COLUMN: When it comes to value, we each make the call

Response to column on landline cancellation came as bit of a surprise

It’s a bit of running joke around here (admittedly, not an overly funny one) that the stories, decisions, quotes, etc. that we spend the most time agonizing over – worrying about how will they will be received, whether there are any legal ramifications we’re unaware of, if it’s appropriate for publication in a free-distribution paper – will generally amount to a whole lot of nothing. Not a word of response from anyone – figurative crickets chirping.

Then there are the stories, decisions, quotes, etc. that don’t raise a moment’s concern – items seemingly so benign they barely merit a second thought (you see where I’m going with this).

Yes, these are the ones that, on occasion, blow up in our face.

Of course there are many shades in between. We know right out of the gate, that certain stories will upset people or make them laugh, or elicit a flurry of letters to the editor offering countering opinions. It’s all part and parcel of this business.

One recent minor – and entirely unforeseen – blast came a few weeks ago, after I wrote what I believed was a pretty innocuous column about canceling my landline phone service.

It had come to a point where I was getting no use out of it and therefore found no personal value in it and couldn’t see a point in paying for the service.

For me.

That’s what I wrote, at least.

What some readers apparently gleaned from it, however, was a call for an immediate end to landline phone service for one and all.

Ironically, I received only one phone call about the issue. The rest of the responses came as emails – expressing various levels of disappointment.

One writer simultaneously condemned it as damaging and dismissed it as vapid.

Fair enough.

Another wrote a letter to the editor, which we happily published.

The caller, however, was deeply concerned that by expressing the idea that landlines were no longer useful, I was going to have a detrimental effect on the level of phone service offered. He was worried about his personal safety if he were to lose his phone, and that made me feel terrible.

So allow me to go the record, here and now, to state – emphatically – that I do not, nor do I ever expect (or desire) to wield that sort of influence.

Whether it’s a matter of personal safety, long-distance connections, pure nostalgia, whatever the reason, there are clearly still plenty of folks out there who value their landlines and have no intention of giving them up – as an informal poll on our website bore out.

I would certainly never advocate for anything that might put people’s safety in jeopardy or potentially sever personal connections. But as long as people are willing to pay for their landlines, the various companies involved will, I expect, continue to offer the service.

Then why bother writing about it?

Well, because it’s a societal trend – a sign of the times we’re living in that more people are choosing to go wireless.

Don’t believe me? Just try to find a public phone booth these days.

In fact, I was the last person in my immediate family – including my mother, who will be 79 this year – to maintain a landline.

Interestingly, it was an issue of personal safety that prompted her to switch to a smartphone. Her decision stemmed from a news story about a man who’d had a stroke and was unable to get help for several days.

Even if we’re not having long conversations every day, a quick text back and forth each night lets me know that she’s home and safe. If ever I don’t hear from her, I will know to check in and make sure she’s OK – regardless of whether I happen to be at home.

For me, there is plenty of value in that.

Brenda Anderson is the editor of the Peace Arch News.

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