Cheap Conversations


I can remember a time when I actually spoke to people I knew every single day.  I lived with my parents as a child.  We spoke to each other during dinner.  I spoke to (well, yelled at) my brother all the time.  I had friends in school and we’d talk at lunch and at recess, sometimes in class and get in trouble.  But the world moved on.  I finished school, got married and moved away.  We all drifted apart into our own separate lives.  When I started paying for my own phone bill, long distance was still something expensive.  I remember making a $90 phone call once… once.  While I have nights and weekends free these days, I still have to fight my instinct to dial someone outside my area code (which is almost everyone I know).

I talk to each of my parents once a week on the phone.  I kept in touch with my roommate from college and we talked on a regular basis.  That made sense as I lived with him longer than anyone with the exception of Meka and my mom.  However, in the past year we speak more like once a month.  Most of my other friends I rely on e-mails on a quarterly or semi-annual basis and my relatives get (gasp!) an actual letter once a year close to Christmas (no later than Groundhog Day).  While the frequency leaves something to be desired, I try to make up for it with length.  I think this year’s letters averaged about seven pages (or twenty in the large print editions I wrote for my great aunts).

I am a pretty prolific writer, but cranking out that kind of output on a regular basis seemed daunting.  I thought back to my days in school.  What on earth did we talk about for so long? I couldn’t remember much of substance and – after wracking my brain about it awhile – it occurred to me there wasn’t much substance to remember.  We just talked.  Suddenly the challenge of writing seemed less so.  I already wrote a lot of nothing (I call it my “blog”), so I decided to try and get reconnected.

I joined Facebook in the summer and met up with people I hadn’t spoke to in decades.  The first e-mails were long as we had years to catch up on, but after that I was glad to find we didn’t run out of things to say.  I’ve been keeping up with many people via their one sentence status blurbs.  In return, I add short pithy comments to their home pages.  This kind of communication seems “cheaper” somehow, but I mean that in a good way.  I don’t feel like I have to save up my e-mails or letters or only call someone on a special occasion like a birth or death or major holiday.  I talked to a friend for an hour or more a few weeks before Christmas.  After the New Year, I called again and we talked for another hour.  While we didn’t share too many profound insights, we had some laughs and both agreed it was an hour well spent and we’ll probably do it again soon.

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