter and can now be physically close to him.  If Sarah’s available, she will probably answer and if not, she’ll probably call me back.

Okay, sure I want to get nostalgic and talk about telephones; how I can still remember my childhood phone number even though it’s been 40 years since I’ve had to use it, the ladies with the nice voices who answered, “Directory Assistance, How may I help you?” walking around from room to room to see which phone was off the hook as evidenced by a sound that was almost as annoying as the clappy hold music at your doctor’s office.

“Thanks for the memories Shelley,” I hear you thinking to yourself.

“You’re welcome,” I think back at you.

“Not the clappy one,” you think.

“I got you,” I think back at you.

I want to drive us back down the forgotten roads of, “At the tone, the time will be…” and tell you how I used to imitate that voice so well, I was asked by many a friend to please call so and so and do that impression for them. Okay, maybe only one friend, and who knows, she may be the same friend who can’t wait to curl up on the couch for a good Zoom with her friend Sarah.

How about the things we don’t hear anymore including;

“Get off my line.”

“Do you know how much that will cost? That’s a toll call.”

“Use the phone book.”

When was the last time you heard the crash of a receiver?  That’s a memory I don’t want to relive.

I’ve realized and maybe you have too that in a world that can feel noisy, as tangled up a an old phone cord and sometimes hard, inviting gentleness into my life feels extra good, inviting quiet into my life feels extra better, inviting intimacy into my relationships feels really nourishing. And cultivating joy?  Well, that’s my jam!

There is joy in a phone call with no appointment required, no calendar confusions and no thinking about time zones.  I have an 84-year old mother across the country and our relationship has never felt better.  While we do email and I send her my art of the day, to hear her voice on the other end of the phone, maybe the first voice I ever heard and probably the first voice to say my name is definitely worthy of a couch curl up.

I really try to give good phone and by this, I mean, give you my full presence and at least tell you if I’m unable to do so.  Try me!  And by the way, you will rarely if ever get a busy signal, however; I may fake you out with a very precise rendition of, “The number you have reached has been disconnected.  The new number is 555-555-5555.  Please make a note of it,” which you will never do because Sarah’s number has been embedded in your brain for years.

Friendship = no appointment required.



Art by Shelley Brown


Shelley Brown
Shelley Brown
I’m Shelley Brown, A "Type A" Meditator. I spent 25 years in corporate sales, climbing the ladder and making great money, all while stress slowly consumed me. Then, after a particularly difficult time, I decided it was enough. So I learned how to address my stress. Then, I became better at my job AND my life. Today I teach sales leaders and their teams how to mitigate stress so they can be human beings at work and win more deals. And, BONUS! I help teams cultivate a sales culture that drives continual success. I’m not your typical corporate mindfulness trainer. In fact, I’m probably a lot like you.

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  1. Smiling! Yes, I remember the days and the phones. My grandmother had a party line. She saw the invention of telephones, televisions, visiting the moon and so much more. And I’ve surely run up huge phone bills over the years from toll calling the world.

    Thanks for sharing your memories, Shelley, in a way that pops up so many delightful memories of my own.


    • Oh my gosh. Isn’t it wonderful how we can tap into the awareness of our experience of each other that is not contigent on other circumstances? I love thinking about you. I notice such a feeling of joy, sisterhood and belonging. Love you Kimberly and FYI, I didn’t get tp speak with Sarah yet 😘 and as I type this, I’m thinking, did we because I can hear her voice so clearly in my mind just as I can hear yours.

  2. You are right, Shelley, Facetiming in ones bathrobe is not quite the same. Plus, mom can see the eye rolls…

    The stories of everybody remembering their childhood numbers got an update recently. My friend – whom I could call anytime but generally text – got a call on the house phone from a random number across the country. “Mom, my phone has died and I am borrowing a guy’s here in the street. Could you call my girlfriend and tell her that I can’t meet her because the police has blocked off half the city…”
    The number he learned in kindergarten stuck. Remembering all other numbers – evidently including said girlfriend’s – has been outsourced to the handy-dandy device in the pocket.

  3. Shelley – First of all, it’s great to see you gracing these pages once again. Hurrah!

    I do remember our house phone number, and I’m old enough to know party lines and long-distance charges.

    But I’m not a fan of the phone…. I may be the iconoclast here, but I actually like zoom because (1) it’s hard to get distracted when you’re talking with a group of people and (2) I like to read faces and body language. Somehow the visual medium feels closer to me, too.

    But you’re right about it not being as spontaneous as the phone although I will say this, when you and I scheduled our “touch-base” call recently, it was something to look forward to in my calendar.

    • Jeff,

      Thank you so much for the warm greeting. Yes, part-lines and long-distance charges. I know how you feel about video vs. a phone call and I totally get that. It’s kind of ironic that my preference is the phone when I’m such a visual person. It’s interesting that it’s harder to get distracted on Zoom and it’s also interesting that it’s easier for me to notice if the other person is distracted by really listening to their responses. Nevertherless, I’m so happy to know your voice and to be able to hear it when I read your written words. As I told you the other day, your voice is so friendly aand calming. Thank you Jeff.

    • From one memory lane cruiser to another, I’ll meet you at the corner of Familiar & Nostalgia. What a Carol-ful comment with which you gifted me. The yearbook comment is a blog unto itself…kind of like having all of our connections on LI try to figure out something personal to write if we asked them to sign our virtual yearbook. I won’t change and I really hope you won’t either! 😂

  4. Yes! By all means, call your friend Sarah and curl up with the dog while chatting away.

    It does sometimes feel like the old days when we talk, Shelley. I remember when we first moved into our old house 20 years ago and had a landline with a corded phone and then a cordless phone. I’d call my mom, my mother in law, or my sister while working away in the kitchen, getting laundry started and making dinner. But that’s as far as I could go because the signal would drop.

    You’re right, no appointment needed when calling a friend, just intention and love.

    • It sure does Sarah and that’s why I cherish it so much. It feel warm and welcoming because you are warm and welcoming and that warmth comforts me as I sit on the couch reflecting, laughing and just being with you. I love the imagary of you talking with your mom while in the kitchen, getting laundry…it’s also a reminder there weren’t multiple devices vying for our attention and maybe for you, a kid or too wanting their Mom 😘

  5. I love this ode to Ma Bell and the power of the phone! I know how much my phone conversations mean to me, like the ones we have — no appointment required.

    I have a friend who does really well in real estate, sells all the houses, wins all the awards without spending very much on marketing. Her methods often confuse and baffle others. So, she’s frequently to share her secrets to success. It always boils down to one thing: “Pick up the phone!” She answers her phone and calls people back pronto, and it makes a huge difference. So much more effective than email or text! This retro technology is a game-changer in both personal and professional relationships!

    I love the bit about you imitating the operator. hope to hear your automated impression soon. That image just reminded me of Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine! I can do a pretty good Tomlin tribute/impression of Edith Ann and, of course, my guru Sister Boogie Woman. Don’t know why I’m sharing that here, but I know you understand my randomness. You always bring out my unhindered stream of joy and consciousness.

    • Oh Bobin,

      I love our no appointment required phone conversations. I mean, come on, one of the produced the Iconic Me. B. Hive! I love what you shared about your real estate friend and the retro-technology. Unfortunately, a lot of people wont even answer their phone. Can’t wait to hear your Ernstine and other LT impressions!

      Your stream of consciousness is all joy and “That’s the truth!”

    • Thank you so much Sherry. So happy you loved the story. You may find this funny. I was raised in Downtown Chicago and my late father joked that “312” was God’s chosen area code due to the population expansion and some parts of the city having to relinquish their “312” status and be relegated to a different area code.

      Thanks for walking down memory lane with me. By the way, when I think about the things I have forgotten, I tend to attribute it to having much more to remember these days vs. the fact that I will be 57 in a few weeks 😀

    • Sherry, I knew you were in IL. We were in Skokie for a few years when I was really young over by Jacks Restaurant. Where did you go to school? @Jeff, where did you go tot temple?

  6. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane, Shelley. 🙂

    I do indeed remember my phone number growing up. And the numbers of all of my friends at the time. And my grandmother’s. And few others that are just randomly still stuck in my head for some reason. It helps that I grew up in a small town, where everybody had the same area code and prefix. So it’s really just a matter of remembering those last 4 digits.

    I also remember having a big heavy dark green AT&T issued phone with an extra long curly cord that I’d have to stretch from one room to the next in order to get any privacy while talking to friends or to girls I liked.

    And there was that one time my brother and called the “Joke of the Day” number multiple times a day for a week, not realizing it cost money. That didn’t end well for us.

    But mostly, I remember what you’re describing. The act of simply picking up a phone to call somebody and see how they’re doing. I freely admit I haven’t been great at that in the past decade or so. It’s ironic, because part of the reason I didn’t do it as much as I would have liked back in the day was because of long distance rates. Now there are ways to talk to people halfway around the world essentially for free. Unfortunately, now free time is the enemy, because other technologies are eating up so much of it. Which of course means it’s not the technology that’s really the problem.

    Again, thanks for the share and for the food for thought here.

    • Randy,

      I love your memories. They evoke such feelings of endearment and simplicity. It’s interesting, I am not sentimental when it comes to pocessions however; memories are a different story, especially the visual snapshots crafted in my mind (the visual artist in me). Your comment has such wonderful, visually enjoyable snapshots of your boyhood. Even though I didn’t know you, I love the musse for the mind picture. Thank you for taking me there.