There are days when I have no words.
Yes, I know you can’t believe it. It happens to be true.
I will let you in on a little secret: My dad (z”l) wouldn’t believe it either.
What he would believe, and be happy to reveal to you, was that he knew the reason I had no words left. My dad would explain it this way: I used them all up talking on the phone when I was a teenager.
High school days were spent worrying.
We worried about how we looked. We worried about being liked. We worried about being included or accepted. We worried about boys and dates.
Oh, and of course, lest we forget, when we weren’t engaged in the act of the many aforementioned worries, we would worry about studying and grades. Some of us actually worried about college, others about jobs after graduation.
At the end of our school day, my friends and I would leave Roosevelt High School on Fordham Road in the Bronx and embark on one of our many after-school options.
We could catch the bus and head home. We could catch the bus and go up to the Grand Concourse and shop at Alexander’s.
We could walk home (we almost never took this option), or we could walk up Fordham (we insiders did not need to specify road) and check out all the stores on our way to Alexander’s on the Grand Concourse. The Butler shoe store was a favorite for wasting time.
Although we would see one another in passing during the day, these after-school moments were our time to text — oops, I mean talk, as in conversations. As in looking in each other’s face to measure responses.
If we were running late, we would take the bus home. We would hug goodbye, even though we would be skyping — oops, I mean speaking later — or seeing each other the next day.
Homework or other activities would keep us busy until dinner time. After dinner our lifeline was the telephone. I loved that telephone. There weren’t any interruptions while we were engaged in social discourse.
It did not take photos, so it did not matter what I was wearing while we were chatting. Nor did I have to worry about the world knowing what I looked like or what our confidences were. It did not make weird pings to inform us of a text or an email. It was exactly as Alexander Graham Bell intended it to be.
And the family had to learn to share, given that we did not each have our own phones.
The only interruption was my dad.
First, I would hear: “Open that door. Why do you need the door closed? What are you doing that is so secret? Open that door, or I’ll open it for you.”
He would then open the door, and I would hear: “Again with the phone? Who are you talking to? You see them all day; why do you have to talk more? How many words do you have in there?”
I never resorted to crying a response or begging to stay on just a minute longer. Have you heard this one? “You cry, and I’ll give you something to cry about!” Yup, that kept me in line for sure.
And off he’d go to finish his dinner. Dad worked very long hours in his butcher store. He rarely made it home for dinner during the week, except for Shabbat dinner.
Today, there’s an app for that. Parents don’t have to engage in monitoring the people their kids are talking to, texting or Skyping with, or doing G-d knows what else.
Yup, today there is an organic method of saving words, as long as you have an app for that.