Our New Telephone (Classical short story shows old people’s reaction to old telephone)
“I’ve been thinking, Clinton,” my mother said one evening as she and my father sat reading, “that almost everybody else has a telephone now. We ought to have one, too.”
“Not in this house. I don’t want one of those gadgets here,” declared my father as he put down his pipe.
“Why, Clinton?” asked my mother. “What’s the matter with having a telephone?”
My father sat still for a moment and then gave a loud sneeze. “Get out of here!” he demanded, blowing his nose. “You know cat fur always gives me nose trouble. I hate cats. They do nothing but spread germs around.”
“Punk is a clean cat, Clinton, and he doesn't have any germs,” replied my mother. “And please try not to be against a telephone,”
Father Says No
“I’m not against it,” said my father, “so long we don’t have one here.”
“But, Clinton,” my mother continued, “Ruth’s growing up, you know, and all the other girls have telephone. It isn’t as if we wanted to make a lot of calls to cost us money. It’s so the young people can tell Ruth. And, Clinton, you don’t have to have a thing to do with it; it can just be Ruth’s and mine.”
“It can belong to Shem and Japheth,” said my father calmly, “so long as I don’t have to pay for it. But the way things happen – it won’t be shem and Japheth’s; it’ll be mine. And I won’t have my name in the telephone book. I have no wish to call attention to myself.”
“We won’t use your name at all, Clinton. It can be listed in my name, and don’t worry about the money. I can always get it somewhere.”
When our telephone was installed, my father paid no attention to it unless he thought we were talking too long; then he told us to stop. Once it rang after we had gone to bed. I ran downstairs to answer it, and when I came upstairs again my father called out. “What’s the matter? Is the house on fire?”
“No,” I answered, “It was Richard DeNormandie.”
“Oh,” he said, “is Denormandie’s house on fire?”
“No, Papa, nobody’s house on fire,” I said, feeling very grow-up and important. “He simply called and asked to go to a dance,”
“I knew it had to be something urgent,” my father said. “What prevents him from asking you in the daytime?”
There came a day when my father was troubled. At the factory where he worked, he learned that Dan Weymouth was going to retire. This worried my father, for he thought perhaps the company was forcing Dan to retire. “Dan’s been there only a bit longer than I have, you know,” he said to us at supper that evening.
“I know, Clinton,” replied my mother, “but can’t you try to eat your meal?”
My father pushed back his chair from the table and stood up. “No,” he said, “I can’t. I’m too troubled. If I knew that Dan was going to retire of his own choice, it would be all right.”
“Well, Clinton, you’re probably imagining things, but if you are going to worry so much, won’t you please – just to make me happy – call Dan on the telephone and ask him about it?”
“Oh, no,” answered my father. “I’m not worried as much as that.”
“Think a moment, Clinton. A telephone call costs only a nickel. Is your peace of mind worth a nickel?”
My father looked sadly out the window. “Well, if it’s good news it’ll still be good news tomorrow, and if it’s bad news we’ll pay a nickel to get it quicker.”
My mother did not stop to learn anything further. She hurried to the telephone book hanging beside the telephone on the wall between the stairs to the cellar and the kitchen door.
My father sat down in his reading chair and looked at the back of his hands.
Soon my mother came back with the book, “Here’s Dan’s telephone number, Clinton,” she said.
After a moment my father went to the phone, called the number and cleared his throat several times. There was a click at the other end of the line, and my father’s hand trembled a little. “Hello,” he said. “Is that you, Dan?” He paused. “Yes, I thought it was; it sounds like your voice. Can you hear me, or shall I speak louder?”
Apparently Mr. Weymouth could hear all right, so my father continued. "Dan, I’d like to find out what’s happening at the factory. They say you’re going to leave.”
A short pause followed while my father listened. Suddenly his face became brighter and he said eagerly, “ You say you’re going to retire because you want to. Well, Dan, I’m glad to hear you say so. I’m very glad to glad to hear you say so. That’s all I wanted to know, Dan. Thank you Good-by.”
My father then took off his glasses and began to clean them carefully.
“A telephone,” he said, “is a remarkable invention. I’ve never said it wasn’t. I could hear Dan as clearly as if he were down in our cellar. But we’ll brave to wait and see how telephones, with all their clicking and ringing of bells, will affect the hearing of people in years to come.”
Sneeze, a sudden, uncontrollable burst of breath the nose and mouth
Germs, living things in the air, water and ground, too small for the human eye to see. Germs may cause disease
Shem and Japheth, persons in the Bible
Installed, placed in position and made ready for use
Urgent, requiring immediate action or attention
Retire, give up one’s work or position, usually after reaching a certain age
Nickel, a U.S. coin worth five cents.
Cellar, a room beneath a house, used for storing things
Phone, short form for telephone
Click, a short, sharp sound
Eagerly, full of desire to know something or do something
Remarkable, very unusual; not ordinary