Loose Ends: The art of saying hello

“We are so glad to be able to hello each other” the editor of the Meeker Herald noted more than 100 years ago, shortly after the telephone lines were connected between Meeker and Buford. The enthusiasm about ending the isolation is understandable but our modern need to stay connected all day, every day has stretched that understanding to its limit. There must have been at least one curmudgeon who remarked, “Why would I want to do that?” upon hearing the news.
After all, the usage of the word hello as a verb indicates that merely starting a conversation isn’t the plan; a lengthy gab fest is in store. The party line must have had its limitations, as not only would other people be glad to “hello” the callers too, but the use of the line for such non-ermergencies could be a problem. Even today a phone conversation is so much more than saying hello.
While communication is possible nowadays in the most isolated places, the main purpose of that communication has gotten a bit skewed. Constant communication through email, text messages and blogs has made the need for us to “hello” each other obsolete. The biggest thing we need to learn to do is “goodbye” each other.
“Are you there?” is now replaced by “are you still there?” as call waiting has created the black hole of casual conversation. It used to be that only business callers felt compelled to put people on hold. Now family members fume as they wait to finish their conversation. People don’t really have conversations on the phone anymore. They use the internet to hello each other and what is communicated would fit the original definition of the salutation. Hello is really the gist of the entire exchange.
Overhearing snippets of cell phone conversations is not unlike being privy to one’s neighbors’ conversations on the old party line. Yet, the opportunity to put the telephone receiver down never arises. The art of saying hello includes the art of saying goodbye.