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From Letters to Phone Calls

February 1st, 2011 by Jessika

My dad and me circa mid 1980s.

My dad used to write letters for everything. Whether it was a letter he wanted me to see to the insurance company or just because, I would often come home to a white envelope sitting on my bed. When his handwriting got virtually illegible, he began composing lists and letters on the computer and then printing them out.

He used the house phone all the time to take care of whatever business he had. If it weren’t for the phone, he wouldn’t have had a career in sales. When my dad got his first cell phone, he would call me to say hi or ask me when I would be home from school.

As I sat down to write this, less than a day after his death, the first things I thought of were those letters and phone calls. My dad had embraced the old school but never quite made it to the new school. That wasn’t a bad thing, though.

His old-school charm encouraged me to use those tried-and-true techniques as well. I had all but forgotten that until yesterday. His letter writing inspired me to write early on, and I would use parcel post to send cards and notes to my friends and relatives. The summer my husband and I began dating, he wrote me almost daily from Boy Scout camp, where he worked as a counselor. I got so happy when the mail came that summer. The mail doesn’t excite me quite as much anymore.

Eventually I let technology win. Now, I favor e-mail as a means of contacting people, even sources, over picking up the phone. I would even go as far to say that I avoid actually talking to people. Text messaging, something my dad never did, has also become a fantastically quick way to avoid punching in a few numbers on a keypad.

It’s funny what I remember most about my dad. Even though we had our fair share of bad times, it’s the little things that I think of first.

Moving forward, I will definitely take a cue from him, especially when it comes to my work and schooling. I won’t be afraid to call a source on the phone or stop by a prospective employers office. Even writing a letter would be a good thing. In this world where it’s easy to get swallowed up in a digital sea, a little bit of paper, a friendly voice, or a smiling face can make all the difference. (Okay, I know that sounds cheesy. It’s true, though!)

E-mails and text messages have made it so easy to avoid human interaction. But when all is said and done, it’s those interactions that matter the most. The first memory I think of when it comes to my dad won’t be the awkward e-mails I got or the text message I accidentally sent him, it will be hearing his voice on the phone or talking to him after school.

Whether or not those old-school techniques result in a job doesn’t make a difference. What makes the difference is that that simple letter or phone call reminds us we are human, lifting the veil of anonymity that technology so aptly has given us.

Don’t get me wrong. Technology is wonderful in so many ways. But there’s just something about picking up that phone that no amount of e-mails can replace. And who knows, maybe that employer will remember that phone call. I certainly will.


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