One ringy dingy. Two ringy …

By Nancy Black

Ernestine is one of the most iconic characters from television in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Played by the brilliant Lily Tomlin, she was featured on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” one of the funniest, edgiest shows of its time. “Ernestine was a nosy, condescending telephone operator who generally treated customers with little sympathy,” one website describes.

“What’s an operator?” some younger readers may ask? It blows my mind that children these days have no idea how far we have come from the olden days of telephone operators and switchboards and even “long distance.”

I hushed my child the other day when I was on the phone. “I’m on long distance!” I said, motioning not to bother me while I was on my cell phone. My friend on the other end of the “line” was in New York. We both laughed, realizing that “long distance” is a thing of the past.

The lines of communication are wide open now in our world. We can talk to anybody, anywhere, whenever we want to. We don’t even have to wait for “free nights and weekends” anymore. My fear, though, is that even though these days we have the ability to communicate better than anyone ever imagined, we aren’t really listening to what is being said.

We talk to people, instead of with them. We look down at phones instead of up at faces.

Is it possible, that because communication is so easy, we take it for granted? Or is it that all the non-phone smart phone features take precious minutes away from real talking and listening. It’s a big complicated issue of our time.

Let’s all commit to remembering to take the time to really “reach out and touch someone” the real way. Even Ernestine would approve.

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