I Just Called to Say … the Phone Call Is Back
The other night my friend Margot called. It’s not unusual for me to hear from Margot — we’ve been friends for more than 30 years, email frequently, have dinner every month or two, and I stay over at her house whenever I’m in town. But Margot never calls. Practically no one does; my few surviving telephonic friendships antedate the internet. But Margot has a cold, and because her husband is immunocompromised, she’d had to quarantine herself in their guest room; she was, in effect, the invalid mother confined to her room upstairs in some Victorian novel. She’d been just about to email me when she thought, why would I email? and picked up the phone.
Once I’d ascertained that it wasn’t an emergency, her call was a pleasant surprise. We talked for half an hour or so, and it cheered us both in a dark, uncertain time.
Inspired by our conversation, I started surprising other people, in these first few days of quarantine, by calling them up just to chat. They, too, seemed pleasantly surprised. We’d talk for a half-hour, 45 minutes, an hour or more — about what a weird, unprecedented time it is, how disastrous to have no one competent in charge in the crisis, how much food we have, what the local stores are like, how seriously we’re taking the restrictions on our movements, how it affects our relationships (do you hastily break up rather than be trapped for months with the wrong person? Is a pandemic a good excuse to reconcile with an ex?). We made jokes about it and laughed together from opposite coasts, like kids cracking up at a funeral.