Jan 26, 2022

Cellphones vs. Landlines: An Epic Battle in 3-D (Where Available)

What we miss and don’t miss about our dial-up phones

By Ed Goldman

In ancient times—you know, before the invention of cellphones—you could accrue long-distance charges on your bill by calling someone just an hour away.

As a result, when I’d go out of town as a young adult—and my parents wanted to be assured of my having reached my destination but also didn’t want me or them to pay extra to make a call that might last all of 10 seconds—we engaged in a scam that, looking back, might have caused the initial breakup of the country’s telephone monopolies.

Edgy Cartoon

Can you hear me now?

I’d arrive at my destination and, with the operator, place a collect call to someone named, say, Graham Cracker. I’d give the operator my folks’ phone number. The operator would dial it and when my Mom or Dad would pick up, the conversation would go like this:

Operator: I have a collect call for you from a Mister Graham Cracker. Will you accept the charges?

Mom or Dad: Absolutely not!

The operator would then give me the bad news and hang up. No one would be charged for the call and my parents knew that by my making the call, I’d arrived safely.

This almost backfired once when I really did use the name Graham Cracker and my Mom had to fight back a laugh. After that she told me to “Stop thinking you always have to be so clevuh,” making “clevuh” sound as evil as an adjective for Satan had he been born into a Jewish apartment house New York’s City’s Parkchester.

Recently, I ran up quite a cellphone tab with AT$T (oops: Make that AT&T), calling or texting my OSSO (oh-so-significant other). She was in Europe—in a country where, unlike the United States, they speak English. 

It didn’t occur to me at first that there are roaming charges and there are also ROAMING CHARGES, and that I’d fallen prey to the latter. In hindsight, maybe I should have called her each night and asked for Graham Cracker—but these days, I think placing any kind of operator-assisted call, if you can even find one, now requires you to first have a letter of credit on file with the phone company.

When I moved into my current digs four-and-a-half years ago, I couldn’t find the outlet for a landline. Then, after spending the better part of a morning connecting with AT&T to request one—an adventure I wrote about in a two-part column for the Sacramento Business Journal on March 16 and 17, 2017 —I began to wonder, as many of you also have, Why do I even need a landline?

Well, there’s the nostalgia factor.

I still miss dialing, for example—hearing the swish-doodle-doodle/swish-doodle-doodle of the little carousel spinning around on a quest to reach my party. But it’s hard to explain why anyone would miss an era when we didn’t think someone could hear us at the other end of a long-distance call and, accordingly, we yelled, making a Friday call to the folks kick-start a weekend of laryngitis. 

So I went strictly cellular. I put my old landline phone in the garage with the intention of turning it into a sculpture someday. It’s still an intention—of which necessity is not the mother, though “intention” does rhyme beautifully with “invention.” 

Relying completely on my cellphone has had its disadvantages, of course. For one, I never, not even once, mislaid my landline phone. Not even when I got an extra-long cord so I could walk around the house with it while I spoke with clients, feeling like a big shot in a 1960s movie set in a corporation. I realized I could have just bought a wireless landline, which sounds like an oxymoron, but I found (or imagined) the sound quality inferior—as opposed to the not-robust, often-disappearing reception we get on our cellphones, whose most frequent on-screen alert is, “Call failed.” I always notice this about 40 seconds after I’ve continued to chat affably, even making some of my best wisecracks, with someone no longer there.

The only reason to have a landline these days is so, when you misplace your cellphone, you can locate it by calling it from the landline—provided you’ve left the volume on the cellphone turned up high. One evening as we were leaving for dinner, I couldn’t find my phone and my always resourceful, aforementioned OSSO phoned me five times in the hope I’d hear my cellphone ring and therefore locate it. I didn’t find it until we sat down to dinner and I noticed it was in the back pocket of my pants. To compound my embarrassment, I took it out and saw I’d received five recent messages from her. Without thinking, I asked why she’d been trying so persistently to reach me and was anything the matter. She looked at me with what I think may be called a withering tolerance, which I believe may be the official prelude to eyerolling. 

Since this never happened to me when I had a landline, I have to assume I was smarter when I was young. But a lot hoarser.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President and CEO, Golden Pacific Bank

photo by Phoebe Verkouw


Golden Pacific Bank and SoFi are joining forces!

I’m excited and proud to announce that Golden Pacific Bank and SoFi are joining forces!

Last week—on January 19th, to be specific—the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Reserve approved the application for SoFi Technologies, Inc. (SoFi) to acquire Golden Pacific Bancorp, Inc. (“GPB”).

Golden Pacific Bank, GPB’s wholly owned subsidiary, will now operate as a division of SoFi Bank, National Association. The acquisition is expected to close next month.

With the regulatory pathway cleared, once the transaction closes, Golden Pacific Bank employees will officially become SoFi employees, Golden Pacific branches will be rebranded as SoFi, and all Golden Pacific Bank customers will be invited to become SoFi members.

Golden Pacific will continue our commitment to bringing more services and convenience to our individual customers, small businesses, and the communities that we serve in Sacramento and surrounding counties.

We’re excited for this new partnership with SoFi and the strength it will bring to enhance our ability to serve our customers at the highest level.

I’m very pleased to stay on as the President of Golden Pacific Bank, a division of SoFi Bank, Inc., and firmly believe that Golden Pacific and SoFi are better together.

In short: Let the new adventure begin!

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