When I answered the phone, I heard a young man's voice asking for someone I had never heard of.
"I think this used to be her number," he said.
"Well," I said, "I guess it's been a while since you called her. We have had this number for 36 years."
"Oh," he said meekly.
“What number are you calling?” I asked. His reply was one digit off from ours.
“You have misdialed. Try again," I said. There was a pause at the other end.
“Oh, I see what you mean,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
That was it. Yet, his short pause left me wondering. Was he momentarily confused by my use of “misdial?” Most likely, this young man had never dialed a telephone in his life. The rotary phone went out with the hula hoop in the 1960s.
It's obvious that we don't "dial" telephones anymore. So what do we do? Are we "tapping" those little buttons? Are we "punching" them. What word do we need here?
I checked the instruction manual for my cell phone. It advised me to "press" the numerical buttons.
I guess the next time someone calls the wrong number at our house, I will politely explain that the desired number has been “mis-pressed.”
No, not really. I will still say, “Misdialed.” You know what they say about old dogs. After all, I still call the thing in the kitchen an “icebox" The coffee maker is modern, but to me it's a "percolator."
The big screen in the family room is a TV "set," and the device that I use to change channels is a "clicker."
In my world, a blackberry is a tasty treat we kids picked from bushes along the railroad tracks. A play station is a backyard swing. My video game experience is limited to 1975 when someone got "Pong" for Christmas and hooked it up to the television set.
When I decide to record a television show, I tell my wife that I am planning to “tape” a program. The fact is that we have a digital "black box." I haven't fumbled with recording tapes since the last millennium, but in my old-fashioned, analog brain, I am still "taping."
As I think about this, I realize that I am hopelessly lost in archaic terms. It’s no wonder young people don’t seem to understand what I’m talking about most of the time.
If someone repeats himself often enough, I will say that he is sounding “like a broken record.” That leaves the youngsters scratching their heads. Most have never seen a needle tracking a vinyl groove.
As I type these words, it dawns on me that "typing" is a word hopelessly bound to a lost world of Dictaphones, adding machines, and rolodex files. I think the term nowadays is "keyboarding." Is that what I'm doing as I write these words?
I don’t think so. I am still typing. In my retro-brain, I can almost hear the chattering of the keys and the little bell that rings at the end of a line. If typing was good enough for Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Vonnegut, it’s good enough for me, although I am achieving nowhere near the same results.
The other day I was making a purchase in a department store. I told the silver-haired clerk that I wanted to use a credit card.
"Fine," she said. "May I have your charge plate?"
I smiled. Here was a fellow traveler.
If you know what she was talking about, welcome to the club.
Of Dials Gone By