Operator, I Would Like to Place a Collect Call


As summer becomes fall, I always become a little melancholy as the daylight is less, we are back to school, the holidays are not far behind, and our kids and grandkids go off to college. I am more nostalgic about my college days this year, maybe because we are celebrating our 35th anniversary and my husband and I met there.


I have a BS in Communications from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1984.

When I began my college journey, I actually wanted to be a social worker, but my Dad thought I could follow in Barbara Walters’ footsteps for some reason and he knew there was a better paycheck in broadcasting than social work. So I went off to college to learn about Communications. This is funny, coming from a family that didn’t communicate well and before technology, social media, etc. My dad wrote letters to his mom in 1944 from the Philippines that took forever to arrive. 

As I’ve learned about communicating, both verbally and through technology, since the 1980s (mostly because of my husband and his family of communicators), recently I have reflected on how our interpersonal communications have changed.

As a stay-at-home mom, I was able to build on my degree and find meaningful work in Public Relations, Journalism and Development. I never fulfilled my dads’ dream of seeing me on television, but I loved the path I carved and the things I learned along the way… both through technology and with the stroke of a pen in a paper journal. Currently, I work in an elementary school library reading real books to children and sharing both classic literature and current books with them. 

As a college freshman, I called home every Sunday night collect (anyone under 40 probably wonders what that means), I wrote letters sometimes, and talked to my friends in person a lot. My husband, Brad, and I got our first computer when we graduated from UT in 1984. He always liked to have the newest technology immediately, so I learned quickly whether I wanted to or not. I still keep paper journals and read newspapers, much to his dismay.

Along the way, however, I learned to use computers and to love how we could communicate so much faster with cell phones and the internet.

Our first “cell phone” was as big as a typewriter (again people under 4o might not know), but we thought it was amazing! Collect phone calls were a thing of the past, and the internet was bringing so many new things every year. Video recorders allowed us to keep memories of our families forever. Technology advanced tons in the 90s, and with social media in the 2000s, we were able to reconnect with friends from our past.

2019 finds me texting with my children more than phone calls. Letters are few and far between. I recently read what a nice surprise it is to find a handwritten note in your mailbox. I actually received one of those in my mail today and was so excited to open and read it! Funny how things seem to find their way back to simpler, easier ways, although I am enjoying reading messages from friends in Florida and Tennessee as I write this on my tablet.