Mark Montford mourns the death of the anonymous call: "A sentimental farewell to a potent but little-celebrated facet of love and lust and youth, one that vanished almost instantly from the culture, as technology races forth and devours everything in its wake at such a rate we can't even log it all, much less understand how to use it or how weirdly it's mutating our interactions."
What he's getting all teary-eyed about is the kind of sweet yearning Jeffrey Eugenides recorded in The Virgin Suicides, where a bunch of boys exchange wordless conversation with the Lisbon sisters:
"Holding the phone to one of Mr Larson's speakers, we played the song that most thoroughly communicated our feelings to the Lisbon girls. We can't remember the song's title now... We do, however, recall the essential sentiments, which spoke of hard days, long nights, a man waiting outside a broken telephone booth hoping it would somehow ring, and rain, and rainbows."
The Lisbon girls return the call with their own song: "The lyrics might have been diary entries the girls whispered into our ears. Though it wasn't their voices we heard, the song conjured their images more vividly than ever."
This might just be crosscultural tangled wires, but things were somewhat different in the North Indian heartland. My sister received a few sweet symphonies of silent teenage longing, but most of the time what she and other women friends got were the groaners, the grunters, the muttering perverts, the flotsam and jetsam dialling from a place where the voice of a woman, any woman, was an invitation to spew indecent and often anatomically impossible suggestions across the looping black wires of Delhi's telephones. Sure I'll join Montford in his mourning. I'll even organise the funeral, and I'll be happy to provide a few dead perves for the occasion.