I do not know the telephone numbers for my children.
I do recall my own telephone numbers from wa-a-y back when I was a child. They were: 1333-W; 2164-R; RA3-7144; and 723-7144.
Yes, I do know the telephone numbers of the three “lines” that are most closely connected with my life these days. Our landline number is 814-752-2877. It is in the telephone book, so I am not giving away any secrets by publishing it.
Or am I?
Who has telephone books these days? Because we have a landline, Windstream still sends us a book giving numbers for people who:
1. Live in or near Brookville, Clarion or DuBois,
2. Still have landline telephones, those archaic sets that are physically hooked up to wires hanging from poles along highways or, in our case, lie buried beneath the ground near our house.
3. Choose to have their number listed. Some people with landline telephones still insist that those numbers not be published in telephone directories, even though my grandchildren look at me blankly if I speak of the telephone book, or directory.
So though our landline number is available in copies of the telephone directory, whole bunches of people these days do not have landline telephones and therefore do not have access to printed telephone directories unless they visit public libraries.
But I used Google to search the Internet for “Dennis J. Bonavita telephone number” and, sure enough, there it is, along with our postal mail address. That, too, is in the printed telephone book.
But our cell phone numbers are not in the telephone directory, so I am not reprinting them here. Shh! I get more than enough unwanted cell phone calls as it is, from people warning me that the Internal Revenue Service is about to confiscate my first-born child (Lots of luck with that; he is 54 years old, healthy and husky, and is resistant to being handed over to the IRS).
However, I do not know the telephone number I need to “dial” in order to have a voice conversation with my son Chris, or (these days) to have a video/audio chat with him.
No worries, however. My cell phone “knows” the number.
By now, you have probably noticed the use of quotation marks around “line,” “dial” and “knows.”
Do cell phones have “lines”? There are none that I see.
Do cell phones have “dials”? No. They have keypads.
Does my cell phone “know” my son’s telephone number, in the sense of being aware of it, and knowing that it knows?
Hoo, boy. Start to talk about telephone numbers and before we know it, we are deep into existentialism: Can knowledge exist without a knower?
But then, if my cell phone is not aware that it knows my son’s telephone number, it does not “know” the number. The number merely resides there, passively, until someone changes it or deletes it.
So my cell phone does not “know” my son’s number.
Neither do I.
But I do know how to tickle the list of contacts that resides within my cell phone’s memory. So I need not force myself to memorize his telephone number, or the numbers of my other children, grandchildren, in-laws or friends. There they reside in my contacts list, all 249 of them. That is a paltry number by comparison with the contact lists of some of those children and grandchildren, but it suffices.
Back in the 1940s and 1950s, I had memorized perhaps two dozen numbers, primarily close relatives or childhood friends.
Today, I know by memory only those first three numbers listed at the beginning of this column. But I have access within about 10 seconds to 249 numbers. I know because I timed the seconds needed to find a few of them, and on average, I can see and start a call to the number of anyone on my list.
I also still know how to spell “antidisestablishmentarianism.” In junior high school, being able to spell that word (few could actually define it) was a badge of orthographic superiority.
But I do not know how to spell bosons and fermions. Nobody knew about those subatomic particles when I was striving for orthographic excellence in junior high school.
That is not a problem, not as long as I have access to an internet connection. Google, Siri and Alexa can quickly tell me “b-o-s-o-n” or “f-e-r-m-i-o-n.”
What do today’s middle school students know from memory? I’ll bet that telephone numbers are not high on the list, and why should they be, with computerized directories at hand?
As for spelling, there is spell check, though it still struggles to define whether “read” means “to read” or “did read.”
Much of what I retain in memory is now useless: How to develop black-and-white photographic film; How to “count” headlines so they fit within two-inch-wide spaces (computers do that now); etc.
So, what do we need to remember?
As our mothers used to say, “Remember to not be late for supper!”
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: email@example.com