Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Story of the Phoneless

One day, a couple of weeks ago, by the time I was on my way to work, my phone was still snugly tucked in bed. I was without phone for a day, and it seemed a big deal. Ten years ago, mobile phones were not common, most of us didn't have one, and it was no big deal. Nobody felt it was a great inconvenience to be without a phone. I personally didn't think using public phones were troublesome, or prohibitive. Without the convenience of a 'phonebook' feature in a mobile, I could pull at least 20 of the most-dialed numbers from memory - yes, my own memory. I digress - these all have not much to do with the story I mean to tell.

It was a day in 1997 - a day still in the times of public buses, public phones, and dial-up Internet connections, sans blogs, Twitter or any other forms of social-networking.

One of our housemates, Ms K, had gone out to meet a 'friend' of hers, who'd travelled all the way from their hometown to see her. 'Friend', because they both felt more than friends do for each other, and yet were too shy to officially call themselves girlfriend and boyfriend. Yes, in those days, young people were cute in that way. This 'friend' was known to us housemates as Mr Nevermind, because his standard response, when he called and Ms K wasn't in and we asked who it was on the line, was always "Errr... nevermind!"

Ms K was to meet Mr Nevermind in a public place. A little while after their appointed time to rendezvous, she called the apartment from a public phone - she couldn't see Mr Nevermind, and couldn't find him, so if he were to call, could we let him know of her location, which she then described to us. Perhaps it was a pre-agreed contingency plan, perhaps it was telepathy - he called, also from a public phone, some minutes later. We conveyed to him Ms K's message. A quarter of an hour later, she called again. She hadn't found him - or he hadn't found her - and a new message was given to us to be given to him. Then he called, got her message, and left a message with us for her for if she called again.

Both had gotten considerably anxious by that time, and all of us housemates had stopped whatever we were doing, and were crowding around the phone, breathlessly waiting for the next ring. Well, yes - students always have nothing better to do, it's true.

The calls kept coming - she, then he, then she again, then he once more. It was already past an hour since they were supposed to meet. We suspected that while they kept updating us on their latest locations and search efforts, by the time one got the message, the other one had moved on, vice-versa. On her second last call to the apartment, a housemate reprimanded -

"He's looking for you, and you're looking for him! You're both circling the place! STOP where you are and describe clearly your location..."

Yes, pretty fierce, but it worked. The directions were conveyed to him on his next call, and the next call we got was from them - they had found each other! It took well over an hour, but they found each other! How we cheered! We were so happy and relieved that we spent, I believe, another hour or so talking about how harrowing it must had been for them, and how much sweeter it made the reunion, and how much more precious it made their time together.

Those were the days. You might want to take a moment now to appreciate the power of communication that you have today.


Ian Tan said...

Awwww ... so swe.., opps, i mean you so old already ar? 1997 student ...

Jyan Chin said...

such a schweet schtory