Coming from a conservative Christian family hidden away in a remote rural area, feeling like an exception is a way of life I embraced early on. While my peers talked on the phone for hours about their adventures in the “big city,” I quietly read a book in my tree house. Not that I didn’t love talking to other people, but I really didn’t have the option.
It’s hard to remember a time before cell phones, but less than twenty years ago, they were quite rare. Not only did we not have a cell phone, we didn’t have our own phone line. In our truly secluded neck of the woods, party lines were a way of life. I remember awkwardly explaining to everyone else that I knew what a party line was. In case you weren’t into frontier fiction where they described such things, party lines are where multiple neighboring houses share the same phone line.
If I ever actually had the chance to call someone when I was growing up, it was a big deal. Everybody except my grandparents who lived up the road was long distance to call, so we couldn’t afford for anybody to spend much time on the phone. There were so many times when I picked up the phone in anticipation only to feel annoyed. Instead of the classic dial tone every other teenager I knew heard upon picking up their phone to dial, I heard the neighbor lady gossiping away to some mystery person. I was at her mercy. She could talk as long as she wanted, and I couldn’t communicate with anyone besides my family until she was done. To add insult to injury, when I finally did get a few minutes to chat, I could hear that dear old busybody pick up the phone to listen in on my conversation.
This is why I usually chose a book instead of talking on the phone. I remember laughing with my family on many an occasion about how fun it would be to explain this unique way of life to my children someday. Now that land lines are practically obsolete and I continue to fight against the norm by only having a plain cell phone (with a keyboard, thank you very much) instead of a smart phone, I smile and realize I’ll always be a step behind when it comes to the average American’s means of communication.
I didn’t realize how much this oddity would help me cope with future experiences where I was not mixing well with the norm. It’s funny how God works in even the smallest ways to shape us into what He wants us to be. So thanks, neighbor lady, for being nosy and long-winded when all I wanted to do was use the phone. You really were helping me without me realizing it.