What was Old is New Again

The Isolation of the Pandemic has Given a New Life to Some Old Connectors


Miss Everyone?

As we move towards our sixth, and certainly NOT our last month, of varying degrees of isolation, people are reaching out to find connections.  For some, this is more important than to others. A good friend said to me awhile back, “We are huggers. This is killing us!” Some of us, myself included, do miss people, but its manageable. In my heart of hearts, I think I was always one of those old-style forest rangers who spent weeks alone in a fire tower. I could do this as long as needed.

But all of us do crave some level of connection that is no longer so easily attained. I have noted of late that two old forms of connection are having something of a renaissance. In some ways, they are not just substitutes. They are themselves old friends reintroducing themselves.

Behold, the Telephone

I grant you that the average telephone today is something very different from its earlier incarnations. Most are mobile phones, possessed of more technology than the lunar landers of the Apollo space program. Still, today the core function that has reinserted itself is the same. Dial a number, connect with someone, chat awhile.

This simple action requires one to think about others, to reach out, perhaps to have an idea or two of what to talk about. But the subjects at hand are not all that important. That someone chose to reach out is important. That two friends can ask “How are you doing?” is humanity at its best. That you both get real pleasure from hearing each other’s voice and laughter – that has value.

I rather enjoy my Zoom Happy Hours and even Video Tele Conference have their advantages. But the simple act of dialing to catch up and check up on each other? That is kind of special. I like it enough that it is now a regular part of my schedule. Which is a remarkable admission on my part. I am known around our household as the King of the Short Phone Call. My chit-chat gene is a stunted little fellow. But this current situation has taught me that I have been missing something. I hope I continue to remember this in the post pandemic era, whenever that comes around.

Drive Ins!

The drive-in movie theater almost died out in this country, overcome by glitzy cineplexes and streaming video. There are, as near as anyone can tell, only about 350 of these places still operational around the country. But, boy, are they having a comeback. People are finding them perfect in this era. One has built in social distancing thanks to the size of our cars, but still can have the feeling of being in community. You can hear others gasp or laugh at the same place in the movie that you do.

Some of the old drive-in pleasures are no longer with us. A shared playground is not a smart choice in this environment, and many will bring their own snacks rather than risk getting too close to others in a concession stand line. Still, you are among others sharing a pleasurable evening. It is possible to talk from car to car or from lawn chairs carefully placed in front of the car.

As in an earlier era, kids can still go to sleep in the back (or now, watch their own videos). Teenagers likely still do what teenagers have always done at drive-ins. Cars are often more comfortable now than ever and I bet many of these places offer better sound via WiFi or Bluetooth. So, all in all, not a bad deal at all. I have read that a number of independent producers and some studios are premiering their new movies through drive-ins and are getting good returns. Bravo.

What’s Next?

Who knows what other brazen return to the past awaits us? There are rumors already that people are gathering in their yards or porches, well-spaced, but still gathered, just to chat. People have been seen chatting over fences.

What has really been a pleasure to note is that much of this is, as noted, just to reconnect. But I also see and hear people using these small, simple means to connecting to talk about the big, tough issues all around us – social justice, policing, the need for national and local leadership. Substantive conversations in a more natural, small circle. This is a good thing.

Let’s keep it up, America. Talk to each other.

             Bill Clontz

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2 replies to What was Old is New Again

  1. Brought back memories of talking to a girl friend, during high school years, while hiding between furniture – on the only dial telephone in our home. lone ago and for away – in the last century!

    • Ha! Your comments brought back similar memories for me. I not only remember dial phones, but also party lines.

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