“What would it be nice if we could see each other now!”, was one of my grandma’s standard phrases when we talked on the phone from Stuttgart (me) to the Swabian Alb (her) in the late 1980s.
She hung on the orange, optionally spinach green telephone with keypad and a 6,5-foot long cable that used to be common in federal German households at that time. This piece had replaced the turd green model with the dial and stood like its predecessor on the lathed oakwood telephone bench. Telephone bench! An extra piece of furniture for phone calls! When I tell my children this, they look at me with saucer eyes. A thought bubble appears above their heads. It says: “What’s she driveling about?” followed by: “Mum comes from the Stone Age.”
You sat down when the gadget rang. Took your time for the conversation. Moreover, you couldn’t see each other. Our Whatsapp messages were postcards. We sent SMS with little slips of paper, which we got through the rows of our classmates across the classroom. Our facetime was: shouting out of the window when someone had rung the bell. Tinder meant to meet at the phone booth (yeah! It existed! I remember!). Parship took place until 10 pm in the dance school. Then you were picked up by your father and the dream of a clandestine kiss with your crush burst like the Bitcoin bubble nowadays. My Instagram was my autograph book; I could make up the likes of the users on the stickers sacrificed for my booklet (which at that time were still called ‘Aufkleber’).
My granny would fall over backward in her East Prussian slippers if she could be in this world again today. We are only one click away from having Internet with a smell, everyone is always connected with everyone, and there are prostheses from the 3-D-printer now. In the past, this was called a ‘cane.’
Would I like to go back to 1910, when my grandmother saw the light of day in a world that seemed too fast to most people then thanks to railways and telegraphy? Probably not. The outhouse and cooling food on ice blocks…not my cup of tea. Would I like to go ahead into a world where robots take care of old people and where you pay at the supermarket by wrist-implanted chip? Nope. I am a child of my time. And it began in the 1970s.
I still know Clementine from advertising, who did not soak her hands in detergent, but in the „oh so fine Pril.” For me, Master Propper was a superhero. The bald guy wiped every floor clean as a whistle. Also, ‘yesterday’s Western’ was my street journal. The CDU strictly ruled the Federal Republic. The wall to the other part of Germany belonged to it too, somehow.
My children wipe themselves on the smartphone from Youtuber to Influencer to Instagram star. They have to tediously lookup Honecker and his consorts in the history book and are 80 mercifully years away from the Holocaust. It´s hard to pin a hereditary debt on them anymore.
At some point I will wish for that I will sit in my, from my mother’s inherited, wing chair and hold my first grandchild in my arms. What will I tell him or her? That everything used to be better?
Once again: Nah. Everything used to be different. I look forward to the new generations, for whom it is natural to look at each other in the eye while chatting. Thanks to the Internet, they get information in fractions of a second, for which we had to laboriously leaf through the Brockhaus. However, I don’t want to swap with these new people. The world is becoming more and more digital. But our heart is an analog structure. Our soul anyway. To speak in my grandma’s tongue: “Scheijn, dass de anrufst. Scheijner wär, wenn de an mejnem Tisch sitzen würdest.“ ( “Lovely, that you call. It would be sweeter if you would sit at my table.”) With East Prussian, Sperjek´ll un’ Spellchjen. That needs to be found first of all by Google. Have a good one.
This Text was translated by our Fan and Friend Heidrun Klemmer.
Silke Porath lives together with her French husband in their home of choice in Balingen, on the border of the swabian Alps. Born in 1971, the mother of three children works as a freelance Journalist and Writing teacher. Trained as both an editor and PR consultant, she is a member of the “42erAutoren”, the association of German writers and the Group of 48.