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On Phone: Better to Be Seen, Not Heard

Years ago, there was an invention that never made it to the masses for good reason. It was a terrible idea. It was a video phone that not only let you talk to someone but let you see him, too.

I remember my mother saying she'd never talk on the phone again - or at least not before morning makeup - if this thing took off.

For years I have talked on the phone with no worry about what I looked like, where I was, what I was really doing while chatting away with unsuspecting friends.

And now along comes Skype, the software that allows you to not only talk to people on your computer but see them, too.

There appears to be no turning back. Good grief.

I don't want to be some crepe hanger, but I'll warn you right here and now. No good is going to come of this.

I wasn't so alarmed by this Skype thing a couple of months ago when a teacher in Wisconsin asked if I'd talk to her class about newspapers - via Skype.

The IT people set me up, and before I knew it, I was in a conference room, alone, talking to dozens of elementary students a thousand miles away.

It all seemed quite natural. It was early afternoon. We were all clothed, all bathed, and we all pretended I was there - not just some talking head on the computer screen. Or at least I pretended I wasn't just some talking head in a computer screen. I'm not sure the students realized I was a real person with a mother and a dog. I guess it doesn't matter.

But things changed last weekend when, early in the morning, my partner, Jack, yelled for me to come to the study. I had been up the whole sum of two minutes, hadn't combed what hair I have left and was en route to get my morning coffee. I do little before I get my morning coffee. Certainly not entertain guests.

And there, on the computer, was our friend Dan. In Oxford, England. He was chirpy, bathed and clothed and on his way to lunch. Our friend Trish was with him, sitting on a bed. He turned the computer so I could see her. She waved to me and yelled "Hello!"

I stared, then fled.

The best thing about the phone and Stone Age computers was that you could be anonymous. If you still had spinach in your teeth from last night's supper, so be it. If you were typing away in your underwear, not a soul cared. Not anymore.

I was raised that children should be seen but not heard.

I once told my father that the mantra could be applied to adults, too. He surprised me by agreeing. I'm sure he'd also agree with me that, these days, they shouldn't be seen, either.

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