It seemed like a miracle to me as a kid 65 years ago (long before anyone knew what an area code was) that I could pick up my phone and talk to someone far, far away. I recall once needing to send a letter to someone in White Plains, N.Y., and calling long distance information to get that person’s address and phone number. Wow. I was blown away.
Now, however, I can talk to someone elsewhere in the world without even an operator’s intervention. All I need is a cell phone in my hand.
For example, I recently had a problem managing my bank account, and so I called the bank’s 800 line for help. What I learned was that the person I was speaking with thought that someone more knowledgeable than she was needed and so asked if I’d mind waiting while she transferred my call. “No,” I of course told her, and, a few seconds later, a man with a slight accent took my call.
He was very knowledgeable and resolved my problem in short order. And then I asked my favorite question in situations like this: “Where, exactly, are you?”
He explained he was in the Philippines, and we determined that he was 9 hours and 20 minutes ahead of those of us living in Arizona. This meant, for example, that people in my time zone watched him and his neighbors celebrate their new year on our Dec. 31.
More recently, I called another 800 number to get information about an organization I wished to join, and spoke with a very pleasant young woman who resolved my problem in short order. When we finished, and, as is now my habit, I asked her where she was, and she said, “Chicago.”
“Really?” I responded. “And what’s the weather like in Chicago?”
With less enthusiasm, she said, “40 degrees and overcast.”
“That makes me feel so good,” I told her.
To which she responded, “Because it’s so nice in southeastern Arizona where you live?”
“No,” I explained. “I grew up in Chicago, and hearing the weather there makes me feel homesick for the city where I grew up.”
Hank Slotnick is a retired UND professor who, with his wife, winters in Pima, Ariz., and summers in Debs.