Usually I hate it when the phone rings at home. Oh, I’m not anti-social or anything like that but it’s just that when I’m home, I find it disturbing and intrusive to field calls from various telemarketers offering me the latest and greatest in cable television, trying to sell me the vacation of my dreams to some idyllic island paradise or asking me if I want to consolidate my bills into “one easy payment”.

Yes, my circle of friends is small and for the most part, old fashioned. We still greet each other with a firm handshake and buy each other a drink or two. We prefer to talk face to face, especially when the matter is important and we view the phone as more of a convenience than a necessity. When we do talk over the wires, yes, that’s right, the wires, the vast majority of us haven’t gone the cellular route just yet, the conversations are short and to the point.

Maybe it’s some kind of “generational thing” or something. I was reared back in the days when a phone in your room was considered more of a luxury than the vital piece of equipment that it has become today. Shit, I remember having to ask my parents if I could even use the phone and if they grudgingly said yes, they were always within earshot of the conversation. So much for privacy. To top it off, if I was on for more than ten minutes or so I’d catch a look from my father that would melt the most frozen of ice. It seemed to say “Get off the Goddamn phone”. It wasn’t that he was waiting for a call or needed to use it or anything. He just thought that the phone was for important things and that he had better things to do with his time and his money to be spending it making idle chitchat. It was just one of the many quirks that made him what he was. We’ve all got ‘em in one form or another.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, the phone. Anyway, over the past couple of days and weeks I’ve heard voices over the wires that I haven’t heard for a long time. In retrospect, its been too long and I’m mostly to blame for that.

Old friend,
All the stories to tell
Old friend
Could you bid me farewell?
Old friend
It might be easy for another man to see

Excerpt from Lyle Lovett’s fine song titled “Old Friend”

I don’t think there’s a word in the English language that adequately describes the feeling you get when you haven’t talked with someone for an extended period of time but when you do, it’s like you’ve spoken just the other day. The bullshit seems to be cast aside and forgotten and the conversation is honest and open with little or no pretense to mask whatever feelings and distance separated you in the first place, When I asked the question, some folks said it was “friendship” and maybe that’s the case. In my heart of hearts, I think it runs deeper than that though. Maybe that’s why in my mind, there’s not a word for it.

There’s been some talks of visits that I hope come true and some talks about the future that we all hope to see. There’s been the vague promise to stay in touch more often and to not let too much time pass before we speak again. There’s been the rich sound of laughter that had faded off into the distance that sounded like music to my ears. There was the feeling of regret when you hung up the phone and wished that you had somehow said more but would feel awkward if you called back right away.

Maybe the time will come when I’m more comfortable on the phone, maybe not. I still screen most of my calls to ward off the pests and avoid answering questions that I don’t want or need to. I still usually let the machine pick up these days and let it do its dirty work. Then again, on the other hand, if I hear a familiar and friendly voice, I’m more apt to pick up the receiver and start to yapping and maybe, more importantly, start to listening.

After all, who knows when we’ll get a chance to speak again?

(Thanks to all of my friends from both near and far for all of the concern and care sent my way over the last month or so. Hopefully, if you ever read these words, I hope you’ll know what I’m talking about.)