E.T. Communicate Home!
I can hear her, my grandmother, as her lipstick smacks the foam filter and she takes another drag of her B&H across the phone line. And she says “Harden The Fuck Up, deary”.
Well. To be honest. She wouldn’t have sworn. But she had moments of resembling a mafia head so I thought I’d put her into character.
Back in her day, the hubby (my grandad) would get up, pack his case, chug down some pulpy OJ, walk out the front door saying a “Cheerio!”… and be gone sans communication for 6 months.
No calls, no letters, no Facebook photo albums, doubtlessly the random sms of “Brilliant! Noombies!”. No nada, cause there amongst Africa’s rocks & craters, there wasn’t exactly a postman & world-wide-interweb-connected laptop.
If “something” happened - Y’know, that “thing” that no one really but kinda does skirtingly allude to – how would she have known. How would he have found help fast enough. WhatifWhatifWhatif…
But she sucked it up & got on with raising kids & perfecting a smoking habit.
Basically, it’s just complete “unknowing” that completely unnerves.
I have it eaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasy. Comparatively.
The last phone call I got was from a phone booth in Tjukayirla. (I think. I know it began with “Tju” & was in Western A and Google Maps appears to be highly un-fucking-cooperative in detailing their one-phone-booth towns in that region). That was two nights ago. Fine. Fine.
And unless someone skims past in a low-flying plane carrying a fake palm tree disguising a cell phone tower, that’s all I get from The Guy for the next 5 weeks.
But I still know that if there’s an emergency, I have a “Sat Phone” number that I can reach him on. And I apparently do not need to pawn off a kidney anymore to pay for the call. Rumour has it that one wife regularly calls it for a “Hi! Bye” check-in. That wife is also well-employed, as is her husband - I stress over costs when I send texts to the other hemisphere. “Hi! Bye!”s are therefore less vital than say, my kidneys.
So the “Whatif” emergencies are sedated. No News is Good News! (Funnily, it was my grandmother that was always yapping that in my ear).
These are even the days of richer fantastical camps having satellite dishes so big that people use them as plunge pools on quieter days. Folk in Angola’s jungles have a better chance of catching some sports games then folk in the town of play. (He isn’t at one of these camps. His motley crew are hoping for technology as high as a shower in a still-existing caravan).
These days, it’s all there;
The Flying Doctor services
Phone Booths & Phone Cards
Hand-written letters delivered through others who have travelled via
And maybe even a postcard if I remind often enough
You’re generally going to land lucky with at least one of these.
I haven’t, but…
No more “Cheers, I’ll see you when the work is done in about 3 years”. These days companies & societies have strict rules of “fly in & fly out” time periods.
5 weeks. That’s 5 hangovers. That’s doable. That’s eeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasy, deary.
It still doesn’t make the first night painless when you get kinda maybe “argh, I want to tell him!” big news & there’s no way of letting him know instantly.
Damnmit New & Wonderful Globalising Technology! You’ve made us weak!