My parents finally gave me a phone extension in my room when I was 12. Not, as today’s kids would assume, my own phone line, mind you. Just a handset for the house phone.
Those were hard years. I felt alone most of the time – like no one would ever understand me or love me the way that I wanted to be loved. In my desperation for human connection, I would pick up the handset and call the number for the local movie theater a dozen times in the middle of the night. Just to hear the voice on the pre-recorded message, hoping that by some miracle they would have changed the message in the couple of minutes since I last called. Which, of course, they hadn’t because it was 2 o’clock in the morning and they changed the phone messages on Thursday evenings around 10. Yes, I knew the schedule.
As a kid, that dial tone represented so much of my angst and loneliness – wishing that there was someone who would pick up the other end of the phone and talk to me. I didn’t even care about what. I just wanted to hear another human voice and feel like I wasn’t alone in the world.
Today I heard a radio story that blew my mind because it gave me a TOTALLY different take on the same story.
Another young kid in an unhappy home, desperate for connection. He picks up the phone, wanting to hear another voice. But instead of just dialing a number and praying, he starts imitating the high-pitched tones he hears coming from the phone and discovers that he can manipulate the phone signal.
He learned to recognize all of the tones, pulses, clicks and beeps and started using them to talk to other people just like him – kids and adults who were lonely and looking for a connection.
I felt like crying as I listened to this story – not because I felt sorry for myself or wished that I had been like him. I guess it was because I was reminded once again that at any moment I have the opportunity to look at a situation and find a different solution. A solution that may not be obvious. But there’s always another option.
I know that probably sounds kind of cliche, but it’s an example that resonates so strongly for me that it takes my breath away.
Here’s a link to the Radio Lab story – it’s a terrific piece about a young blind kid who started a movement: http://www.radiolab.org/2012/feb/20/long-distance/
Image found here.