I don’t have a land line phone in my house. Kind of ironic, given the name of the radio show and magazine I work for. But my wife and I decided a while back to upgrade to smart phones and the cost of maintaining those and a land line was just too much. So we cut the cord. And we haven’t looked back since.
I know we are not alone in this decision. Heck, even my parents did it earlier this year. I bet you that the generation of kids that is being born right now will have no idea what a land line even is. What will they think of the name of our show then? We might as well call it Telegraph Now.
But land lines haven’t gone away completely. Not by a long shot. Our sound engineers, Barry Spillman and Jim Fetzer, insist that when we do phone interviews we get the person on a land line whenever possible. And not just because it’s the name of the show. Land lines have historically been more stable and you are less likely to have static or other interference on the line or, worse yet, to drop the call altogether.
But the lines, they are a-changin’. Just the other day I was doing an interview with Dave Waterman of Shell Rotella about this year’s SuperRigs show. Dave was calling me from Joplin, MO, and made it a point to get on a land line so we could have a clear signal. If only it had been that easy.
He was calling me from the office of the Speedco down there in Joplin, which is where the show was being held this year. The call started off okay, even though there was a little static on the line. By about 5 minutes into the interview, it all went downhill. It started with some background noise coming in from the shop. A few seconds later, someone picked up the other line and started talking.
“Hello?” Dave said.
“Yeah, Mr. Peterson,” the mysterious interloper said. “It doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to get that part in…”
“Uh, I think you picked up the wrong line,” Dave said.
“It’s going to be a day or two before we can do anything,” the oblivious voice went on. My interview was shot at this point.
“Who is this?” Dave wanted to know.
“Is this Bob Peterson?”
“No,” Dave said. “We’re having a conversation here. You’ve got the wrong line.”
“Oh,” said the other voice. “Sorry.”
He hung up and Dave and I gamely tried to pick up the interview where we left off, hoping it could be fixed in editing later on.
But our problems didn’t end there. The noise in the background picked up. Then there was a beeping on the line. I’m not sure what it was, but we both heard it. At that point, we gave up. Dave decided to call me back on his cell phone and we’d start the interview from scratch.
The cell phone reception was crystal clear. Dave found a better location so there wouldn’t be any background noise. And best of all, nobody picked up on the other line.
Now I’m not saying cell phones are flawless. I’ve had more dropped calls and people cutting in and out during conversations than I care to count. I’m just saying that the technology is improving and I think the days of the land line at the house are numbered. The phone, I mean. The show and the magazine are here to stay.