Phones now and then

Phones, now and then

 

Telephones changed a lot over the years. I was born in the mid-1950s. Telephones then were hooked up to a jack near the floor. The phone either hung on the wall or on sat on a little table. A technician from the phone company, that we called Ma Bell, installed the phone. Phones were obtained from a company owned store. Selections were plain, mostly black or tan. Princess phones in pink were introduced later on. The phone company issued installation times, usually a block of four hours. Too bad if you waited inside an empty apartment or a house without heat or air-conditioning. The phone company didn’t care.

 

An irksome busy signal was an indication the phone was in use. Gab fests could go on for hours, annoying those trying to reach another resident. Chatty family members often got into arguments over the phone. If you had to reach someone in an emergency, you dialed 0 and begged the operator to break in the line. Wanting to talk to your boyfriend didn’t count as an emergency. Yes, there were operators back then, coveted jobs that paid decent wages to mostly unskilled women. Operators handled overseas calls, looked up numbers for you, and connected you to emergency services before the 911 system was established in the 1960s.

 

In rural areas, the phone system was sporadic and not advanced. Neighbors shared a party line, which essentially was a loop throughout the area. If one resident was on the line, you waited until they finished to make your call. My grandmother in rural Alabama had a party line during my childhood. As a visiting city kid, I was fascinated by the concept. I listened in on neighbor’s conversations until my grandmother caught me and ended my prying little ways with a whack to my backside. A quick internet search showed that people were prosecuted for not ending party lines when someone else needed to call for emergency services like police or fire. The party line wasn’t phased out in the USA until the 1980s.

 

In addition to the phone of yesteryear including party lines, busy signals and long waits for telephone installations, there were public phones. A public phone could be in a booth or on a wall in a restaurant, airport, bar, library, office building, shopping mall, school, or just about any public facility. You inserted a coin, (a dime when I was young) and made your call. When your time was up, an operator’s voice demanded more money, or your call was cut off. As a goofy teen, we stuffed as many of us as possible into a phone booth just for the fun of it. I haven’t seen a phone booth in ages. I don’t know if they still exist. It’s rare today to see a public pay phone.

 

I grew up in a working-class New York City neighborhood. When a home phone wasn’t affordable, women hung their heads out windows that opened onto a cement courtyard and shouted for a particular neighbor’s attention. There were no secrets on our block. I heard it all. If the women didn’t talk from open windows, they sat outside the lone tree on the block in folding chairs and talked about everyone and everything. Men refrained from this kind of gossip. I always felt on display as the tree ladies watched my every move as I passed by. I feel the same way today. Groups of old women sit in front of our low-income apartment building, talking about who knows what, and stare at everyone who passes by. I try to avoid them by using the back entrance, even if it’s out of my way.

 

Fast forward to today’s cell phone also known as a cordless phone, dramatically changed the way we communicate, live and work. To add a detailed history of the cordless phone would be quite lengthy but it’s interesting. Motorola first introduced a cell phone in the 1970s and the phones become more sophisticated yearly. Nokia and Motorola dominated the early market, but Apple is the most popular brand today. Apple is also quite expensive. Samsung makes a less expensive model.

 

Cell phones are not just for talking. They offer internet connection, texting, bill pay, as well as electronic games. They store valuable information such as bank and financial data, telephone numbers and personal stuff. Further, cell phones offer the capacity to download airline boarding passes, gift cards, and the latest movies.

 

Naturally, when a cell phone is lost or stolen the owner panics. I volunteer at a major airport. Passengers are frantic when a phone is missing and demand we locate it right away. That’s just not possible but do our best to locate the missing device, even if the lost and found office is closed. I’ve seen passengers almost delirious with anger and/or worry about their misplaced cell phones. Cell phones have become like appendages to us and when they are lost and/or stolen, they create human misery. If I am outside, I always keep my phone in my purse. It’s safer that way.

 

Sadly, cell phones are also used for nefarious purposes like setting off remote explosive devices. They are also used by jilted husbands seeking revenge on ex-wives by disconnecting their air-conditioning, setting off door bells, and deleting files from their computers. Cell phones are not always traceable, so they enable drug dealers, thieves, and human traffickers to continue their devious trades. Technology, including cell phone use, has advanced to improve our lives in numerous ways, but it has also opened the door to criminal behavior in which innocent people are hurt or even killed.

 

Wireless services are available around the globe knocking off the traditional land line. Just about everyone has a cell phone. They are hugely popularly among the younger generation, less so among older people who may only have a pre-paid phone for emergencies. Cell phone use has caused an upheaval in modern society. How so? Take driving and cell phone use as an example.

 

Innocent people have been killed or gravely injured because a driver was on the phone. Driving while talking and/or texting is a distraction similar to drug and/or alcohol use. You may be engrossed in a conversation and not see the red stop light or the child who darted out in front of you chasing a ball. A driver can be prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter for driving while texting or talking. It’s a selfish thing to do. In some localities, it’s also illegal. I personally do not use my phone when driving. I passed my road test in 1972 and have been a licensed driver since then. I lived all those years without talking on the phone or texting while driving. I see no reason to start now. Besides, I spent nearly two months in a rehab center after a serious car accident with patients who were seriously injured by intoxicated drivers. If you must answer a call or send a text, pull over. You may save a life, including your own or avoid a lengthy jail sentence.

 

Cell phone use is common in the classroom although teachers say no phones allowed. For some students, the phone is more important than the lesson. Other students pretend to pay attention but text underneath a book. Most teachers are aware of the student’s sneaky behavior yet seem incapable of stopping the trend. Grades are ultimately impacted. American students lag behind our Asian counterparts. Japanese and Chinese students for example far exceed American students in almost every subject expect perhaps English. Foreign students show more respect to teachers than do American students. American parents will sue a school or a teacher if their child receives a failing grade rather than look at their children’s weak study habits.

 

Cell phones seem to replace common courtesy especially among the younger generation. I’ve been in the company of younger people who, in the midst of a conversation, will take out their phone to check messages. I find that rude and inconsiderate. In social settings, most people are holding onto a cell phone. I’d rather be holding onto a book. It’s hard to engage in a conversation with someone who is glued to their phone.

 

Go into a mall, any mall, and nearly everyone walks around holding onto a phone. They aren’t talking to each other but walking around checking messages or texting on a phone. For all I know, they’re texting each other. I wonder sometimes does anyone talk to each other?

 

Then there are selfies. I work out in a gym. I see mostly young women taking selfies of themselves inside the workout area and inside the ladies locker room. Young women pose for selfies inside Starbucks, Dillard’s, at restaurants, in Petsmart and at the airport. Is this the millennial generation? In my era, we protested against the Viet Nam War and for Civil Rights. As the old Bob Dylan song goes, the times they are a changin’.

 

Cell phones are both good and bad. They are good because they are portable and can be carried around so if you are stranded in your car, you can cell for emergency road service. If you are running late for a meeting, you call and let the person know. If you witness a violent crime, you call 911 right away. You can conveniently check out movie times, restaurant menus and directions to a store. Reporters can file stories right away instead of having to track down a pay phone. But on the other hand, too many people are married to their phones. I recently saw a family of three in a café, Instead of talking to each other over coffee, they were all glued to their phones. Children as young as five demand cell phones from parents who cannot afford them. There must be a happy medium somewhere. I hope we can find it and not lose our ability to be human.

 

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Making America Not So Great

“Despite everything, I really believe that people are really good at heart,” said the late Anne Frank. Frank is best known as the author of the Diary of Anne Frank, an account of her life in hiding during World War II. Non-Jews risked their lives to hide the Franks and another family in a warehouse in Amsterdam from the occupying Nazi’s. In August 1944 the Nazi’s uncovered their hiding place and sent the two families to concentration camps where Frank died before her sixteenth birthday. Frank endured discrimination, fear, hunger, deprivation and finally death from the murderous regime yet she still believed in the goodness of humanity. I find that almost unbelievable yet laudable and inspiring. I look at today’s events in the USA under a president who surrounds himself with neo-Nazi supporters, bigots, feckless politicians and cruel people. I am shocked and repulsed by a president who uses children, fearful and crying, as a bargaining chip to get his much-publicized and useless wall against Mexico, our neighbor, friend, and trading partner. I am perplexed by a president who has little or no knowledge of economic policies yet believes trade wars are winnable. They are not. The last time the USA engaged in trade wars we found ourselves right smack in the midst of the Great Depression. I am angry by a president who said he would balance the budget yet turned around and passed an ill-advised tax cut that caused the largest budget deficit in history. I am sickened by his relentless tirades against immigrants. Two of his three wives are immigrants. The US economy will soon collapse without immigrant labor. I am furious at his treatment of Latino children. He would not subject white children to the same harsh treatment. I personally am impacted by his wicked campaign against the poor. They deem us unworthy. We pay more while his affluent friends and corporations pay less in taxes. I am saddened that our president embraces dictators yet hurls vile insults at our allies. I am perplexed by the GOP, the alleged party of fiscal responsibility, supports a president who spends our tax money like a drunken sailor. I am disgusted by a president who shows no leadership skills, who has no morals or ethics. He is being sued by women for sexual inappropriate behavior and uses his office to shield himself from litigation. I wonder about a president who claims to be Christian yet lies every day. That’s not a Christian value. It’s not a human value. I am disturbed by US Customs and Border Patrol agents who apparently run over US citizens for no good reason. I am fed up with bus drivers who demand that passengers be US citizens to board a bus. What is happening in the USA? There has always been bigotry and intolerance. Look at our history of discrimination against Blacks for example. We interned Japanese citizens during World War II. But it has never been like this. I am 64 years old. I’ve seen a lot. The election of Donald Trump has unleashed an acceptable wave of hatred against immigrants, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Asians, disabled people, gays, etc. It is NOT acceptable. There is something wrong here and it has to change. Donald Trump and his supporters lack a conscience. They are heartless. I want none of them as friends. I pray for them. I pity them. I thank Allah that, for all my faults and sins, I at least know right from wrong. I have decency. I may not always like what goes on around me, but I try to understand it. I do not lash out. I pray for understanding when it’s needed. I contribute to a better world. May Allah make America safe from Donald Trump and those who think he’s doing the right thing. His version of Making America great is pathetic, shameful and worrisome.

 

Another year, another Ramadan

Ramadan, the holiest Muslim holiday, is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It is believed that Ramadan is the month in which Muhammad (PBUH) received the revelations that ultimately become the Quran. A month of fasting from sun up to sun down, Muslim men and women refrain from food, water, smoking and sexual activity. The elderly, sick, nursing mothers, pregnant women and children are not expected to fast. Fasts are broken with family and friends at a meal called the iftar Ramadan is a time of extra prayers, introspection, and charitable acts. It ends with a three-day festival called Eid-al-Fitr. My fourth and most recent Ramadan wasn’t what I expected. I usually attend evening prayers called Taraweeh at the Islamic Center of the East Valley. My perfect attendance records for Taraweeh prayers ended this year due to illness that took three doctor visits to cure. I missed a few nights and left early on others. I was also hit with unexpected news about a rent increase. I thought I was safe from rent increases in HUD (Housing and Urban Development). Not so. HUD Secretary, Ben Carson, says HUD recipients, all of whom are poor like me, should pay more. Living in public housing he says breeds dependency. He also said seniors and disabled people like me would be exempt from increases. He lied. I’ll soon be paying 40% of my meager Social Security in rent. At first, I cried for a week but what can I do? The rest of Ramadan I prayed, read the Quran, performed my usual volunteer work, and attended Taraweeh prayers. I was a guest at a few iftars. I ran into an old friend who invited me twice to her home to spend it with her family. That was a lovely surprise. I spent an afternoon with another friend and her children. Sisters cooked more food for me than I can eat so my freezer is full to the brim. Almost every evening at the Masjid, I greeted sisters I knew. I made new friends too. A sister who I had just met overheard me talking to someone about the HUD rent increases and gave me $50. Wow, I was in tears by her kindness. My family never even sent me a card when I earned a master’s degree. Other strangers have shown similar kindness to me over the years. I thank them for their mercy too. I’ll miss the evenings at Masjid al Salam, a smaller mosque in Chandler with a more intimate setting, and the talks we sisters had. We prayed well together too. I’ll miss Ramadan even though Taraweeh prayers started around the time I usually went to bed. I don’t fast due to a chronic illness, but I have great respect for my sisters and brothers who went all day without food and water, especially here in Phoenix where it’s blistering hot. I’ll miss the closeness I felt with my sisters during Taraweeh prayers. I’ll miss the iftars and the joy everyone felt at this time of year. May Allah bless us all and bring us safely to another Ramadan.

June 12, 1982

June 12, 1982

 

The sun lit up clear blue skies. The temperatures were moderate for mid-June in New York City. I attended the anti-nuclear march with friends from work. The rally drew almost 1 million people of all ages, races, religions and sexes. We marched from mid-town to Central Park to hear speeches about saving ourselves from Armageddon. There was not a single arrest either. It was one of the largest peaceful marches in US history. I have no pictures, just the memory of being there among my fellow Americans concerned about the dangerous escalating arms race between our country and the former USSR. Despite the bombast from politicians nuclear war is unwinnable. Today’s bombs are so much more lethal and destructive than the ones that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. A nuclear war will be the end of all mankind. A bomb will send up a huge dark cloud of toxic ash that will block the sun. Crops will not grow. Our water will be poisoned. Millions of people as well as animals will die after the first blast. Those who survive will be sickened from radiation poisoning. Emergency services will be overwhelmed with casualties. There will be no tomorrow. Don’t kid yourself to think the world is safer with nuclear weapons. No one needs them. Not the USA, not a single country. A nuclear war will be the end of everything we know and love. I pray to Allah that our politicians have the sense to never start the beginning of the end.

What’s going on

What’s going on?

That was a hit song by the late Marvin Gaye in the tumultuous 1960s when the USA was rocked by the Viet Nam War and Civil Rights. Concerned people, mostly youth, flocked to the streets to protest the injustice and cruelty of legalized segregation. Protesters rallied against the futile efforts in Southeast Asia where tens of thousands of soldiers, most of whom were minority men drafted into service, were killed in a war that could not be won. Now we are at another crucial point in history. A failed business man with no appreciable sense of governance, a vulgar vile and immoral personality, and no sense of diplomacy, is president. The USA, once proud and mighty, has drifted towards a dangerous crossroads. The president mocks the free press, the cornerstone of a democracy. He shows no respect for the judiciary, a vital aspect of our democracy. He insults our allies rather than builds trust. He has limited knowledge of economic policies, so business grows, and people have jobs. He lies repeatedly. He surrounds himself with aides who have little or no experience in departments they head. Ben Carson is a perfect example. A former neurosurgeon is now the head of housing and urban development. What I ask is he doing in that ever so critical position? Our state department where employees started out of college with degrees in international studies and worked their way through the ranks has been decimated. It is a shadow of its former self. So are many government agencies such as the EPA, the Justice Department, and Health and Human Services. Furthermore, the USA is a nation of immigrants. Recall if you will that the Native American lived here first. It was not their problem that Europeans faced issues such as famine and religious persecution. Yet the Native Americans lost their land and almost their lives because boat loads of Europeans started to arrive in 1492 and never stopped. The Native Americans, those who survived years of oppression, were shoved onto worthless scraps of land we know as reservations. Now, the Trump administration has the unmitigated gall to restriction legal immigration to a trickle. We have always welcomed those in need. They separate children from mothers who ask for asylum. The feckless Republican party doesn’t have the guts to vote on comprehensive immigration reform as did their predecessor Ronald Reagan, the last one to do so in 1986. We sit by and watch idly as the EPA under Trump’s orders rolls back vital regulations to protect our fragile environment. We sit by as the Trump administration relaxes banking regulations that were enacted to prevent another financial disaster like the 2007 recession that caused massive unemployment and housing losses. We sit by while Trump undoes regulations that protects animals and wildlife. I am sickened by the few nations that support Trump. I am revolted by the Evangelical Christians who think Trump is doing a fine job. I am scared of the growing violence in this country against immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, Jews, Latinos, etc. by people who think it’s OK now. I am disturbed by the idea that Trump could possibly win re-election. If you support this man and are reading this, I wonder what kind of heart you have.

What’s going on?

What’s going on?

That was a hit song by the late Marvin Gaye in the tumultuous 1960s when the USA was rocked by the Viet Nam War and Civil Rights. Concerned people, mostly youth, flocked to the streets to protest the injustice and cruelty of legalized segregation. Protesters rallied against the futile efforts in Southeast Asia where tens of thousands of soldiers, most of whom were minority men drafted into service, were killed in a war that could not be won. Now we are at another crucial point in history. A failed business man with no appreciable sense of governance, a vulgar vile and immoral personality, and no sense of diplomacy, is president. The USA, once proud and mighty, has drifted towards a dangerous crossroads. The president mocks the free press, the cornerstone of a democracy. He shows no respect for the judiciary, a vital aspect of our democracy. He insults our allies rather than builds trust. He has limited knowledge of economic policies, so business grows, and people have jobs. He lies repeatedly. He surrounds himself with aides who have little or no experience in departments they head. Ben Carson is a perfect example. A former neurosurgeon is now the head of housing and urban development. What I ask is he doing in that ever so critical position? Our state department where employees started out of college with degrees in international studies and worked their way through the ranks has been decimated. It is a shadow of its former self. So are many government agencies such as the EPA, the Justice Department, and Health and Human Services. Furthermore, the USA is a nation of immigrants. Recall if you will that the Native American lived here first. It was not their problem that Europeans faced issues such as famine and religious persecution. Yet the Native Americans lost their land and almost their lives because boat loads of Europeans started to arrive in 1492 and never stopped. The Native Americans, those who survived years of oppression, were shoved onto worthless scraps of land we know as reservations. Now, the Trump administration has the unmitigated gall to restriction legal immigration to a trickle. We have always welcomed those in need. They separate children from mothers who ask for asylum. The feckless Republican party doesn’t have the guts to vote on comprehensive immigration reform as did their predecessor Ronald Reagan, the last one to do so in 1986. We sit by and watch idly as the EPA under Trump’s orders rolls back vital regulations to protect our fragile environment. We sit by as the Trump administration relaxes banking regulations that were enacted to prevent another financial disaster like the 2007 recession that caused massive unemployment and housing losses. We sit by while Trump undoes regulations that protects animals and wildlife. I am sickened by the few nations that support Trump. I am revolted by the Evangelical Christians who think Trump is doing a fine job. I am scared of the growing violence in this country against immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, Jews, Latinos, etc. by people who think it’s OK now. I am disturbed by the idea that Trump could possibly win re-election. If you support this man and are reading this, I wonder what kind of heart you have.

The Girl from Aleppo

The Girl from Aleppo

I bought this book on a whim at my favorite bookstore, Changing Hands. It’s a story of a Syrian Kurd family who like other Syrians, Muslim and Christian, lived as friends and neighbors until civil war broke out. Sixteen-year old Nujeen, the youngest in a large family, was born with cerebral palsy. Naturally, escaping from the carnage and destruction in Aleppo, a once thriving city, was a challenge. Her older sister Nasrine deserves much of the credit for protecting her as well as pushing her along railroad tracks, rutted trails and through littered roadways. They traveled also by taxi, bus, train and boat until eventually reaching Germany. Read the book for yourself to see how brave these young ladies faced incredible danger, slept outside in the cold, went for days without food and clean clothing. Yet they also encountered kindness from strangers, such as Greeks, Serbians, and Croats who gave them clothing, food and water. There is talk about the sorrow of fellow refugees, professional Syrian men and women who left jobs as doctors, accountants and lawyers now lined up at decrepit refugee centers awaiting scraps of food. Thieves stole money and food from refugees on their journey to safety. Families became separated in the chaos. Sometimes mothers couldn’t find children. So much deprivation caused by years of war and deprivation in Syria, Afghanistan and other countries robbed people of their humanity. Sometimes they rushed ahead of food lines. Other times refugees lied saying they were Syrians hoping to gain asylum in European countries, now overwhelmed by the mass exodus of desperate people. Yet through it all, the two Syrians sisters who the book centers on retained their dignity and sense of self. They eventually rejoined their brothers in Germany and were granted asylum to start new lives. Syria, they said, would always be with them. As I folded clothes in the Helping Hands warehouse today I cried thinking about the lives of the refugees we send our supplies to. What are their lives like in the camps? In the cities and towns from which they flee? And then I think of leaders like Donald Trump who surrounds himself with advisors who advocate war. What has war achieved in Syria? What has it achieved anywhere? Talk of bombing North Korea and Iran scares me. It will accomplish nothing. Absolutely nothing. There’s strength in numbers as evidenced by the Redfored movement. Teachers in Oklahoma, Arizona and other states walked out of schools and went on strike for better pay and improved conditions in the schools. If we want to save our world and I hope we do, we must do the same. Demand that our leaders end this foolish talk of war and start to focus on peace. With Donald Trump as president that won’t be easy. Let’s make sure America that he does NOT get a second term. Give peace a chance but don’t give Donald Trump a second term. We want peace, not war.