The phone receiver rested on the desk beneath the wall cradle, disconnecting us from the rest of existence.
Dinner time was a precious communion in our family. My father traveled for a living for much of my childhood, so when Dad was home, we'd gather 'round the oak kitchen table for an exercise in uninterrupted togetherness.
Mom would bustle around the kitchen, putting on the finishing touches of a proper meal while she'd assign us kids the task of setting the table (fork to the left of the plate atop a napkin folded just so. To the right of the plate, a knife with its blade to the left and a spoon).
We'd take our seats as Mom poured milk in the kids' little, plastic Tupperware cups - usually the pea green or brick red one - the brown and yellow ones never got used because Brig chewed them up when she was a baby.
Dad would arrive in the kitchen, his tie off and his collar unbuttoned. He'd pull the phone receiver out of the cradle, the electronic, pulsating beeps indicating that our family had just entered a surreal place of unavailability.
The sounds that followed included grace, the passing of serving dishes, and conversation.
The brief disconnect with telemarketers, my father's colleagues and other callers gave us an opportunity to reaffirm our family's binding ties. We kids talked about art projects, grades that deserved celebrating and the social dynamics important to elementary and middle school children. My parents talked about the nuances of my dad's job, my mom's commitments and other talking points not interesting to a child.
The peace and quiet gave us a chance to focus on life.
25 years later, I find myself instituting my own technological time out.
I love social media. I love Twitter, texting and Facebook. Less of a fan of e-mail, I realize the importance of this swift information exchange. And of course, I am but an arm's length away from reaching out to someone via mobile phone.
But sometimes, I'm the one who doesn't want to be reached.
This convergence of technology has created a society with the absolute belief people can be reached anywhere, anytime. And though this is true, is it right?
I've had moments of discomfort with friends who grew miffed after they were unable to reach me at a moment's notice. What they didn't know was that my moments were consumed by a meeting, a play, dinner with a companion or another occasion that made me unavailable.
Technology does not equal entitlement where conversation is concerned.
And even though I feel guilty turning off the ringer or putting the phone away somewhere out of sight, I ultimately enjoy the moments of reflection, conversation or peace.
Sometimes it's okay to disconnect from the rest of existence.
Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.