Once upon a time, before Facebook made social networking acceptable for non-nerds and technology was on the cusp of the cellular-phone revolution from the brick to the flip, I had a pager. I also had a boyfriend who I fought with, in public, for about 80 percent of the duration of our relationship. He also had a pager.
After one of our many raging arguments, he changed the greeting on his pager to Smoking Popes' "Need You Around," so when I called to leave him a message, I would hear it and know he was sorry. (If this series of messaging events makes no sense to you, read more about pagers and pager protocol here. And if you're unsure as to why the image of the pager on the Wikipedia entry has a chain attached to it, it's so it won't fall off the front pocket of your overalls and into the toilet, duh.)
In 2012, I still find myself pining not only for a man devoted enough to our dramatic relationship to change his beeper message for me -- but also for my beloved pager. I'm sure this is just another indication that I have third-decade syndrome, but I hate answering the phone. I would rather text with someone (which is the closest I will ever get to getting paged or paging someone ever again). Unless it is involving a story I'm working on and I need to speak with a contact or source, I do not answer the phone.
I take that back -- I have a secret gay work bf who can call me at all hours because he's a great gossiper and has knowledge of things like Leslie Hall and horse-racing. Plus, I have an ex-boyfriend in New York who is so fantastic to talk to that there would be a reality show made about us (if my life at Shirt Folding Store wasn't already made into a movie starring Janeane Garofalo as yours truly.)
Other than those two phone relationships, the romance I once had with communication has all but fizzled. I think I enjoyed slamming the telephone receiver into the wall of the cosmetics counter where I used to work as much as I liked winding its spiraled cord around my finger during the moments when I wasn't fighting with 80 percent-fighting pager boyfriend. Now I just look up that guy I dated last summer on Facebook and scream all of the things I never said to him at my computer screen. Clearly, FB offers no comparison in the world of female trouble.
I was given a rotary dial telephone this week by my friend Jessica. We haven't been acquainted very long, but within a handful conversations we discovered a shared passion for the decades-old communication devices (and, among other things, Billy Joel).
After she'd promised to hand her two-tone beige Bell telephone over to me last month, I became antsy. I just wanted to turn the dial with my index finger and hear its slow click back to "0." I wanted to carry the heavy base around my room with the cord following my every step, snaking over magazines and piles of laundry. I even desired a cramp in my neck from chatting for hours with my bff on a hard plastic receiver pinched between my ear and shoulder. I just wanted to plug in the stupid thing and step back into a time before Facebook.
But instead, I'll have to settle for just looking at this ancient beauty on my nightstand and dream about midnight calls. Maybe if I squeeze my eyes closed, I can imagine my beeper sitting next to the pale skin-colored phone, too, just like in high school. And when it blows up (meaning my pager gets so many pages in a row it vibrates off of the table and onto the floor) from my 80/20 hyper-argumentative boyfriend, I can revel in the same irony I laughed at in my not-so-'90s past: the fact that you can't use a rotary dial telephone to page someone back.
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Unless he texts me 304 55378008*, and then he can just fuck right off.
(*hint: turn your computer screen upside down, and you will see that he would've paged me "BOOBLESS HOE" in pager-code.)