Telephone booths and what they said about us

I remember my grandmother and mother using an expression that is rarely or ever used today.  “Have they no shame?” they would ask when they witnessed people say or do things that would possibly diminish observers’ respect for the person saying or doing the something. Whereas in “those days,” people held restraint and privacy of actions in some regard, it seems like those qualities are lost.  It might do well to harken back to then.What got me to thinking about that was a photo of a telephone booth. They served a much greater purpose than giving Clark Kent a place to change into his Superman garb. The booths provided a place where a person could stand or sit and have a private conversation.  Private.  The assumption was that the world didn’t need to know, shouldn’t know, and wasn’t interested in the caller’s conversations and all the details entailed. Nowadays, cell phones make all conversations public; for some, everyone within ear shot hears both sides of the conversation. The more people in the vicinity of the person on the phone, the louder they speak and the more people who hear.  It is hard to ignore all the conversations that are nearby. I am sure we have all heard things that we wished we hadn’t, be it details, emotions or vocabulary from total strangers. No one seems to care if they are overheard.Sometimes it is impossible to hear with much specificity because there are so many people on the phone within earshot. Privacy by aural overwhelm, I guess.Merriam-Webster cites the primary definition of shame as “A painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.” Looking at each word of the definition, it seems there is, indeed, no sense of shame in society. To have shame requires standards against which behavior or actions are measured and the humility to know that one does not measure up.The more I think about it, the more I miss the age of telephone booths because in their disappearance seems to be a vanishing of the reasons to have them.

 

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